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Sunday, May 20, 2007

half-empty or half-full?

Many of the local races have been called. The Senate race of course is still being counted. It hasn't stopped people to begin trying to spin and figure out, what the heck was the last election all about. In many ways, people believe it was a referendum on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's leadership and yet in many ways, can we truly say that?

Sure with the victory of Panlilio as Governor of Pampanga--- in many ways that was a kick against pGMA. Pampanga being the President's home province, you'd think that place of all places her power would be strongest. So indirectly we can say, the people of Pampanga didn't like her choice. It would be interesting though, to find out why exactly did the people of Pampanga voted for Panlilio--- where they unsatisfied with Lapid's rule and unhappy with the prospects of Peneda leading? The small margin of victory can be viewed that today, Pampanga is divided on that thought.

Good man that he is, Ed Panlilio, will have a tough time bringing those who didn't vote for him into his camp. He'll need all the help he can get to makes some good and his detractors will not make it any easier.

On one hand, you have the younger Atienza losing out to veteran Senator Alfredo Lim. Lim being the previous occupant of Manila's City Hall before joining the Senate. Lim didn't even need to run--- He was still senator until 2010. This was an astute move by the Opposition. Wresting control of the capital is no small feat. It wasn't Lito Atienza who was running. It was his son. No one can doubt that both Lim and Atienza during their respective tenure have both done a great job for the people of Manila. So was it the Atienzas closeness with pGMA that got them? Was it simply a case of all politics being local, meaning after so many years the people of Manila would like someone "new" in City Hall? Perhaps the younger Atienza wasn't seasoned enough or perhaps the city didn't wish to create a dynasty.

In Nueva Ecija, we saw the exit of the Old Dynasty that have reigned over the province since everyone can remember has fallen. In Tarlac, the Cojuancos also lost out. Is this a call for the old guards to go?

Special mention of course is Mr. "Hello, Garci" himself--- he lost in his congressional bid.

In Batangas--- Kampi's Sanchez, a political powerhouse lost to the star power of veteran Lakas-politician and actress Vilma Santos-Recto. Batangas perhaps is a province that we can safely say wasn't a battle for or against pGMA. In many ways--- this is reflected in other parts of the country where there is virtually no "opposition presence". In the case of Batangas, it is Kampi (the president's party) against their "allies" the Lakas party. It's funny how these two fight for these things, and reminds me of an old saying. you know that one. it starts off like this: "with friends like these..."

Where was I? Oh yeah, Vilma Santos-Recto had proven herself a politician who has delivered the goods. Being the outgoing mayor of Lipa City--- the second largest city in Batangas province, no one can say, she is without experience and no one can say, she did a terrible job in Lipa. Mrs. Recto was able to build on the foundation that her predecessors have started.

Governor Sanchez on the other hand is an old hat running the show. He's good at what he does. He's a veteran political operator. And the people of Batangas can't say he turned the province into hell, either.

So the question is, in races like Batangas--- is it still a reflection on pGMA? I don't think it was. I think it was a case of local politics. The people of Batangas just decided who they wanted to be Governor. Just as many of the incumbent officials in Metro Manila were victorious--- we can say it was performance as opposed to pure spite against pGMA that won the election for them.

In Abra, and in Masbate and in parts of the country where violence and electoral fraud was so rampant that its stink you could smell across the globe. Again in those races, it was local politics playing a hand, I think. Old clans feuding--- the old Elected Aristocracy battling it out for the right to rule. So it wasn't a case of "you're with pGMA, we hate you." It was a case of all politics being local.

In General Santos, we saw the fall of boxing champ Pacquio against a petite lady, incumbent Congresswoman Custodio. While clearly Ms. Custodio's pedigree and own network brought her success--- it was also not so much as a reflection against pGMA that the Pacman lost, but more as the "will" of the people saying, we "prefer you to be our hero in the boxing ring".

Given that pGMA's allies--- in her own party, Kampi and coalition bed-mate Lakas have dominated the local political landscape that's not enough to say, "it was a pro-pGMA election." It was a foregone conclusion long before the election started that they'd be winning in those seats and fighting it out amongst themselves. You can not raise expectations when there are no expectations to be raised. Her spin of course is for those ears who don't really understand local politics. Perhaps these people have been watching too much CNN: this isn't the same as Bush's Republicans being defeated. Besides, you can't beat someone if you don't even show up in the fight at all: it was mostly Kampi v. Lakas and they sleep together, how can that be a referendum against pGMA?

Even taking into account the cases where the Opposition fielded their own against pGMA, they won because of local reasons. Local politics trumps national issues: people voted for the most part who they think would deliver the best service whether in Nueva Ecija, in Tarlac, in Cebu, in Pampanga, in Manila, in Quezon City, in Batangas, and in Makati.

Where does this leave us?

The Senate isn't being dominated by the Opposition though in a way you can say it was sort of a referendum since those who are in are independent minded and not easily swayed by the Palace. Just look at the names popping out. They're mostly young, and some are new to that house, mixed with tried and tested ones who the people trust to use their heads. It explains why Trillanes is winning, as opposed to Cayatano. The latter ran on the issue the first family is out to get him--- and that only takes in a lot of votes (mine amongst that column) and if there was such a unprecedented hatred for pGMA, no cheating, no amount of delaying tactic would prevent people from voting for Cayatano. You've only to compare his campaign with Trillanes' to see the difference.

For the most part, people voted for those they think will work, can do the most good. This election saw people who are serious in doing business are being elected (though they are not by far the most perfect of the bunch). It explains why people like Cayatano are not doing so great and hanging by a thread, just like Pimentel, and Recto and Honasan. It is also why people like Roco, Sotto, Oreta, Osmena, Montano, Gomez, Singson, Defensor are not going to make it.

I think, when the dust has finally settled and the business of governing begins, this election was all about people expressing their sentiment that it is time to work. It is a message to politicians that what we want to see is actual work being done. It isn't to say, there was no chastisement on pGMA's handing of the government--- there was: the independent minded have and are winning seats in the Senate. Likewise, we can also say that this election is fair warning to those elected not to engage in shenanigans or witch hunts. As much as everyone loves the idea of pGMA being sent to jail (i'd pay good money to see that), we'd pay bigger for people to work better.

pGMA's got less than three years left--- not much time for interested parties for her job to prepare. Whether or not Lakas will remain huge in the next three years--- will determine whether or not pGMA is lame duck or not. That said: come 2010--- it would be interesting to see a Liberal Party rise, as much as to figure out where Lakas would stand and who else will throw in their hat. All things considered, 2007 is a mere stepping stone for 2010 and thats where the next phase of the war is to be fought. As i've mentioned previously, it is the business of governing that is the hard part, and in an increasingly apathetic landscape, the hard part is also looking at all this, glass half-full and not half-empty.