With one month to go before the May 13 elections, the latest surveys indicate Team Pinoy will garner at least 9 of the 12 Senate slots. An outraged and incredulous UNA has asked the COMELEC to investigate SWS and Pulse Asia who conducted the polls. When you have to resort to shooting the messengers, you must be in trouble.
In truth the UNA has only itself to blame for its travails. I mean, have you seen its line-up? To recall here is the list: There are the Kids (JV, Jack and Nancy) and then there is Mitos, Tingting, Ernie, Dick, Gringo and Migz (Loren, Chiz and Grace were supposed to complete the assembly but they were dropped for going AWOL). With no disrespect to the individual team members, a combination of GMA apologists and modified, overstaying and resurrected politicos whose only common denominator is they remember Annette Funichello in Beach Blanket Bingo; is not, I am afraid, a winning hand. Team Pinoy is no dream amalgam either but by comparison to UNA they look positively refreshing.
And here is where I don’t get it. The UNA Three Kings of Binay, Erap and JPE (and let us not forget Maceda) collectively have the political savvy and years to make Machiavelli and Nostradamus look like Boy Scouts; yet this was the best ticket they could come up with? I understand about wanting the Kids but the rest of the team? It is no surprise Toby Tiangco, the UNA campaign manager, has lately been seen tearing his rather nice head of hair. To him I can only say: “We feel for you, man.” Compared to his mission, the Republican Party’s quest for the White House looks like a stroll in the park.
The Senatorial candidates currently fall into 3 buckets: The top three (Legarda, Cayetano and Escudero); the middle bucket currently occupied by Ejercito, Binay, Villar, Pimentel and Poe, all of whom should be safe; and the last bucket of slots 9-12 in which Angara, Aquino, Trillanes, Enrile, Honasan, Jun Magsaysay and Zubiri have a statistical chance of squeaking in. Over the last 3 months, Enrile, Honasan and Zubiri have lost momentum while Aquino and Jun Magsaysay have gained traction. Jack has the baggage of his past, Port Irene, the Senate Christmas bonus and political dynasties. Gringo is seen as past his expiry date. Migz could have done without his comments on Kiko Pimentel which even by Philippine political standards were low blows.
Sixty days into the official campaign things are starting to clear up. The endorsements of Binay, Erap and Enrile have not been a factor and in some cases may actually have been a liability. The main concern of the Big Three now seems to get their offspring elected while minimizing the political and financial capital they have to expend on the others. There is enough headwind without having to carry deadweight across the finish line. With his team facing a shellacking and only four weeks to go (and Nancy comfortably ensconced), VP Binay has decided the best use of his time is to lead a Philippine exhibit of pre-colonial art in Paris. This tells you all you need to know about his commitment to the cause.
By comparison, the endorsement of the President has been weightier than many pundits forecast, witness the momentum of Grace Poe, Bam Aquino and Jun Magsaysay. The PNoy magic is less evident with Risa Hontiveros although she could be a last minute surprise.
No one Senatorial candidate has dominated the race, defined a compelling message nor caught the imagination of the public (certainly none appear Presidential material for 2016). This could be due to the cacophony of competing slogans which have tended to cancel each other; and to the limitation on campaign advertising. In this din, the President’s popularity and record have stood out as a beacon which explains why his endorsement has overshadowed that of the UNA Big Three. Binay will be learning from all this.
It is unclear so far the impact money has had on the Senatorial race. It has arguably worked for Villar, but not for Madrigal. Risa could be suffering from not having enough of it but even enough is not helping Enrile. I guess Big Money will only start to talk in the closing two weeks of the campaign.
Right now things are looking up for Team Pinoy. However, one should not make too much of it. The incoming Senators will develop a life of their own once in office. With 6 years in power, they will politically outlive the President’s term and will have to start thinking for themselves. The deck will get reshuffled post May 13.