Despite his typically bombastic claim that he will never drop out of the presidential election—“I will have to die first before that happens”—I am sure that Erap is only too aware that the price of his withdrawal will have increased significantly after the latest SWS survey.
The sudden increase in Aquino’s lead to 9 points (from 2 points in the February poll), reversed a worrying decline in his support from 46% (5-10 December) to 42% (21-24 January) to 36% (24-28 February). The widening gap between the two frontrunners in March had less to do with Aquino’s shoring up of his support (his share was basically the same—36% in February and 37% in March) than with the surprising drop in Villar’s support (34% in February turned into 28% in March) and the equally unexpected increase in Estrada’s share (from 15% to 19%).
Look at it from Erap’s point of view. He surely knows that this little fart of support will not be enough to propel him back to Malacañang. He doesn’t have the funding to sustain a serious challenge in the home stretch and, despite his overwhelming sense of grievance, he must know that coming in third is not going to prove anything. On the other hand, while the role of kingmaker will not gratify his vanity in the same way as the victory he craves, it will allow him to influence the destiny of the country again. And if he is sincere about his desire to improve the lot of the people, he will surely be able to add some of his policies (if he has any) to the Villar platform. Finally, there is the potentially huge financial pay-off he can demand (especially if the deal includes him campaigning for Villar). Erap has always had his price.
Meanwhile, Manny has had a tough couple of weeks and desperately needs to regain momentum. It has been an open secret for months that Villar and his ally Mike Verlarde have been trying to persuade Estrada to drop out and to avoid splitting the “pro-poor” vote. A survey earlier this year indicated that, if Estrada were to drop out, his vote would be split roughly equally between Aquino and Villar but I find that a little hard to believe. In any case, Villar’s masa credentials will surely be enhanced if Erap can be “persuaded” to prostitute himself on the Villar campaign.
Let’s see what would happen if two-thirds of Erap’s vote were to go to Villar and one-third to Aquino, based on the March survey.
Aquino: 37% + 6.5% (one third of Erap’s vote) = 43.5%
Villar: 28% + 12.5% (two thirds of Erap’s vote) = 40.5%
That’s an easily bridgeable divide.
Manny is bound to look at the cruel economics of elections from a business point of view. If he loses, he has just pissed away billions of pesos for … nothing. Absolutely nada. As Macbeth said:
“I am in pesos stepped in so far that should I wade no more, Returning were as tedious as go o’er.”
Manny can’t stop wading now. Purely from a business point of view, he has no choice but to pay Erap to carry him to the other side (and to bill the Filipino people when he gets there).
I’m betting that the greasy fingers of the Erap and Villar camps are stitching up a deal as I type this.