Villar has to be the "frontrunner" for the 2010 elections at this point.
From Lito Banayo:
A lot has been said, and written, about the race for the Senate presidency which will come to a suspense-less head on Monday, when the 14th Congress opens. As well everyone knows, Manuel Villar will be elected by, at the very least, 14 of his peers. They are: Juan Ponce Enrile and Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Edgardo Angara and Joker Arroyo, Lito Lapid and Bong Revilla, Dick Gordon, Pia Cayetano, plus the Gentleman from Maguindanao, all allies of the present administration, by party, political affiliation, or history of co-optation. Add to that two self-proclaimed "independents", Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan, and Gregorio "Gringo" Honasan. Plus three who were elected as oppositionists, namely, Alan Peter Cayetano, Francis Escudero and Jinggoy Estrada. Nine plus two plus three, equals fourteen. They will together elect Villar their president, and comprise a 15-man majority.
The minority will be led by Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel, who will be the minority floor leader. With him are Loren Legarda, Ping Lacson, Noynoy Aquino, Sonny Trillanes, Mar Roxas, Rodolfo Biazon, and Jamby Madrigal.
On June 26, this space wrote an article entitled "And the winners…lose?", where for the first time, we detailed the backroom maneuvers for the Senate leadership. At the time, we said: "By arithmetic and by logic, and most of all, by vox populi, the thirteen (Legarda, Escudero, Lacson, Villar, Aquino, Alan Cayetano, Trillanes, Pangilinan, Pimentel, Estrada, Madrigal, Roxas and Biazon) should be the majority in the Senate. All political logic and all of political tradition clearly argue that the thirteen, having the numbers to choose who should be the Senate President of the 14th Congress, must likewise vote among themselves which Senate committees they should first have".
At the time of writing, the Gentleman from Maguindanao and the would-be Gentleman from Cagayan de Oro were yet locked in a political farce being played out by the Commission on Electoral Cheating (Comelec), with a cameo performance by the Supreme Court.
One would have expected that a "leader" by virtue of his being the Senate President in the preceding Congress, would have called his twelve other colleagues in the opposition to a meeting, and therein formally inform them that he wanted to be first among equals once more in the 14th Congress.
But that he would not do. That he did not do. And his supporters now say that he did not because clashing personal interests, the so-called presidential ambitions of three other equals in the Senate, justify his not meeting with Loren Legarda, Ping Lacson, and Mar Roxas. Oh, he did see Loren Legarda, after he had sewed up his fourteen signatures, to offer her the candy of majority floor leader, a position aspired for only by the lady and the majority floor leader of the 13th Senate, Kiko Pangilinan, his signature ally. That would have been convenient, because his signature ally would have been willing to take "sweeter" candy, such as the Blue Ribbon. But the lady refused. So, as of this writing, the ranks of the minority have not been decimated. They remain at eight.
To the president he impeached, who now licks his wounds in a hamlet called Tanay, with whom he has "reconciled," and who championed him in the last elections, and who saw him as a sure Numero Uno in the last senatorial elections (that of course was not to be), he made a promise: The major posts would be with the "opposition". And by that definition, Jinggoy Estrada will be the Senate President pro-tempore plus chair of Public Services, Kiko Pangilinan will re-assume the floor leadership, Juan Ponce-Enrile will be the chair of Finance which has power over the national purse, and Francis Escudero will be chair of Ways and Means, which has power over taxation. Is Kiko opposition? Well, he belongs to the Liberal Party, which is opposition. And the Wednesday Group, which matters more. What about the crusty and durable JPE? Well, he is still a card-carrying member of Erap’s PMP, even if he is aligned with GMA. That useless card is enough to qualify as opposition, never mind if it is never used.
What about Blue Ribbon, the investigative arm that is the Senate’s first line of combat against graft and corruption? The most visible oppositionist who wanted to chair it was Ping Lacson. But Villar denied him this, not in a meeting with his peer, not in a conclave with his "fellow" oppositionists, but through third parties, expressed in person as early as May 27, 2007, ten days before the first 10 senators were proclaimed by the Comelec, and four days before the first conclave of the opposition senators was initiated and hosted by Sen. Jinggoy Estrada in his San Juan office. That meeting was attended by Jinggoy’s invited, namely, Loren, Ping, Alan, Noynoy, Jamby, and Mar Roxas, whose credentials as "opposition" the trio of Villar supporters in GO now question publicly. Escudero was invited but could not come. Biazon was invited but did not come, preferring Roxas, his fellow Liberal, to represent him. Pimentel was abroad. I do not know why Jinggoy did not invite Villar, or if he did, why the latter did not attend a fellowship with his "fellows" in the opposition. He invited me and fellow Abante columnist Raymond Burgos as observers, and fed us all medium-rare roast beef that Mar Roxas lapped up con mucho gusto.
