Saturday, 4 July 2009

Philippine presidential elections 2010 -- The upcoming Manny Villar - Noli de Castro rivalry

By Efren L. Danao
Manila Times

The Philippines will definitely have a refreshingly new kind of election campaign should Vice President Noli de Castro and Sen. Manny Villar be the only presidential candidates in 2010.

Black propaganda and mud slinging have been par for the course in the hustings, but I don’t see them rearing their ugly heads in a fight limited to the two bosom friends. At the roundtable with Manila Times staffers, Senator Villar said he expects a friendly rivalry should de Castro run against him. (The two are members of the Wednesday Group that also includes Sen. Joker Arroyo, Sen. Kiko Pangilinan, Sen. Lito Lapid and former senator, now Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ralph Recto.)

“I told Noli that even if we would become rivals, there is no reason for us to become enemies. I assured him that should he win, I will immediately concede on Day One. I value friendship,” Villar said.

There! That also removes a heated protest in a post-election scenario. How wonderful it would be to have such a peaceful election period from campaigning to post-proclamation! But remember, this is only if they are the only presidential candidates in 2010, which may not happen at all.

Kid gloves off vs. other rivals

Villar believes there would be up to four serious presidential candidates in 2010. Of course, he is one of the four, no ifs, ands or buts about it. And definitely, the gloves would be off should his rivals include Sen. Mar Roxas and Sen. Loren Legarda. The two had made no bones on wanting him out of the Senate Presidency since the First Regular Session of the Fourteenth Congress “to level the 2010 playing field.” And when they succeeded in installing Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile as primus inter pares at the Senate, they cited Villar’s alleged conflict of interest in pursuing the C-5 road extension project as one of the reasons why Villar should go.

“They should be explaining what they had done in their provinces instead of asking me why I had built the C-5 road extension project,” he said.

He prides himself in pushing for the project that he said would benefit millions of commuters from Southern Tagalog, especially Cavite, and Metro Manila. He said he has no intention of attending the hearing by the Committee of the Whole of the alleged double funding of the C-5 road extension project after the committee adopted the rules of the Senate Committee on Ethics headed by Sen. Ping Lacson.

Incidentally, Villar remains high in surveys despite that charge. A survey conducted by the Issues and Advocacy Center on May 18-25 gave this explanation: “Respondents have a hard time reconciling the stature of Sen. Villar as the richest member of the legislature with the charges that he pocketed an amount which is considered minuscule if ranged against his admitted assets. That fact that Sen. Villar’s accusers themselves lack credibility helped in allowing Sen. Villar to continue enjoying the sympathy of the public.”

Villar’s high poll rating

Some may question the legitimacy of Villar’s high rating but I say we in media have no right to do the questioning, not while The Star and Inquirer are both claiming to be the Number One newspaper; not while GMA 7 and ABS-CBN are both claiming to be the top television station.

Villar gave an inkling at the roundtable with The Manila Times that he would not back off from a bare-knuckled fight with rivals other than Noli. To be fair, he still has actually to name names in hitting at his potential rivals. On second thought, is this being fair? Anyway, readers could immediately identify the one he was referring to when he said: “Anybody can say ‘I will radically change society.’ But the question is, has he done anything radical? He has been living with his mother for a long time, and he will be getting married only at age 50.” Ouch! Boy Padyak, a.k.a Boy Bawang, would not like that.

I completely agree with him when he said the electorate should get out of their personality orientation and consider managerial ability, leadership and ability to implement plans as main consideration in voting for a presidential candidate. A change in orientation needs some doing, however.

At the roundtable, he also confessed that he was getting confused by all the rumors circulating around the country—no election, failure of election, declaration of martial law. But there is one thing that this confusion would not prevent him from doing—campaign. He has been going all over the country while saturating the air lanes with his ads. This early, he has already secured the pledges of several followers of President Arroyo. Will these pledges hold until May 2010? Abangan!

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