COMMENTARY

And then there were two

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IF surveys were to be believed, the vice presidential race in the May 2016 elections had been reduced to a battle between two independent candidates, both of whom are incumbent senators–Francis “Chiz” Escudero and Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

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There would seem no reason to not trust, for example, the latest poll taken by the Social Weather Stations (SWS), at least because, as all surveys are supposed to be, it was scientific, not one that was conjured through magic or, worst, chicanery.

The most recent SWS survey showed Escudero leading Marcos by 28 percentage points to 25 percentage points, but with Chiz actually shedding 2 percentage points from his previous best of 30 percent and Bongbong also actually gaining six percentage points from his December score of 19 percent.

In this poll, Escudero towing his rivals for Vice President could be cut short in surveys that may still be conducted before Election Day.

Even as such polls were being awaited, it already rained on Chiz’s parade, the spoiler being no less than Malacañang itself.

Early this week, it was reported that the ruling Liberal Party (LP) headed by President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino 3rd would dump its standard-bearer Manuel Roxas 2nd and his running mate, Camarines Sur Rep. Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo, in favor of what the report called “spare tires” in Grace Poe, independent presidential candidate, and Escudero, her running mate.

Throwing the Roxas-Robredo tandem under the bus, according to the exclusive report of The Manila Times, was hatched by a splinter group in the ruling party after seeing the worrisome survey numbers of the spearheads of the administration ticket.

In the latest SWS survey, Mar ran third behind Vice President Jejomar Binay and Poe, while Leni trailed, also in third, Chiz and Bongbong.

The spare-tire tag could backfire on Escudero but probably could only fire up Poe if it were not for disqualification that she still faces before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) despite a reprieve through a temporary restraining order or TRO from the Supreme Court.

The label seemed to cement Chiz’s supposed reputation as slim pickings, even “easy” when it comes to his political ambitions.

Thus, the audacity of the Palace to “buy” Escudero off without as much a thought if the senator would take offense for the “honor” of being chosen to be the one to humiliate Robredo.

And speculation is that Chiz would be more than willing to be the replacement for Robredo, without him having to publicly thank his lucky stars for something that, to be fair, just fell on his lap.

If he joined the administration party in stabbing the Camarines Sur lawmaker in the back, he would in the process be also “murdering” Poe.

LP stalwarts, however, would have difficulty in convincing Poe to help them in their supposed little act of betrayal, the senator having turned them down before when they approached her to be the running mate of Roxas.

If Poe was eventually disqualified, the Aquino-led party would be stuck with Roxas.
Imagine the LP ticket–Roxas-Escudero or, for marketability, Mar-Chiz, which pairing would bring back bad memories for Roxas.

A group calling itself Philippine Crusaders for Justice (PCJ) has claimed that “Escudero dropped and abandoned in 2010 the tandem of [then-Sen. Benigno Aquino 3rd and then-Sen. Roxas] to support the NoyBi [Aquino-Binay pairing] instead.”

Well, Aquino won as President, Binay bagged the vice presidency and Roxas had to make do with the Interior department assignment later in the Aquino administration.

This time, the “crusaders” are accusing Chiz of cozying up not to Roxas but to the Vice President, even as Poe has been trying to wiggle her way out of her disqualification cases before the Comelec.

According to the group, Escudero recently met with Binay in Davao City, but the PCJ could only guess what the meeting was all about, except that it took place just as when Poe had her back to the wall at the poll body.

Defeat before the Comelec, of course, would effectively throw the senator out of the race to Malacañang in the May 2016 polls and which twist would, perhaps, lead to the “unmasking” of Chiz.

The rumor was that Escudero will be abandoning Poe to ramp up his own bid for the No. 2 post in the land since he remained a frontrunner for Vice President in pre-election surveys, including the latest SWS poll.

Accordingly, he would have to hitch his wagon not to that of Roxas but to that of Binay, the topnotcher once again in some of the more recent surveys, including the latest one from the SWS.

But it is speculated that Escudero would only do so upon clear recognition that Poe is really out of his hair and, maybe happily for him, out of the presidential derby.
Until then, he would have to stand by her, lest he be accused of two-timing the independent candidate for President.

Escudero can afford to be choosy, however.

Between Binay and Mar, you can bet that he would pick the Vice President, not the least for deservedly trying to collect on the utang na loob that the Vice President owes him.

Meanwhile, Bongbong seemed not to need any calesa to hitch on, having no such debt of gratitude to anyone, apparently thankful that he is not the apple of the eye of, well, Noynoy.

The President, according to The Manila Times exclusive report, was of the belief that “anybody but Bongbong” will do as Vice President.

And, if we are to believe his people in the LP, it’s “anybody but Mar” for President.

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