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Is Binay making a break-away?

Two national newspapers, The Philippine Daily Inquirer and Philippine Star, reported on a Pulse Asia presidential survey conducted on December 4-11, 2015 showing that Vice President Jojo Binay has regained the lead among the contenders to become the next President of the Republic.

The survey was done nationwide with 1,800 respondents. It showed that if elections were held during the survey period, Binay would get 33% of the people’s vote.

Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte and Senator Grace Poe were statistically tied at second place, with Duterte getting 23% and Poe, 21%.

The administration’s candidate, Mar Roxas, was fourth with 17%. Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago rounded up the field with 4% of the projected vote.

This survey result validates my blog post last week that Binay has hit rock bottom while Roxas has hit the ceiling. Binay can’t possibly sink lower than the 31% he previously obtained while Roxas would have a hard time rising above 15%. The 2% improvement he achieved isn’t going to make a difference as the race is about to formally start on February 9, 2016.

This makes the efforts of the administration to eliminate the leading contenders through disqualification futile. Even if Poe and Duterte are disqualified, Binay would remain in the race because he cannot be charged formally before the Sandiganbayan on account of his immunity from suit. This means the idea of dislodging Binay by locking him up in jail before the elections is wishful thinking.

Roxas cannot hope to attract the Poe and Duterte votes if and when these two are eliminated from the presidential derby. A minimum of 80% of the Poe and Duterte votes will shift to Binay. What we’re seeing is a national expression of disapproval for Roxas, and there’s no way it would change in the home stretch.

This is the fundamental mistake in the political strategy of the administration. Roxas could not win by destroying his rivals before the court of public opinion and through legal means. The Liberal Party was overpowered by its own arrogance and believing its own propaganda that the “matuwid na daan” was making people happy.

The only way for Roxas to win under the circumstances is change the rules to “pirdi-gana”, a term used in the Filipino game of “dama” where the losing side in the end will emerge as winner.

The way things are going, the PCOS would not even be able to salvage a victory for him, because when the lead is so big, cheating would only spark violence and unrest for the nation.

But of course we can never underestimate Roxas and the Liberal Party: They might sacrifice the nation for their own personal ambition and survival.

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Varnished

(Coffeebreak, December 15, 2015)

Mar Roxas has a simple game plan in his bid to become the next President of the Republic of the Philippines: varnish his image with artificial gloss and eliminate his rivals through a host of legal maneuvers.

We’ve already seen Roxas lift a sack of rice. Also garlic. He tried his hand at being a firefighter and a traffic aide under the rain. He played the role of an ice carver, and even posed on a block of ice lying on his side for photographers. He pedaled a pedicab. And the list is growing longer and longer.

But these are cheap gimmicks that only boomeranged on Roxas the moment pictures came out on social media. Much as he tried to mimic the acts of ordinary Filipinos who have to endure backbreaking work to survive, there is simply no way Roxas could pass for one. That he was born rich, and never had to wonder where his next meal would come from, was glaring from the onset of such efforts.

These last few days, Roxas was again under fire in social media.

This time, he came under heavy criticism for labeling himself as a “Wharton graduate” in his curriculum vitae. It was another deceitful claim to add luster to his name, which had struggled to rise past the 15% mark in survey after survey.

While it was not entirely false, it was a misrepresentation. That’s because “Wharton graduates” in the layman’s understanding refer to those who have obtained their MBAs from this prestigious school in the University of Pennsylvannia.

Roxas earned his undergraduate degree from Wharton-UPenn without distinction. It was an education that his wealthy status made possible for him. Of course, he had to study hard to complete the baccalaureate degree. However, it didn’t give him a distinction that MBAs from this college are accorded with respect and admiration.

Wharton alumni always accompany its name with the extension, “UPenn.” But in the case of Roxas, he merely put Wharton as his alma mater, giving the impression that he finished his MBA there.

