"I will soon get involved in a campaign again."
In 2001, after the fall from power of President Joseph Estrada, I was immediately enlisted into the campaign for senator of then resigned PNP Director General Panfilo Lacson.
The initial surveys placed him high on the list of probable winners, between ranks 3 to 5.
But then, a vilification campaign was unleashed against him, with unsavory characters testifying that as a police officer he was involved in unthinkable crimes. Some media persons came out with so-called exposes that were mere figments of their paid imagination.
Then, after the arrest of the deposed president, Edsa Tres erupted, the so-called revolt of the lumpen who stormed Malacanang after three days of massive protest rallies in the same spot where Edsa Dos, labelled the revolt of the rich and middle-class four months earlier, precipitated the downfall of Erap.
Then Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo declared a state of emergency after the failed siege where military and police snipers atop Mabini Bldg. in the palace shot many of the participants.
Warrants of arrest were issued against then Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile and Gringo Honasan, as well as then-senatorial candidate Ping Lacson. While Enrile was served the warrant, Lacson and Honasan went underground and for two weeks, Ping’s campaign was in limbo.
To cut a long story short, Lacson still emerged a winner in the 2001 midterm elections, along with Dra. Loi Estrada, Erap’s spouse, Ed Angara, and Honasan.
Despite this, the neophyte senator was again subjected to a barrage of attacks master-minded by elements of the administration, all intended to derail what they thought was a sure contestant for the presidency in 2004.
True enough, Sen. Lacson became a candidate for president in 2004. He ran under the LDP-Aquino faction (the late Sen. Butz Aquino), while the main LDP under the late Sen. Ed Angara fielded the “King of Philippine Movies”—Fernando Poe Jr., in coalition with the Nationalist People’s Coalition of the late Eduardo M. Cojuangco Jr. and Erap’s Pwersa ng Masa.
Attempts were made to get Lacson to agree to be FPJ’s vice-presidential candidate instead, with the latter’s team-mate, Sen. Loren Legarda willing to give way to Lacson, in order to unite the opposition against the “usurper” GMA. But these did not materialize, and a fragmented opposition, along with other candidates like Sen. Raul Roco and Bro. Eddie Villanueva reached the finish line in May.
The fragmentation of the two major opposition candidacies, FPJ and Lacson, caused the potent Iglesia ni Cristo to side with GMA, its millions of votes tilting the balance in favor of GMA, the margin over FPJ widened with a little help from “Hello Garci.”
Thereafter, in 2010, I was in the campaign team that helped Sen. Benigno S. Aquino III win over both a returning Erap and the uber-wealthy Manny Villar for the presidency. This came after the death of Pres. Corazon C. Aquino in August 1, 2009 unleashed a wave of sympathy that caused the Liberal Party to prevail upon its declared candidate, Sen. Manuel A. Roxas III, to give way to PNoy and be his vice-president.
Earlier, the candidate I was grooming, the 40-year old Sen. Chiz Escudero, one of the front-runners in the tale of the surveys, folded up his presidential plans because of the tsunami of public grief over Cory’s death that benefited his compadre PNoy.
Details of all these campaigns, and my 2016 involvement in the rise to power of the then mayor of Davao City shall be detailed in a book I have always wanted to write but somehow never started. I have kept my recollection of the details of each presidential campaign, both in mind and in written notes though—from the Cory-Doy snap election candidacy to the failed Mitra-Fernan tandem in 1992, to Erap’s triumph in 1998, to the failed Ping Lacson run in 2004, to PNoy’s imperiled victory in 2010, up to Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s come-from-behind election win in 2016.
I have played an active role in several presidential campaigns since the fall of Marcos, with two failed bids and three wins. One, the Cory-Doy snap election was virtually a draw, until a military mutiny and people power intervened in the impasse, which is now remembered as the Edsa Revolt.
I thought President Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign would be the last in my career as an enthusiastic political technician. I thought “Tapang at Malasakit” which I coined to describe the feisty mayor of Davao as an agent of radical change, in cooperation with a group of creative people in the advertising industry, would be my last foray into presidential campaigns.
But politics is a “fever in the blood,” like the title of a book by William Pearson put on the silver screen by director Vincent Sherman in 1961, its story having stuck in my mind. My interest in the intricacies of political combat began with that black-and-white movie, later fortified by several biographies, historical novels and personal encounters with the political greats of this country.
I was wrong to think that the Duterte campaign would be my last, for as politics is indeed a fever in the blood, I will soon get involved once again in a presidential campaign.
And so I have begged leave with our publisher, my respected friend and mentor, Mr. Rollie Estabillo, from continuing to write this twice-a-week column. Wednesday’s article will be my last for this year until after Election Day 2022.
Resisting the excitement of the drums of election war as they beckon, has become quite difficult for this writer. As earlier stated, it is a fever in the blood.