Mar Roxas batted for Nene Pimentel, but Cayetano said he was committed to Villar. Fine. But what if Villar, whom many of those present claimed have not talked to them about his intentions, yet has already been verified as conferring (as of that time) with Joker and Angara, and JPE, among others in the administration, co-opts the GMA senators? Alan Cayetano was to the point. "Kapag nakisama sa administrasyon, may dahilan na ako, maski na Nacionalista, na humiwalay". Well said. After that meeting, Ping Lacson told me, "talagang marunong manindigan si Alan".
But several meetings later, to cut a long story short (read my June 26 column and another on June 30, entitled "All the President’s Men" for details through the archives), even after a meeting on June 9 at Polk St. in Greenhills, where deposed President Estrada himself presided, along with GO campaign manager Serge Osmeña and his deputy, RC Constantino were present, along with Koko representing his father and possibly himself, it was clear that there would be no numbers for Pimentel, and neither was the man aching to be Senate President. To forestall a situation where "the winners…lose", which Senadora Loren eloquently put in Tagalog, I, representing Sen. Lacson who was then out of town, proposed that the senators-elect there present write down in a piece of paper the committees they preferred, and the same submitted for Erap to convey to Manuel Villar who would not meet his peers in conclave or caucus. And they did. There were no conflicts in preferences. Only Chiz wanted Ways and Means. Only Cayetano wanted Education. Only Loren wanted to be MFL, or if not, to chair Agriculture. Only Lacson wanted the Blue Ribbon. Trillanes was disinterested in a committee, but his representative, Oyie Averilla, grandson of my esteemed and highly respected predecessor at the Post Office, Postmaster-General Felizardo Tanabe, intimated two possible committees no one was interested in. Someone remarked that the only possible bone of contention would likely be between Pia Cayetano and Jamby Madrigal’s committee preferences. But that was something that could be resolved, Serge O said.
In succeeding meetings with the president-in-hamlet, Legarda, Lacson, Madrigal and even Roxas, whose opposition credentials the trio supportive of Villar now question, the message given was the same: "Let this be an opposition-dominated Senate. We have the numbers. We can make Villar SP without having to collaborate with the GMA senators."
Now the picture has changed. In my June 30 column, "All the President’s (GMA) men", I stated that eight administration senators, plus two independents, plus Alan and Chiz, possibly to include Jinggoy, would deliver the senate presidency to Villar, and as a result of which, by simple arithmetic, the majority would be dominated by GMA loyalists, not by the opposition which was given a resounding mandate by the people on May 14. At the time of that writing, I expressed hope, no matter how forlorn, that the newly-elected senators, along with Sen. Estrada, would read the message of the last elections right. Forlorn indeed, for even in subsequent meetings with them, it was clear that the die was cast, not just for Villar, but for GMA.
Alan Cayetano, who is admittedly close to me, protested plaintively my characterization of what they had done. But friends though I hope we remain, I choose to be black or white in my stand, and not grey on my principles. Simple arithmetic, I kept telling him. The GMA men and women have greater numbers than you and Chiz and Jinggoy. Nine (with the newly proclaimed Gentleman from Maguindanao included) is numerically superior to three. Sa Tagalog, sino ang sumuko? Sino ang naki-apid? Kailangan ba talagang makipag-collaborate?
Assuming arguendo, that Roxas and Legarda and Lacson were indeed looking at "leveling the playing field" so that a would-be competitor for the presidency in 2010 would be "crippled" this early, whatever is so wrong with ambition? What is politics if not for men and women with ambition? Ambition to serve is noble. Ambition to enrich oneself at the expense of public interest is ignoble. But without ambition, there would be no leaders whatsoever.