The Wharton MBA program is considered one of the premier training grounds for corporate executives, almost at par with the Harvard Business School, Stanford Graduate School of Business. Yale and Northwestern University have similar programs that are regarded as topnotch.

That’s why a Wharton MBA is given a premium when it appears on a young corporate upstart’s curriculum vitae. It is regarded as a badge of distinction. It is a symbol of an individual’s capability to analyze complex problems and provide leadership in any organization.

It is not to denigrate the undergraduate program at Wharton. But in the scheme of things, a holder of a bachelor’s degree from Wharton can never be placed in the same platform. In experience, training and leadership capability, the Wharton MBA will be two or three notches above a B.S. degree holder.

I can’t blame Roxas though for trying to sneak this through.

He needs to shellac his image as he enters the home stretch of the presidential race. The official campaign period for national candidates won’t kick off until February 9, 2016, but the contenders for the presidency have been barnstorming around the country for months now. And yet, Roxas remains a poor third or fourth in the surveys. His ratings have hit the ceiling at 15%.

Nothing seems to work for Roxas.

His endorser, President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III, had hoped Roxas’s numbers would rise after he raised the Liberal Party’s standard bearer last September 30. Since then, Roxas has tapped celebrity endorsements, including a music video featuring the talents of ABS-CBN. Roxas has also the backing of congressmen, governors and mayors.

Despite all these efforts to catapult Roxas to the front of the race, he struggles to rise above his current survey rating of only 15%. In a manner of speaking, he has hit the ceiling. He continues to eat the dust of Davao City mayor Digong Duterte, Senator Grace Poe and even the battle-scarred Vice President Jojo Binay.

Clearly, Roxas has a serious problem. How can he expect to become President when he can’t even come close enough to winning against his opponents? With less than one-fourth of the projected votes, he can’t even be regarded as a serious contender.

Of course there’s the elimination game ala “trip to Jerusalem” that the Liberal Party is playing. There’s a good chance Senator Grace Poe might be disqualified. Duterte, too, will face the same troubles. And knowing the LP’s determination to ram through its effort to win the Presidency for Roxas by hook or by crook, Duterte’s being swept aside from the race is not remote.

The scenario that’s being set should leave Roxas standing alone in the ring.

But wait, there’s still Binay. After a whole year of bashing and harassing the brown-skinned man from Makati City hasn’t been knocked down. In fact, Binay remains ahead of Roxas in the surveys — way ahead.

This presents a tough problem for Roxas: if the LP succeeds in eliminating Poe and Duterte, it can’t just get rid of Binay. That’s because the scenario calls for Binay being thrown in jail. And Binay enjoys immunity from suit. He can’t be charged criminally until after June 30, 2016.

In short, Binay’s name will remain a contender for the Presidency on May 16, 2016. He has 31% of the projected vote if elections are held today. If Poe and Duterte and DQ’d, I can bet most of their votes will go for Binay. It’s not because people don’t believe Binay is corrupt; but Filipinos believe Roxas will make a worse President than Mr. Aquino.

From a rock-bottom of 31%, Binay has the potential to rise above the 51% mark on election day to win majority of the votes cast. Roxas will be left eating more dust than he did when Binay beat him for the Vice Presidency in 2010.

It becomes clear that no matter how coats of shellac or varnish Roxas puts on his name, he still won’t be able to remove the people’s dislike for him. He can spray himself with all the best known deodorizers, but the rotten smell of a bad President simply won’t disappear.

‘Tough’ Mar Roxas?

After two days of deliberating his next move, Liberal Party standard bearer Mar Roxas has publicly announced he is ready to face Davao City mayor and rival candidate Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte to a slapping match.

Apparently, Roxas wants to appear, and sound, tough to level up to the stature of Duterte, who has drawn millions of admirers across the country for his street puncher image.

But it’s too late for Roxas to change his image as a soft-palmed scion of a wealthy family. If he was tough, he could have demonstrated that trait when he was DILG secretary and crushed criminal syndicates, including the known drug lords in Iloilo City.

