Everybody wants to be John or Paul but sometimes somebody has to be Ringo.

This sums up the opposition efforts to find a common candidate. Team Leni had approached Isko, Ping and and Manny about unifying the field. The pitch was Leni would head the ticket with the others sliding down to #2.

Unsurprisingly the proposal did not fly. Leni vowed to fall on her sword if this would unify the field but now suggested the others do so instead. The premise was they were good enough to be Vice-President but not enough to be President. This was not a conversation, it was a notice of eviction.

Leni deserves to be President but this is a thesis not an entitlement. Leni is polling halfway behind Isko and Manny. With the full backing of the PNoy Administration she barely and controversially beat Bong Bong in 2016 for VP (the margin was 263,000 votes out of 42 million cast). Her base is the intelligentsia. Many of the D and E crowd who count are unaware of her many accomplishments.

Isko and Ping did not only decline the offer, they were visibly offended by it which is not in keeping with their otherwise cool and collected demeanor. That is how badly crafted was the approach. Ping was also upset at the reported attempt behind his back to lure Tito Sotto as Leni’s VP. 

Manny has not commented which does not mean he agrees only that he is too much of a gentleman not to say so.

The True Opposition (TO) does not get it. I mention this not as a judgement on the movement which is composed of good people but as an occasion for self reflection. Something did not go well and it is important to understand why because while increasingly distant there is still room for future talks. The alternative is a likely win by the forces they seek to overcome.

Was it the audacity of the proposition; the “intellectual dishonesty” as described by Isko’s campaign organizer and ex-LP stalwart Egay Erice; the entitlement; the height of the high horse; or the manner – take it or leave it – in which the proffer was made? I understand the True Opposition is on a crusade but they cannot assume that only they have a monopoly on purity of purpose especially since they are not without sin. 

The Senate slate that Team Leni unveiled is a case in point. It is, I am afraid, not the picture of moral ascendancy. Even some of the most ardent Leni supporters were dismayed. 

The TO’s slate is narrow in its ideology but wide in its ethical embrace. Included were old friends, old enemies and just old people. The spread was said to reflect the inclusiveness of the team. It was political expediency at its worst. It did not matter that one was a thief as long as one was committed to the overthrow of anything walking, talking or smelling like a Duterte or a Marcos. It stamped the TO not as an arbiter of morality but as a motley of traditional politicians strung together for electoral convenience. The TO beamed with pride that only three candidates were members of the Liberal Party which may be an admission some of the other party members did not want to be seen in such company.

Whatever happened to principles, programs and vision?

Is this what the New Government, the Second Coming of Christ, is supposed to look like, a dromedary designed by committee pieced together from the recyclables of the political cauldron? ? It looks more to me like an Old Boys’ Club fashioned by a cadre of Senate alumni.

Other parties are having their share of teething problems. Malacanang has no Presidential or Vice-Presidential candidate to speak of after Sara decided she was not about to join the circus of the Cusi faction of PDP Laban. Bong Go has no chance as VP against Tito Sotto. Short of the return of his prodigal daughter the President will just have to entrust his fate and that of his band of brothers to BBM who will probably be good for his word. D30 could still re-enter the fray as VP but even that is no longer a slam duck. With COVID, the corruption, the economy and what not, the President’s numbers are on the wane although this could change if the vaccines kick in, the economy recovers and the power of the incumbent is unleashed. Even if he was not to win against somebody like Sotto who is polling 10 points above him, his candidacy could keep his base together for whoever he decides to anoint as President.

Isko is witnessing a natural shedding as allies are brought in with their own ideas, money and people. It is still pre-season and the starting line-ups are being short listed. Isko is running on a message of “If I can do it, you can do it” marinated with populist programs like lower gas taxes and opportunities everywhere. Isko is the biggest risk taker of all the candidates and he is not scared to go to the left of the ideological spectrum in social and economic programs that will scare the conservatives but attract the votes that matter.

Manny Pacquiao has the simplest message. He is going with Corruption and to his credit is not sugar coating it. He is frontally attacking Marcos for the family sins, the DOH for its outrageous looting. He may need a strategy that goes beyond this and doling out P1,000  bills. The latter works but is not sustainable even with his considerable wealth. He needs a partner he can dance with, an organization, a program and more money. I love the guy for his clarity, his temerity, his principles and his innocence of purpose. I only wish there was more from where this came. 

BBM (his new “nom de guerre” instead of his surname in case somebody remembers) is a candidate looking for a message (Meantime he is going with “heal and unify” which is where every body else is). Absent one he has cleverly decided to keep mum while watching his opponents devour themselves. BBM is a remarkable example of how to succeed in politics without really trying. He has never broken into a sweat, has a CV that was scripted at child birth and yet here he is at the cusp of the Presidency. As Woody Allen said sometimes in life all you have to do is show up. 

BBM is getting to like his position as arguably the leading Presidential contender. He is re-energized, he is organizing in scale, and has the money. All he wants for Christmas is for Sara not to return. 

The non-Administration candidates’ best hope is for the Duterte base to break up with the absence of Sara which would benefit mainly Isko and Manny. Their other hope is for a Come to Jesus moment where they agree to run as one which is increasingly unlikely.

Nobody wants to just be Ringo.

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