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Still sinking

Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice owes me and a couple of friends of mine lunch because of a bet that he lost, fair and square. Some months back, Erice wagered that his presidential candidate, Mar Roxas, would be leading in the surveys by December.

It’s now the middle of February and Roxas is nowhere near the top of any major survey. And Erice, despite his part-ownership of several supposedly lucrative mining companies, still hasn’t invited us to lunch.

Meanwhile, Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya has finally figured out that the problems besetting the Metro Rail Transit 3 are adversely affecting the chances of Roxas in the May elections. Then, like clockwork, the MRT broke down again yesterday— in all likelihood costing Roxas some more votes amongst the long-suffering people who still ride that godforsaken train line.

The latest survey of presidential candidates, conducted by Social Weather Stations for the newspaper BusinessWorld, shows Roxas once again firmly in fourth place, behind Vice President Jejomar Binay, Senator Grace Poe and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, in that order. And even the staunchest of Roxas’ backers like Erice will admit, if you ask them insistently enough, that their candidate is really having a hard time getting the people of Metro Manila and nearby areas to vote for him.

The strategy of the Roxas camp, it is becoming increasingly clear, is to all but give up on Metro Manila and the rest of the geopolitical area called the Lingayen-Lucena corridor, which accounts for the biggest votes by far amongst super-regions in the Philippines. Instead, they intend to focus on areas like Western Visayas, where Roxas is believed to be capable of beating the other candidates. 

The problem with this strategy, of course, is that the number of Visayan voters is not nearly enough to overturn the leads that the other candidates have over Roxas in other places. For instance, Roxas cannot seem to make any headway in Mindanao, where Duterte keeps getting gaudy, 50-plus polling numbers. Neither is Roxas getting any love in the Ilocano-speaking provinces of Northern Luzon, both in Region 1 and Region 2, where Poe and Binay, respectively, hold sway.

This is the main reason why Roxas seems unable to break through from fourth or third place among the candidates. And in Metro Manila, which is supposedly a “zona libre” where every candidate can get a significant slice of the huge voting pie, Roxas is falling behind in survey after survey.

* * *

Barring divine—or more mundane, as the believers in an alleged voting-machine cheating plot say—intervention, it seems that Roxas will need more than just a limitless amount of money to buy campaign advertising and to bribe every kind of elected official to get ahead. And if a solution is not found by Roxas and his highly-paid consultants and advisers soon, he might as well concede right now and kiss his hopes of winning in May goodbye.

The truth of the matter, as I’ve written before, is that while Roxas may need the endorsement of President Noynoy Aquino to secure funding and other requirements to run a viable campaign, he will have to blindly support (or keep deathly quiet) when people like Abaya do their best to sabotage his presidential run. And if the support Roxas gets from Aquino is also immediately subtracted from him in terms of votes lost, well, you have to wonder if he is really the President’s candidate.

Seriously. At this point in the campaign, less than three months before election day, the turnaround that Erice and the rest of the Liberal Party are expecting still seems as unreal as the P2,000 monthly increase in the pensions of members of the Social Security System.

And every day that Abaya—who is, by the way, acting LP president—and the rest of Aquino’s gang do something to outrage us, Roxas only sinks some more. Unless Roxas and his Palace-backed team know something that the rest of us don’t, there is simply no way for him to (let’s face it) win.

It used to be that a sitting President’s endorsement meant something more than just money. There was also the “equity of the incumbent” that the chosen one would get, giving him or her a head start on the rest of the field.

Sadly, that hasn’t happened yet for Roxas. And if you’re one of those who still support Aquino but entertain serious doubts that Roxas will win, perhaps now is the time to start campaigning for the most likely “Plan B” (or “Plan C”) candidate. If Aquino really needs a friendly successor who will keep him out of jail as soon as his term ends, that person certainly doesn’t look like Roxas this late in the day.

Oh, I know that Roxas and his Yellow team have been saying that they aren’t “overly concerned” about lagging behind in the surveys. But the only reason that would hold true is if Roxas didn’t join the presidential derby to win.

These are desperate times for the candidate from Cubao. Let’s see if he has something left in the tank to turn things around.

As for Erice, I’d like him to know that he still owes me and my friends lunch. Whether or not Roxas actually wins.

Topics: Jojo Robles , Still sinking , Edgar Erice , Mar Roxas , Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya , MRT , Social Weather Stations , Jejomar Binay , Grace Poe , Rodrigo Duterte
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