Monday, April 05, 2010

What win-win solution?

This is my column today.

Among all the comments made about Gilbert Teodoro’s resignation last week as chairman of the administration party Lakas-Kampi, the one that struck me the most was that made by deputy presidential spokesperson Gary Olivar. In an interview conducted by media network GMA 7, Olivar said that Teodoro’s resignation resulted in a win-win situation both for the party and for Teodoro. Of course we all know Olivar was simply doing his job, which was to put a positive spin on a looming crisis situation (for the Lakas-kampi coalition at least, because we all know the downfall of the administration party is heaven sent news to the other parties). It was possible that the man was simply talking his head off, parroting yet another meaningless mumbo jumbo.

The truth was that many members of the party including senior stalwarts such as national campaign manager Prospero Pichay were caught flatfooted by Teodoro’s resignation. A parade of Lakas-Kampi officials all registered that deer-caught-in-the-headlights look in their eyes.

A presidential candidate who wasn’t doing so well in surveys but who, until just a couple of months ago, continued to persevere on the belief that party machinery would ultimately deliver the votes and consequently victory, quit as top honcho of the very party he was leveraging his candidacy on with barely 40 days to go before election. In what way was this going to be a win-win situation?

Yes, I have heard about all that gibberish about how Teodoro’s resignation as chairman of the administration party would supposedly make him an underdog and free him from the stigma wrought by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s unpopularity.

This arrant nonsense just does not fly. First, because Teodoro has not broken away from the administration party; last I looked, he was still singing paeans to it. In fact, the second half of the reason he presented as justification for his resignation was precisely in support of the party who he said was crippled by his inability to devote time to the thousand and one things that needed to be attended to. Second, Teodoro has precisely staked his presidential bid on the assertion that he is not an ungrateful person and that Arroyo has not been such a totally evil person. True, portraying himself as a betrayed person would probably add a few measly points to his ratings but Lakas-Kampi has seemingly been able to marshal over the Holy Week whatever strengths it has left. Deputy Speaker Amelita Villarosa has been elected to replace Teodoro as chair of the party. But rumors of the impending and imminent collapse of the administration party continue.

The official line Teodoro and his partymates tried to put out there was that Teodoro needed to free himself from the burden of being party chairperson so he can concentrate on getting himself elected as president. The official line sounded like Teodoro was making a huge sacrifice but there were many things that didn’t add up in the logic department.

First, given his supposed intelligence, it seemed improbable that Teodoro only realized the supposed conflict of roles now barely a month before the election. The man is supposed to possess superior strategic thinking skills, for crying out loud. Besides, the supposed conflict of roles and his inability to manage it smacks of poor leadership. Second, the timing stank. Why only last week? Resigning as leader of the party barely 40 days to go before the elections opened up speculative drivel that the party and Teodoro needed like a hole in the head.

And more importantly, the two roles—being chairman of the party and being its standard bearer—are not really mutually exclusive; in fact, these two roles are supposed to complement, if not build on each other. It actually made sense that Teodoro was chairman of the party as well as its standard bearer. And when we consider the trouble he went through to clinch the position (recall that hullabaloo during the party convention last year which was even contested by former Lakas loyalist Bayani Fernando) it seems incredible that he would give the post up just like that. Also, the post of chairman of the party is actually more of a symbolic position anyway.

There is persistent talk that Teodoro’s resignation was actually indicative of major trouble within the ranks of the ruling party. Given that the resignation came in the heels of major party defections—the Garcias of Cebu, the Zubiris of Bukidnon, the Singsons of Ilocos, the Cagases of Davao del Sur, the Uys of Compostela Valley among many others—one theory being put out there is that Teodoro had his back against the wall and finally had it with the betrayal. The scuttlebutt points to some machinations being done by someone powerful and close to the President. Supposedly, the whole thing validates what has been suspected all along—that the President and Malacañang is actually supporting Senator Manny Villar.

I know. It sounds like a plot from some third-rate telenovela. There’s this drivel about how all these drama is mere ploy to re-channel the stigma towards Villar. If there is some iota of truth in this sordid plot, it only validates one conclusion: Desperation.

There’s widespread discontent among the ranks of Lakas-Kampi soldiers in the towns and cities. Some relatives and friends in politics confirm that unlike in the Villar camp where manna from heaven rains abundantly, Lakas-Kampi candidates are hobbling along with very minimal funds. There is talk that Lakas-Kampi money is held up somewhere in the bureaucracy—that the priority is getting representatives, not mayors and governors elected, to ensure that Arroyo has enough votes to become Speaker of the house.

Teodoro’s campaign is evidently short on funds. He ranked a far fifth in terms of television advertisements so far, only spending half of what Senator Villar has spent on his advertisements. Even Joseph Estrada and Senator Richard Gordon had more television advertisements in the last few months.

On the other hand, the sudden appearance in the scene of former President Fidel Ramos and former Speaker Jose de Venecia flung a wrench into the whole discussion. De Venecia emerged from the shadows and talked about reclaiming the Lakas party from the clutches of Arroyo and her lackeys in support of its own presidential candidate—all the while dropping hints that that person could still be Teodoro. The supposed return of the old generals of the party is being seen as paving the way for yet another win-win scenario in the horizon.

Perhaps I am just too steeped in management thinking and my paradigm of what constitutes a win-win situation is completely different from that of politicians. But perhaps Olivar was right all along. There is a win-win scenario being cooked up somewhere. The question is: Win-win for whom?

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