Proxy wars in the 2013 elections

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In the aftermath of Malacañang’s six-month suspension of Cebu Governor Gwendolyn “Gwen” Garcia, a tenuous ruling coalition has started unravelling.

United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) stalwarts Vice-President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay (PDP-Laban), former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada (PMP), and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile (PMP) went to Cebu to personally show their solidarity and support to the embattled Governor.

Reportedly, UNA’s Secretary-General Rep. Tobias “Toby” Tiangco said that the suspension order is an act of “power grab and political persecution.”

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The Liberal Party, leader of the opposing senatorial slate to UNA’s own, found it necessary to issue a disclaimer that it is behind the Garcia suspension.

Malacañang, for its part, advised Governor Garcia to just follow the rule of law and for the UNA leaders to advise her to do so.

The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) has already sworn in Cebu Vice-Governor Agnes Magpale (LP), the sister of Secretary to the Cabinet Rene Almendras.

The Cebu drama—which still unfolds—puts a severe strain on the Aquino ruling coalition. UNA has a dilemma of sorts.

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Its member-parties are still a formal partner in the ruling coalition and it recognizes President Aquino as the head of the coalition.

Yet, it is the subject of what it perceived as LP maneuvers that weaken them or, more correctly, weaken Vice-President Binay’s support in the 2016 presidential elections.

In this sense, it perceives the Cabinet, the Executive agencies, and many of those in Congress and local governments as hostile forces.

It may even extend to President Aquino himself, since he is the LP Chairman and head of the Executive Department.

However, UNA cannot openly go against the president since this will effectively kick them out of the ruling coalition and straight into the role of the opposition to the Aquino administration.

In turn, they will lose a lot of political and material advantages they have at present.

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It is also politically dangerous—as the Arroyo opposition and the Makabayan political coalition found out—to openly go against a hugely-popular president.

However, as long as UNA pursues a course that does not draw a clear line of distinction between them and the LP, it is vulnerable to further offensives from the latter.

The Cebu suspension—and possibly, the investigation into the jueteng connections of Pangasinan governor Amado Espino—may politically damage their 2016 presidential ambitions.

The proxy war in the 2013 elections is heating up.

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Ramon Casiple is a well-respected political analyst. He is also the Executive Director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform (IPER).

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