The filing of candidacy for all elective posts in the 2013 starts on October 1 and ends October 5. By all indications, most positions will be contested by candidates of parties identified with President Aquino. Only a pitifully few from the erstwhile powerhouse coalition party that is the Lakas-Kampi will run under its banner.
The grand story about the coming elections is how President Aquino dominates it. Though it is the usual phenomenon of a midterm elections for a sitting president to have a strong influence over its conduct, the 2013 elections goes beyond mere influence and approaches the realm of compulsion. The current political situation can be labelled as Pax Aquino.
To go against the president at this point for a candidate is political suicide, when Aquino enjoys the support of nearly four out of five Filipinos in the surveys. Thus we have an unprecedented situation of both sides in the electoral contest in many places—whatever party a candidate maybe affiliated with—trying to be in the good graces of Malacañang.
By way of contrast, the last midterm elections of 2007 had politicians trying hard to distance themselves from the hugely unpopular President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Her endorsement then was dubbed the “kiss of death.”
Pax Aquino is nowhere more manifest than in the senatorial contest. Only two major senatorial slates are due to be filed with the Commission on Elections this week—either identified or allied with the President. On the one hand, the president’s own party, the Liberal Party, is in coalition with the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) and the Nacionalista Party. On the other hand, the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), headed by Vice-President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay, is a coalition led by Binay’s own Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) and former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada’s Partido ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) and all of them in alliance with President Aquino.
Where is the opposition? “Nowhere to be found” seems to be the answer.
Lakas-Kampi is not expected to field a separate slate and its lone senatorial candidate, Congresswoman Mitos Magsaysay, is part of UNA’s line-up.
We also have the new and absurd phenomenon of the LP-led slate and the UNA slate sharing three common candidates—re-electionist Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero and Loren Legarda, and MTRCB Chairperson Grace Poe-Llamanzares, the late popular actor and 2004 presidential candidate Fernando Poe, Jr.’s daughter.
We even have the spectacle of PDP-Laban’s President, Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, running under the LP slate even as his erstwhile rival for the 12th Senate seat in the 2007 elections, Miguel “Migz” Zubiri, runs under UNA. It must be recalled that Migz Zubiri occupied the seat until August 2011, when he resigned when an imminent adverse decision was about to be handed down by the Senate Electoral Tribunal on the case of cheating filed against him by Pimentel. A related case is now under trial before the Pasay City Regional Trial Court against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, former COMELEC Chairman Benjamin Abalos, Jr. and several Maguindanao election officers.
The Cojuangco and Aquino clans themselves are prominent on both sides.
On the LP side, the president’s uncle, Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, Jr heads the allied NPC party. A presidential cousin, Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, runs under the LP-led slate. On the UNA side, another presidential uncle, Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, is PDP-Laban’s secretary-general. His wife, Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco is running for senator under UNA.
The 2013 national and local elections promise to be an election with no clear opposition—it is all under one Aquino roof.