Beyond Arroyo and Beyond Retaking Power

It takes convincing the electorate who have long been sickened by elections that mean nothing to their lives and future that this one is more than just a choice between Estrada’s candidates and Arroyo’s candidates and is, therefore, different. The opposition should be able to show that this is beyond ousting Arroyo and beyond retaking power.

By the Policy Study, Publication and Advocacy (PSPA) Program
Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG)
Posted by Bulatlat

With the formation of the senatorial slates of both the traditional opposition and the Arroyo administration, the coming elections are certain to be a power struggle among factions of the ruling elite. It will be a power dynamics defined by the administration’s “Team Unity” ticket that is banking on the favorable outcome of the mid-term congressional elections to allow the incumbent President to stay in office and pursue constitutional change thereafter, and the Estrada-inspired United Opposition (UNO) ticket that is intent on removing her from Malacañang.

Administration spokespersons have accused UNO, now renamed “Genuine Opposition” or GO, of lacking any campaign platform except the ouster of President Gloria M. Arroyo. Arroyo had previously faced two impeachment complaints in Congress for election fraud, betrayal of public trust, human rights abuses, and other constitutional violations. But the GO is determined to make the 2004 election fraud an issue since, according to reelectionist Sen. Panilo Lacson, “it involves integrity and accountability of public officials.”

“If you are elected, you should be accountable for your actions. You just can’t get away with cheating in an election or pilfering millions of pesos in public funds in the fertilizer scam,” Lacson said in a newspaper report last week. “We were hoodwinked before – we will not be hoodwinked again.”

Topnotch candidates

GO’s ticket appears formidable as it includes candidates who have topped previous senatorial races. These are: former Sen. Loren Legarda (Nationalist People’s Coalition or NPC) who ran for vice president in 2004; Lacson (Independent) who was also a presidential candidate in 2004; Senate President Manuel Villar (Nacionalista Party, guest candidate), former House Speaker and 2010 presidential aspirant; and Francis Pangilinan (Liberal Party / “Drilon wing,” guest candidate), Senate Majority Floor Leader.

The rest are Rep. Francis Escudero (NPC, Bicol); Alan Peter Cayetano (NP, Rizal); Benigno Aquino III (LP / “Drilon wing”); Anna Dominique Coseteng (NPC, former senator); John Henry Osmeña (NPC, Cebu), former senator; Aquilino Pimentel III (Partido Demokratikong Pilipino – Lakas ng Bayan); Sonia Roco (Aksyon Demokratiko, Bicol); and cashiered Navy Lt. SG Antonio Trillanes (Independent).

Escudero, Cayetano and Aquino III, all belonging to political dynasties, have been topping in recent popularity surveys. Osmeña, who comes from a political dynasty in central Visayas that spans several generations, and Pimentel III, son of incumbent Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., are from vote-rich Cebu and Mindanao, respectively.

Roco is the widow of the late Sen. Raul Roco, who also ran for president in 2004. Trillanes was the leader of Magdalo that pulled the 2003 Oakwood mutiny and was linked to ousted President Joseph Estrada. He is expected to represent idealistic sections of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

In varying degrees, Escudero, Cayetano, Aquino III, Villar, Lacson, Roco and Trillanes had led or supported calls for the removal of Arroyo from the presidency. They also figured in the opposition to constitutional change which is widely believed to be a ploy of the President together with Lakas-CMD leaders to perpetuate the ruling coalition in power and preempt another impeachment. Trillanes, who has been detained since late 2003, took the extreme measure of toppling Arroyo through an attempted coup, so claims Malacañang.


It is the nature of the country’s traditional elections that power struggle and political convenience can galvanize disparate forces: Villar, Pangilinan, Legarda, the families of Roco and Pimentel III and, in a defining moment, Lacson, as director general of the PNP, were key figures in the 2001 ouster of Estrada that was initiated by the militant Left and paved the way for the ascendance of Gloria Arroyo into the presidency. Escudero has long been identified with Estrada, was in the frontline against his impeachment and became an initiator of the two impeachments against the incumbent President. Escudero is from the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) of political kingpin Eduardo Cojuangco, Jr. which is split in this election, with one faction siding with Mrs. Arroyo.

Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, UNO president, who took pains in cobbling together the GO ticket at times in close talks with Estrada – who is in detention since mid-2001 – has minced no words in saying that the mid-term election is a “referendum” for Arroyo and that the President’s removal is a campaign issue. As opposition leader, Binay was himself a victim of a Malacañang purge to remove him as city mayor on graft charges last year.

Conversely, the administration “Team Unity” clusters pro-Arroyo hardliners, pro-Estrada allies who turned into the proverbial “political butterflies,” local political figures and TV-movie celebrities. Leyte Gov. Jericho Petilla, a member of a political dynasty in Eastern Visayas, who was earlier included in the ticket, begged off at the last minute because, reports said, he was certain to lose. Movie actor Cesar Montano, who hails from Bohol, took his place.

Share This Post