By JANRYLL FERNANDEZ, ABS-CBN News Channel | 01/27/2009 6:27 PM
The heat is on!
Fifteen months to the 2010 elections, one can already feel the looming heat of the upcoming presidential showdown. On ANC’s Talkback with Tina Monzon-Palma, leading figures from the major political parties gathered for a preview of what promises to be the most participated and potentially most expensive presidential derby in Philippine history.
Present during the program were former Ambassador and Senate President Ernesto Maceda of the United Opposition, Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (KAMPI) President Congressman Luis Villafuerte, Nationalist People’s Coalition secretary-general Congressman Jack Duavit, Liberal Party chairman and former Senate President Franklin Drilon, Nacionalista Party spokesman and former Congressman Gilbert Remulla, and Lakas spokesman and former Congressman Prospero Pichay.
“There are 17 names that have been mentioned who will run for president--7 from the administration, 7 from the opposition, and 3 from the third force,” according to Maceda. The senior opposition leader said he does not see any major difference in the candidates’ platform of governance, which will mostly be anti-Gloria, as a pro-Gloria stance would be a kiss of death. “But the key will be the credibility of the messenger,” he emphasized.
Moreover, the long-time senator added that a substantially complete line-up, from president, vice-president, senators, 81 governors, about 212 congressional seats to about 1,500 local officials, would be crucial to having a decent campaign.
But the veteran politician surmised that perhaps, the question that needs to be answered first is whether there will be elections or not.
Villafuerte, who authored the House resolution calling for the convening of a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) that will amend the 1987 Constitution, calmed this fear, saying that there is no provision in his resolution for term extension of the President down to the local officials. The Bicolano congressman foresees the 2010 elections not to be an entirely opposition-administration battle. “There will be realignments as the election nears,” predicted the feisty law maker.
Former Senate President Drilon, however, argued that Congress, which is dominated by the administration coalition, is pushing for charter change to allow the incumbent to run again. He said a shift to a parliamentary system would allow Mrs. Arroyo to run as member of parliament and then become prime minister. This, according to Drilon, is driven by the fact that while the opposition may be divided, the administration does not yet have a viable candidate.
Drilon, who is backing the candidacy of Liberal Party President Mar Roxas, brushed aside possibilities that the LP would support another presidential candidate in the event of a merger with other parties. He said they will stick it out with Roxas as their standard bearer.
“It is still too early to talk about the presidential elections, and I think it is better to focus our efforts on the economic meltdown,” said administration ally and Lakas spokesman Prospero 'Butch' Pichay. But he said their party will meet soon to identify potential standard bearers.
Among the presidential bets for the administration include Vice President Noli De Castro, Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Bayani Fernando, Senator Richard Gordon, and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) chief Ephraim Genuino.
Representing Manny Villar, who is believed to have the deepest war chest, Nacionalista Party spokesman Gilbert Remulla expressed optimism that the ‘Sipag at Tiyaga’ message of the former Senate President will linger in the minds of voters. Villar rose from being a Tondo boy to being an industry leader to being a public servant. “And this is figuring in the trust ratings he is getting,” the former lawmaker said, referring to the recent good showing of Villar in the surveys.
Meanwhile, the emerging tandem of Senators Loren Legarda and Francis 'Chiz' Escudero of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), backed by former Ambassador Danding Cojuangco, can be explained by the emerging young demographics, according to NPC secretary-general Jack Duavit. “The young people are able to relate to them [Loren and Chiz],” said the youthful party leader.
A viewer from Legaspi City sent a comment to the program saying, “America just elected a young President. Do you think it will be good for the country if we will also have a youthful President? “
Maceda believes that the electorate will be more inquisitive in 2010. Congressman Villafuerte, in response, suggested that “presidential debates be conducted as early as now” so the people will get to know the candidates better.
As in previous elections, the 2010 polls may also see the emergence of third force candidates. Among those who come from non-traditional political organizations, whose names have been floated, are Pampanga Governor Ed Panlilio, Jesus is Lord's Brother Eddie Villanueva, and El Shaddai leader Bro. Mike Velarde.