Sorry, Mr. Roxas. Being tough isn’t just a matter of cheap talk. That image is drawn from a person’s character. You have always looked like a weakling. Even your politics is a life in the shadow of your mother, Mrs. Judy Araneta Roxas.

 

Doubts about a Mar Roxas presidency

A friend from Dumalag, Capiz called me a few days ago, and our phone conversation turned to a topic that is generating a lot of excitement in our home province —- the candidacy of Mar Roxas.
He confessed to me that he is inclined to vote for Mar Roxas. “My only reservation comes from the prospect that he will use his position to protect the real masterminds of the pork barrel scams,” he said.
I had to agree with him. As a person, Mar Roxas is a noble man. He is well educated, experienced, and ready to face higher responsibility. Mar’s only problem is that he can’t seem to disengage himself from the issues plaguing the Aquino administration. He is stuck with the yellow label, and that is dragging him down.
And it would leave me with a heavy heart to see Mar Roxas unable to severe his connections from the DAP masterminds and strengthen the perception that he will spend more time trying to keep them out of jail than pressing ahead with much-needed reforms for the country.
Time is running out. Mar Roxas should demonstrate he is his own man. He should not be hostage to the machinations of his party-mates who destroyed the core principles of the Liberal Party. He must convince the likes of me that his presidency will be anchored on the rule of law, and no one will be spared from facing the consequences of their criminal behavior while in public office.

Ward politics and the cacique mentality

I think it’s presumptuous for the likes of Peping Cojuangco to promise Tarlac votes for VP Jojo Binay.
It reflects the cacique mentality of many political leaders who look at their constituents as minions who will do as they order.
Most of our voters don’t decide on the basis of what their local leaders tell them how or who to vote.
In many elections, candidates won in places where the local “shieks” campaigned against them.
A classic case would be then presidential candidate Noynoy Aquino. In Iloilo province, most of the incumbent congressmen and municipal mayors in 2010 belonged to the Lakas of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Yet Mr. Aquino triumphed in Iloilo in a thunderous way.
Another good example was the victory of my former boss, then Iloilo Governor Niel Tupas Sr. in 2004 in his re-election bid. He was challenged by former 1st district Congressman Oscar Garin. In the town of Janiuay, Iloilo, the two candidates for mayor were pro-Garin. To everybody’s surprise, Gov. Tupas won in that town by a huge margin.
It will definitely help to have a strong machinery at the local level. But it is not a guarantee.
Hence, on the other side of the fence, Secretary Mar Roxas shouldn’t entrust his fate to the local leaders who have pledged all-out support for him.
He should work on gaining broad support from the electorate and exploit the advantage of being the administration candidate to the hilt.

The people’s wrath

The first time President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III and his bosom friend Alan Purisima were under fire 26 years ago, they escaped with minor scratches.
Those were real bullets they had to face.
Now, it is the wrath of the people they are confronted with. Not as deadly as the first encounter, but it is unlikely the two friends will survive this one (although they will be live long enough to suffer the consequences).

A squabble in the making?

I had coffee with regular habitues of the Glory Kapehan in the infamous Iloilo City Central Market this morning, and the topic was the political landscape in 2016.
While the political bonds between city mayor Jed Patrick E. Mabilog and congressman Jerry Trenas are intact, there seems to be fissures building up underneath due to the anticipated showdown for the Presidency.
A barangay captain whispered to me that there could be a confrontation between Mabilog and Trenas because of their candidates for President. Trenas is openly for Mar Roxas of the Liberal Party while Mabilog is traipsing with front runner Vice President Jojo Binay.
The root of this likely squabble is the fact that Mabilog’s ever-loyal Voltes V in the city council are now displaying their support for Binay. This is not going to sit well with Trenas, who doesn’t Roxas to doubt his own loyalty.
The unfolding of this drama will be greatly interesting.