The naked truth is that Villar "crippled", or thought he did, the ambitions of Legarda, Lacson and Roxas. Deny them their coveted and deserved soapboxes – Legarda as floor leader, Lacson for the Blue Ribbon, Roxas for Finance. In their stead, we will likely have Kiko the "independent" as floor leader of the re-constituted majority, Enrile as purse-keeper, and whoever as Blue Ribbon chair. (As of this writing, I know who he is, but let me keep you in suspense. In this game besides, you never know until the fat lady sings, and it’s not gonna be Miriam, who is matronly though un-plump, nor Pia or Jamby or Loren, who are, for want of a better term, svelte.)
Villar has won, but he failed the test of leadership. A leader could be crafty, but above all else, he must inspire trust and confidence. First among his peers and fellows, thence, to the public he is sworn to serve. Leadership requires a steadfast devotion to principles, to a vision for the public good, not a vision for personal gain or glory. Unfortunately in this benighted land, by traditional practices called "trapo" politics that has calloused our finer senses, winning is deemed everything, never mind the manner by which winning is achieved. Machiavelli remains every politician’s hero, never mind Thomas More.
My beloved mentor and ninong, Doy Laurel, when we were yet together battling the forces of authoritarianism, once remarked: "Marcos is not a leader. He is a manipulator. He divides and rules. He cheats and connives. He wheels and deals. Sure, he has been successful, thus far. But he is not a leader. He is just a manipulator."
He recalled personal history as example. In 1967, he and his Kuya Pepito (Speaker Jose B. Laurel), told then President Marcos that he wanted to be considered for a slot in the Nacionalista senatorial ticket, representing Southern Tagalog. Marcos profusely assured him of his support. Later he found out that the wily Marcos had instructed his boys in the party to work instead for Lorenzo Sumulong of Rizal. Undaunted, the Laurels stitched up the support for Doy on the convention floor, the honorable, open and transparent way to fight – to compete openly for the favor of your peers. Laurel won over Sumulong, to Marcos’ chagrin, and along with Ninoy Aquino, won in the senatorial elections. Marcos, the manipulator, was thwarted with determined resistance. (And yet it was the elder Laurel who saved Marcos from prison, and Pepito who drafted Marcos to the NP, which was key to his victory for the presidency.
The distinction of manipulator suits Manuel Villar fine.
In 1998, an impetuous Erap welched on his commitment to Joker Arroyo for the speakership of the House, because Manuel Villar, who was a "silent" but very rich congressman for two successive terms, approached him with 50 Lakas converts to Lammp. In November of 2000,when Erap was in the direst of political straits and in the lowest of spirits, "his" Speaker, upon the suggestion of Joker Arroyo, banged the gavel in lightning fashion, and impeached him. Poetic injustice. But Erap has forgiven and forgotten.
In 2004, Manuel Villar was on the side of Gloria, and it was singularly Las Piñas, his municipal empire, that delivered a majority for her in Metro Manila.
In 2005, when Hello Garci exposed the underbelly of cheating so gross, financed by stealing so massive, and papered over through lying most shameless, Manuel Villar preferred to be silent, even as his fellows in the Senate, who also rode with Gloria, cried "enough".
But in 2007, deserted by his Wednesday dinner fellows, Joker, Ralph and Kiko, Villar inserted his presence, in name more than in reality, with the "Genuine" Opposition under the sponsorship of the man he impeached and therefore betrayed. Now he spurns his "fellow" oppositionists and goes back to bed with GMA’s loyalists. With "young" Chiz and Alan his manipulated, in tow. And with Erap’s Jinggoy, his manipulated, blessing the enterprise. Congratulations, Mr. Senate President. You are "the" manipulator, par excellence plus sans pareil.
Ironically, the man who defined to me what leadership was as contra-distinguished from manipulation, Salvador H. Laurel, who served his country with distinction and with honor, bequeathed the Nacionalista Party, in his deathbed, to Manuel Villar.
Leader or manipulator? Ninong Doy must be tossing in the grave.
But I think Kuya MLQ3 has a different view from Banayo. Sabi niya:
And now, as our politicians screw up the mandates given to them...
I think manuel is referring to the opposition. Sa tingin ko hindi si GMA, dahil wala naman tayong "mandate" na ibinigay sa kanya para i-"screw." (Sa tingin ko hindi rin yung mga 2007 admin candidates ang tinutukoy ni q3, because people who voted for these people wanted more of the same--status quo.)
But in a previous article, he also said it's unfair to blame the Villar camp for the mess.
Put two and two together, malalaman mo na kung sino sa tingin nya ang may kasalanan sa Opposition camp.