INITIALLY, those who were with the party in government kept saying that the more candidates for the presidency, the better for their candidate since it has two things going for them: financial resources and the machinery of government. A lot of analysts worth their salt were saying that scenario would not happen because the candidate with a stable reading after five dipsticks will show stability and core. And in a plurality, a candidate would just need 23 percent to win.
So with an early announcement by the incumbent Vice President (VP), it was open season for the Liberal Party to shoot him down, despite the fact that he was part of the Cabinet still and the allegations of corruption took place when the VP was still a mayor, dating back to 2007. Despite 25 hearings in the Senate where allegations were stocked up, every issue was milked to portray him as the most corrupt public official in the land, Binay remained strong with a stable base of 20-25 percent of the electorate. The LP then focused their guns on the young Binay Mayor of Makati and got him suspended and “perpetually disqualified.” If you can’t hit the Senior, get the Junior.
Then LP thought that having a popular VP would translate votes for their candidate, taking into consideration the history of popular Noli “Kabayan” de Castro to GMA in 2004. LP courted their no. 1 Senator in 2013 who never took her oath as LP and remained an independent. Nothing was mentioned on citizenship and residency in 2013. Only when Sen. Poe decided to launch her own candidacy did we see the cards played. LP distanced from both issues since they did not want to own up to their mistakes in drafting Citizen Poe for the 2013 run. Today, Sen. Poe is on the verge of being disqualified with two Comelec divisions’ having ruled against her. The final stab would come near Christmas when Comelec decides enbanc on the residency issue.
Part of the design was to be more inclusive in securing votes with three incumbent senators with safe terms running for VP: Escudero (not close to Roxas but will play with what BSA3 may call at the last minute); Cayetano (who was headless for a while and was eyeing Roxas as his tandem) and Trillanes (who is carrying Poe). These three together with Poe can return to the Senate after 2016 since they are not termed out. Each of the three have cards to play in a design that is highly intricate but clearly maximizing votes in any team up. Cayetano was originally part of the bridged offensive for Roxas while Trillanes may not contribute much to Poe but can take away votes from Marcos at the fringes. Trillanes, who has remained quiet in the pre-campaign will certainly be a loose cannon targeting his favorite bulls eye, VP Binay.
Defensor-Santiago entering the arena was not part of the design. That she declared and provided the head to a team up with Marcos gave Marcos the added muscle depending on how both will shape a common campaign plan. A psychologist, who belongs to the Yellow Tribe, has brought up the issue of health. But a Defensor-Santiago attending the debates could redefine the political terrain and call the presumptive king as having no clothes. If she remains in the 90-day campaign, Western Visayas will be compromised.
What do we make of Duterte? Though Comelec ruled in his favor that he is a presidential candidate for 2016, the conditional statement issued by Comelec chair Andy Bautista places a cloud of doubt until we see the final ballot by mid January 2016. Still, Duterte surges in his very unorthodox pre-campaign positioning which essentially is anti-establishment and very aspirational for the majority of Filipinos who are tired of Tuwid na Daan and the promises it failed to deliver.
From a multi-candidate race to a one-on-one, LP has changed its plan due to the inability of its candidate to hold on to his numbers. Still LP failed to see the traps carefully laid out by the street smart Duterte who apparently squeezes every event to contrast himself with only the LP candidate, from the peace and order of Davao, to the undergraduate degree of decades of packaging as an investment banker and the words that came with it which showed a character flaw in Roxas as truly a haciendero and the retort that Duterte will debate with Roxas if he moves up to no. 2 instead of dealing with a candidate ranked 4th.
As far as the LP is concerned, they are no longer pitching their baseball to Poe. The danger with Poe DQd is that it has a swing that can determine the outcome. If Poe plays her cards right and she gets the next batch of DNA tests favorable to her, she might just have cleared her way to 2022 despite of a DQ on residency. But not waiting for a final ruling on DQ can consolidate her support and can break the hold of those who played the card to remove her because she had the guts to say no to the top honchos of LP.
Let us see if LP can prevent a meltdown at the field level when LP has designed the local of around 40 provinces with a straight LP ticket unopposed. It is not because the voters so decided that they favor LP only, it is because it was by design to get their presidential candidate to win in 40 provinces without much fight. Would this tactic deliver the votes for LP or would we see lima beans jumping high as to cross parties by the last 45 days of the 90-day campaign period?
LP has learned to play the game. From its Volkswagen days, it has learned to use the levers of power in a way that is beyond how PGMA did during her term. Though LP is on the board playing chess, masters of the like of Defensor-Santiago, Duterte and Binay are displaying brilliant counter moves. Without the numbers for Roxas, the 3.5 million votes without biometrics may just be the swing considering biometrics will not be used in 2016.