By: Emil Jurado
Why Villar is up and Noynoy is down As the presidential race enters its last laps, and poll surveys notwithstanding, I maintain that it’s going to be a five-way fight among the candidates: Senators Manuel Villar and Benigno Aquino III, former President Joseph Estrada, former Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro and Senator Richard Gordon. I’ve been a journalist for over half a century. I know that in our kind of politics, one day makes a lot of difference. After all, politics is the art of the possible. There are just too many imponderables. The reckoning day will likely be towards the end of March, when we can see some real trends. That’s when those presidential candidates who cannot improve on their single-digit ratings should realize they may just be doing wishful thinking. *** So Villar and Aquino are in a statistical tie. This says a lot. We now know that the Cory magic is waning. Soon enough, that will be history. There’s also the fact that Aquino is not running as his own man. He runs, instead, under the shadow of his popular parents. Now people are beginning to see through the standard bearer of the Liberal Party—shallow, with no track record, no competence and experience we can believe in. Noynoy has also launched a hate campaign. His pledge hindi ako magnanakaw (I will not steal) makes it seem like all the rest of us are thieves. The campaign, anchored on the supposed honesty and integrity of Aquino, only reminds us of the “sins” of the Cory administration— the Kamaganak Inc. and the Luisita and Mendiola massacres, among them. Indeed Noynoy’s negative campaigning, being only “against” something instead of “for” anything, only tells us that he really has nothing to show aside from his parentage. And there’s another thing that turns people off: the faces behind Aquino. All of them are salivating for a return to power. They have vindictiveness in their minds, reminiscent of the do-nothing administration of Noynoy’s mother. In all these, the beneficiary has been Villar, who because of the C-5 controversy has become some sort of an underdog. *** Noynoy has offered some excuses for his declining ratings. He claims that his opponent Villar has been outspending everybody in the presidential race, to the tune of 10 to one. Well, yes, Villar has been campaigning for years. As what I have been saying all along, he who has the gold rules. That is the Golden Rule of Philippine elections. This is why one must be practical when it comes to running for any elective post—from councilor to president . If you don’t have the gold, forget it! Popularity is not enough, believe me. It all translates to money. A presidential candidate should not solely rely on contributions and funding from the usual benefactors. At this point, or until these people know for sure who will win, money can only come in trickles. The real funds will come later, with the certainty of victory. And that’s the problem with candidates relying on the usual funders. These people just don’t dole out funds because they love the face of a candidate. They expect a return on investments. This is why political patronage breeds corruption. Noynoy also cites an alleged “unholy alliance between Villar and President Arroyo, relying on rumors and gossips peddled by anti-Villar sectors that President Arroyo will end up having an alliance with Villar because Gibo’s chances are slim. This alliance is supposed to ensure that Villar will not go after the President when he wins. My gulay, how hollow can Noynoy get? This copout (palusot) is both illogical and contradictory coming out from sheer desperation. In effect, Noynoy is saying that after all, support of the President for a candidate is crucial, not a “kiss of death” as they have previously been claiming. Once again, Noynoy is mouthing populist allegations, not facts, thinking perhaps that the people who dislike the President will go for him. If this indicates anything, it’s the fact that Noynoy is getting desperate. Santa Banana, how pathetic! If there’s anything going for Villar, it’s his image as a billionaire willing to help the poor, the needy and those who want to improve their lives. Obviously, this has gotten into the consciousness of people when they are reminded of his poor and humble beginnings. The message is that like Villar, they can also succeed. Of course, this takes a lot of doing. That’s what Villar’s infomercials and other means of propaganda are for. Clearly, Villar is getting his message through. If the C-5 controversy hasn’t made a dent on Villar’s ratings, there’s the undeniable fact that it’s all politics behind it. How can it be a mere quest for the truth when Villar’s accusers are also the judges? *** A clear case of the frequency with which the Arroyo administration keeps shooting itself in the foot is the tax case issue involving Shell. Now at least three government agencies are engaged in a debate over the move of Customs and BIR to collect P7.3 billion in unpaid excise taxes on gasoline shipments, saying these were finished products. Shell claims otherwise. The facts of the case are so alarming that representatives of the foreign chambers of commerce have claimed in unison that what the government is doing is changing horses in mainstream. The BIR has originally ruled that these shipments are raw materials, not finished products. That is, until the incumbent BIR commissioner, Joel Tan Torres, reversed the ruling and made it retroactive. The Department of Energy has always been on the side of Shell. Even the House of Representatives is against the BIR ruling, even as the case is now pending in the Court of Tax Appeals. Admittedly, when no less than three government agencies cannot see eye to eye, it’s President Arroyo who gets hurt. But, more importantly, if this is kind of message we are sending to foreign investors, we will remain at the bottom of the list of destinations of foreign direct investments. Double taxation which is the end-result of this controversy favors trading instead of manufacturing. My gulay, we may as well do away with all manufacturing and resort to trading. The action of the BIR and Customs against Shell prompts me to ask: Who are the BIR and Customs commissioners working for anyway? *** The P17.8 million travel expenses of detained rebel Sen. Antonio Trillanes, who has been in detention for years, is something for the books. It’s for Ripley’s Believe or Not!