It's slash-and-burn time.
Filing for candidacy doesn't happen until October, but politicians and their supporters are now busy prettifying their images or attacking perceived rivals.
Vice President Jejomar Binay was the original target-in-chief. The presumed front-runner's ratings took a tumble in the latest surveys, though one can’t dismiss him yet as a contender.
Senator Grace Poe's leap in ratings has now made her the target of both Binay's UNA and the ruling Liberal Party of Interior Secretary Mar Roxas. President Benigno Aquino III is, of course, considered the head of the LP, the king whose blessing is needed by the heir designate.
UNA obviously thought attacking Poe on the issue of citizenship would scare off would be supporters and voters. They didn't realize that highlighting her foundling status would just kindle sympathy in this soap-opera crazy nation. They gifted Poe with a script any director would kill for -- and it actually had real hacenderas-fallen-from-grace, poor-boy-rich-girl passion, pious-nurturers, not to mention a childless superstar couple.
Small wonder the Binay family practically begged Toby Tiangco to shut his trap.
The LP and their backers could have made better play of the residency issue. Poe IS vulnerable there. But that is an issue that only the courts can rule on with finality.
There is also the inconvenient fact that, while Mar’s friends used the issue to question Poe's legitimacy as presidential candidate, the President was busy wooing the senator on behalf of...
... and there's the rub. What exactly is PNOY doing? And why aren't the Mar lovers taking him to task for his cavalier treatment of the presumed heir?
(Not that it's the first time for the President to treat Roxas like some peon; think, Mamasapano.)
The current theme:
· You are not worthy, Grace, if you do not drop Chiz Escudero as running mate.
· Drop Chiz because he won't get anywhere without you.
· Chiz will betray you, the way he betrayed Mar, with the NoyBi gambit.
· Chiz is trapo and so choosing him means you're trapo, too.
Escudero can be too slick for his own good. He can sound cocky and arrogant. (Miriam Santiago famously took him down a couple of notches not-too-long-ago.) He is a pragmatist, sometimes to a fault, leaving you wondering if he will ever make categorical statements of principles. He can be slippery that way.
There's also something a bit cold about Chiz. It's hard not to look at him without imagining an inner abacus going click, click, click weighing his interests. Some people, like me, feel discomfort over that. Some people think it’s an important leadership skill.
Sure, maybe Chiz knows he won't win the Presidency, which is why he's willing to take the runner-up post. But what is wrong with having a good sense of reality?
We are left with the NoyBi plaint, a laughable, pathetic argument.
"NoyBi" was real. Early in the 2010 race, journalists were already writing of a parallel organization. (I did.)
If Mar and his pals didn't get wind of that, that's a question on their ability to lead. That they got wind of that and didn't do anything -- or didn't do enough -- to counter the dangerous internal challenge, places an even bigger question mark on their capability.
Why confront Grace or Chiz with the issue? Six years after, why is Mr. Aquino still doing the shuffle? And why isn't anyone challenging his actions?
Poor, Mar, imagine the President asking Grace is she'd be willing to have his LP pal as a spare tire in national rounds? Asking Grace. Think about that. This is your sainted leader, dudes. Why is he showing Mar so much disrespect?
Those who scream over -- and at -- Chiz are skirting the elephant in the room. NoyBi would never have prospered without the blessings of Noy.
Noy, the candidate, was conscious of the double-dealing. It benefited him after all. Certainly, his beloved sisters were part of that clique -- and made their preference clear even years into the Aquino presidency.
I won't argue that there's a streak of a cynic in Chiz. But why are all these bashers blind to the cynicism in PNoy, now and in 2010?
Check how all the NoyBi people have stood the test of six years. Who did he choose as Executive Secretary? The biggest NoyBi of them all -- Jojo Ochoa.
The President can anoint Mar -- and he probably will. It doesn't really matter. Mr. Aquino showed in 2010 he's very capable of looking out for No. 1.
With his protection gone after 2016, that's exactly what he'll try to do.
The real equation is this: Mar or Grace or Binay, the real winner is Noynoy. Chiz may not be Mar's friend. But he sure is a dear friend of PNOY.
There are a thousand things why it's perfect reasonable for people not to like Chiz. NoyBi isn't one of them -- unless you want to throw paint at your president, too.
Oh, and one more thing. While it is legitimate to wonder about Grace's lack of experience -- you campaigned in 2010 for a legislator who had done NOTHING in his long congressional stint.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.