Thursday, October 29, 2009

Chiz Esvudero resignation: A masterful retreat

Now it can be told.

Days before the expected October 12 announcement of Chiz, Danding Cojuangco told the Escudero camp of the impossibility of raising 2 billion pesos and the only amount that the SMC chairman and former Marcos crony can commit is 200 million. That floored everyone who committed to help ChizNation. And that, as sources say, was the real reason why Chiz delayed his pronouncement.

One financier after another reportedly stayed away from the Escudero camp, and one big fish by the name of Lucio Tan decided not to really push for Escudero's bid. Left without any big funding source, Escudero, as coffee habitues say, decided to bolt.

Was it tactical retreat? Yes, it was.

Political funding, as everyone knows, depends on ratings. Financiers will only support those perceived to be strong or has the potential of victory. Victory depends on a well-oiled political grassroots machinery. Perceptions that a candidate is losing considerable ground are enough to completely seal off support from potential big-ticket funders.

Chiz lost a considerable chunk of his constituency when Noynoy Aquino entered the political fray. Prior to Noynoy's entry, Chiz was fighting tooth and nail for territory. He shares the same constituency as that of Erap's and Mar's in the D-E while having a slight edge over Villar's in the A-B-C.

When Noynoy positioned himself as an alternative candidate, many sectors supporting Chiz shifted and gravitated towards the Liberal Party bet. That started Chiz ratings to plateau and in recent surveys, started to nose-dive. Reason is both candidates share the same political slogan and being supported by the same progressive-minded middle class.

Naturally, as Noynoy’s political stock increased, Chiz’s political stock and funding began to dry up. Defections started. ChizNation began to suffer an organizational “hemorrhage”, losing the Osmenas over to Noynoy and other progressives who were turned off with talks that NPC top honchos are exploring a merger with the administration party.

Talks between NPC and Lakas shifted to a higher gear particularly when the Supreme Court decided in favour of the government’s plan to convert the government’s SMC shares into preferred shares. That gave the administration enough leverage to enter into more serious talks with the NPC. What the NPC leaders and the administration failed to realize is the possibility of Chiz Escudero not agreeing with these talks in the first place.

Chiz knows that he will lose the presidency should he accede with the NPC plan to merge with the administration. One, a merger would eventually dilute progressive support for Chiz and two, would eventually allow administration party stalwarts to dominate NPC. What the public does not know is that Chiz looks at the political situation very seriously and he wants nothing more than to position himself as the opposition leader.

When all indications point to Chiz not supporting a merger, the NPC issued public statements practically dictating what should be the outcome of Chiz decision. That was a tactical maneuver, meant actually to isolate Chiz and force him to toe the party line or risk losing support. I do not believe that trash saying that NPC was caught unaware, or that Chiz just resigned the night before he announced his resignation. Chiz, as some sources say, was vehemently opposing the NPC-LAKAS-KAMPI merger and the NPC knows it. That’s why reports began to float of Loren Legarda moving towards Villar or those of Legarda opening herself up for talks with Gibo. Those were meant as signs for Chiz to toe the line or resign.

Chiz decided to resign. Left without a party, naturally, Chiz needs the full backing of minority political players such as Samahang Magdalo, volunteer groups who decided to stay with him and political forces formerly aligned with Erap. If you notice, one of those groups who stayed behind were remnants of FPJPM, the group supportive of former actor Fernando Poe Jr. This is still a very shaky ChizNation because for one, FPJPM will never support the possibility of Chiz teaming up with Panfilo Lacson, since this group blames the senator for the 2004 debacle which led to the defeat of FPJ.

Admittedly, Chiz is weakened by defections and lack of funds. That explains why Chiz refuses to formally declare his presidential bid because he is still waiting for progressive groups to gravitate towards him. He wants to regain the support of the progressive block, a big chunk of which can provide him with an army of volunteers. By distancing himself from NPC, Chiz wants to re-position himself as the true non-trapo candidate. Chiz hopes that by doing so; he can weaken Noynoy Aquino’s base of support and pull the Liberals out of the game.

The Liberals realized this early on that’s why they are proposing a coalition with Chiz. The Liberal Party validated earlier reports of talks between them and the Chiz camp. What the Liberals propose is for Chiz to submit himself in a selection process whereby both camps will try to strike a deal and support a common slate, to be positioned as the true “non-trapo” candidate. Some quarters think that this benefits both, since this will resolve the thorny issue of who among them really deserve the title.

This proposal aims to present a unified front, both to strike at the traditional oppositionist parties, led by former president Joseph Estrada and Manny Villar. Both camps recognize that without merging their forces, they stand to lose out on Villar, who has consistently showed consistency of mass base support.