Wherefore art thou Opposition?



Elections are all about choices and when these choices are predetermined by coalition politics, there is no excitement in the air. When there is no excitement in the air, turnout is lower than the average at midterm. This election is for the books because turnout is atypical that of mid term trends. Such is the storyline of the national campaign for the Senate this May 2013. Without any opposition in the 2013 elections, it is easier to have a surgical cut in the ratio of 60-30-10 from Aparri to Jolo, setting aside bell weathers and bailiwicks and that to me is the sorry state of our politics.

The last time we had a real opposition was 2007 when then UNO won 10-2 in the midterm against the very unpopular GMA. To date, the opposition has been defined by the following major figures:

Susan Roces (widow of the presidential candidate FPJ), Estrada (former President who resigned in 2001), and Binay (mayor of Makati).

In 2010, the then opposition to GMA stuck it out in their respective camps: LP under Mar Roxas, PMAP under Estrada and PDP-Laban under Binay. Then came the slide by Mar to give way to the namesake of the popular opposition figure in the Martial Law years and son of president Cory Aquino, Nonoy Aquino who led the LP team. The other half of the opposition went to the Estrada-Binay team. Roces came in later in the ballgame when Chiz Escudero folded up his exploratory effort for the Presidency and threw his support to the Noynoy Aquino. These developments are important in dissecting Grace Poe’s votes in the recently concluded elections.

History has a way of repeating itself if we do not learn from what it tries to teach us. In politics, especially the PH kind, anything is possible; hence, the NoyBi victory. I dare say May 2013 was another page from the NoyBi playbook. Why? Because there was no opposition at all and UNA just played the supporting role to Team PNoy.

Our political history has often been a story of coalition politics not of disciplined political parties; personalities and not of issues; donors and not of who should be supported because s/he is good for the country. Seems like we rather be part of the herd than be independent. As before, we had former opponents joined hands last May 2013: LP, NP, and NPC were together at the national level though on their own in certain free zones. LAKAS went its way with some going NUP’s way, a spent force waiting for its next move.

In midterms it is important that a candidate should be with the party-in-government, but if the VP is with the party-in-government, a win-win scenario may be accomplished. It was the fortune of the incumbents (president and vice president) to field their own teams and pretend to the electorate that there was indeed a difference. But name me one difference. In messaging there was zilch and the sorties of UNA were not really sorties cause they never targeted any harvest areas. The only apparent difference was that the noisier candidates or the independent minded ones were with UNA: Enrile, Gordon, and Maceda. Even Mitos Magsaysay’s opposition stance got diluted just by being with Binay. As to Zubiri, nobody remembered his patience, hard work, and negotiating skills as Majority Floor Leader prior to his highly publicised resignation. Zubiri easily became the face of electoral fraud and unfortunately, of GMA’s alter ego. The adage “do 12 good things and commit one mistake, and people remember only the later,” was so in the case of Zubiri. As for Cojuangco, nothing came out of that run and it appeared to be just a token one.

The coat tails of the combined might of the so-called Three Kings were nothing compared to that of the President’s, whose force only evolved these past three years. Conventional wisdom says the Three Kings were mightier than the President, but they only afforded the next of kin to make it: Binay for Nancy, Estrada for JV and Gringo, who could have a similar base to that of JPE’s. And that Virginia is the story of 9-3. The Corona payback time was that all re-electionists made it. Binay got his and he returned the favor to Erap via JV.

Dissecting the No. 1 performance of Grace Poe is easy. For one, she did not have a national organization; hence, the erratic survey results. There was no one to hold the ground with the inroads of the airwar. Her ad expenditure was not among the Top 3 list. Some advertising people have been attributing this Grace Poe’s No. 1 performance to her campaign ads. This for me is an insult to the Poe brand and the base votes of the big players. Until COMELEC releases the official ad expenditure per candidate, we cannot attribute her winning to the ad campaign because in terms of frequency, Poe’s was not that high. Context is necessary in that conclusion. Had she stuck to the Llamanzares name, which initially was what she was carrying, she would not have made it to No. 1. Proof of that behavior is her survey results. Grace Poe was in the doldrums as Llamanzares and became competitive only when she started using Poe. Just take a second look at the surveys. Now, who gave that advice of filing her COC with Llamanzares as part of her nickname?

So why did Grace Poe make it to Rank 1 when smoke cleared? Well, it’s all about bell weathers and bailiwicks. She got the base votes of FPJ’s from 36 provinces and 16 highly urbanized cities of 2004 and additional votes from the other 35 provinces and 15 highly urbanized cities in 2013 (ranking anywhere from 1 to 3). There are 80 provinces and 35 highly urbanized cities, 16 of which are in the National Capital Region.

Apart from FPJ’s base votes, more came from the base votes of Noy-Mar. 24 of the 35 provinces and one of the 15 are bailiwicks of the combined Noy-Mar force in 2010. Note that Roxas ran in 2004 while Aquino in 2007. Grace Poe also got the base votes of Estrada-Binay. Estrada ran in the national elections of ’87, ’92, ’98 and 2010. In short, Grace Poe got the base votes of Noy-Mar and Estrada-Binay combined. Its worth pointing out that 19 of the Estrada-Binay base were FPJ’s in 2004.

When Juliet Capulet says, “Wherefore art thou Romeo?” in the famous play “Romeo and Juliet,” she isn’t actually asking where Romeo is? She actually means, why must Romeo’s lineage be a Montague, the one family her family despises.


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