SEN. Grace Poe, unless she’s disqualified, will be the first major presidential candidate in Philippine political history without any political party.
She had already set a record in getting more than 20 million votes in topping the 2013 senatorial elections. (Our fellow Times columnist, former Comelec Commissioner Gus Lagman, suspected that her votes were massaged for at one time during the canvassing, her votes were more than the total number of votes counted.) This is better appreciated when compared to the 15.2 million votes credited to BS Aquino in 2010 and the 10.7 million in 1998 to Erap Estrada. She could set a new record if she could successfully hurdle challenges to her qualifications to run for president in the next polls.
The idea of a major presidential candidate running as independent is mind-boggling. Running without a political party in a local election is already hard enough; doing so in a national election is even more daunting. Of course, as long as Poe remains high in surveys, she’ll have little problem in attracting campaign donors. But getting funds isn’t enough in running an effective national campaign.
I remember that then Chief Justice Marcelo Fernan announced his candidacy for president in the 1992 election. His integrity and competence were unquestioned. He was creating an uproar in political circles. He had many supporters from the Makati Business Club. That’s when he realized a major problem: he had the money but how could he distribute it nationwide without a political party?
The end result was, Fernan decided to run for vice president instead under the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino ticket of then Speaker Ramon V. Mitra. Should Poe remain true to her word to run without any political party, she’ll definitely face the same problem as that which confronted the late Fernan. If she could surmount this, then she’ll be blazing a new trail in Philippine political history.
There are reports of many local politicians set to join the Poe “bandwagon.” If she could maintain their support until election time, then she’ll remain a formidable candidate. But how?
Vice President Jojo Binay will not certify as UNA candidates those who’ll be supporting Poe. Neither will Sec. Mar Roxas for Liberals. Now, I wonder if local established candidates will be willing to forgo their party affiliation to support Poe. In post-EDSA presidential elections, most of the local candidates had relied on presidential candidates for additional funding. They are apt to junk their party’s standard bearer if they couldn’t get the promised or expected logistical support. That’s why it takes billions to run a credible presidential campaign.
Remember that being independent, the candidates can’t claim any party funding depending on the number of registered voters. Already partyless, will the local candidates be willing to forget also funding support from Poe? If so, then a new dawn will be setting in Philippine politics.
Now, let’s say many politicians, including Romeo Jalosjos, are willing to run under her ticket without getting any funding support, are they assured of being “anointed” as her local candidates? If she’ll eventually decide to have local candidates also, she may have to appear onstage with them in her local campaign, and this may rile supporters of rival candidates.
Now, some political parties with no credible presidential candidate may be tripping over themselves trying to entice her to be their official standard bearer. Should she accede rather than thumb her nose at them, then she’ll no longer be an independent candidate in the true sense of the word.
No topnotcher in senatorial elections has ever gone on to become president. Oh yes, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was No. 1 in 1995 but her victory in 2004 is still being doubted. Should Poe win in 2015, again unless she’s disqualified, then she’ll be the very first topnotcher to make it to Malacañang.
I just watched the second Republican presidential debates over CNN and I hope a similar one will be staged in the Philippines. One prominent feature of that debate was asking individual hopefuls to comment on controversial statements of their rivals. I am told the first was even better. It was organized by Fox and shown on Fox network channels.
Should one be conducted in the Philippines, CNN-Philippines would be a preferred host. It has Pia Hontiveros whom I consider one of television’s two best political reporters, the other being Lynda Jumilla of ANC. Pia gained more admirers with her handling of the Iglesia Ni Cristo controversy.