By Jaime Pilapil

Strange bedfellows

I was not surprised when Senator Loren Legarda decided to tandem with Senator Manny Villar in her attempt to inch closer to Malacanang steps come May 11.
In the last elections, I was sent by my editors to cover the United Opposition a month after the campaign period started. I did not ask why suddenly I was plucked out from Camp Crame beat and replace a veteran reporter.
But since Manila Standard Today was perceived as pro-administration paper, people at UNO always think that my stories will be adversarial to them. In fairness, my editors did not ask me to write against UNO or any of its candidates. Despite this, at times I was called a “spin master”. Adel Tamano called me a “spin doctor.”
I am a neutral political being. In fact, I voted for most of the UNO senatorial candidates, all of them luckily won.
While in campaign sorties, I noticed that among the UNO senatorial candidates some were seriously jockeying for the number one position. As we all know, Legarda and Senator Chiz Escudero took the first two spots, respectively; followed by Senator Panfilo Lacson and Villar at third and fourth spots.
At one time, Legarda was fuming mad when stories ran in newspapers, radios and televisions saying that she was the author of a bill asking for salary cuts of government employees like teachers, policemen and soldiers.
She was quick to blame a fellow UNO candidate as the mastermind of the smear campaign. “I will tell you who this senator is after the election,” Loren vowed to us reporters. She never told us the name of the senator.
During campaign breaks, Villar went to Hong Kong with selected reporters in tow. Legarda followed soon, accompanied by her chosen reporters.
Black propaganda or smear campaign is always part of a political exercise. Remember the Fidel V. Ramos versus Miriam Defensor Santiago presidential saga? The highfaluting Miriam was depicted as “Brenda” and all sorts of names associated with a mentally disturbed person.
Politicians will condone their media handlers to use dirty tactics to discredit their rivals. Expect more to come especially from frontrunners, Senator Noynoy Aquino and Villar.
For black propaganda to be successful, its source should remain anonymous for quite sometime. Scientific, material or testimonial evidence of the allegation will surely make the smear campaign believable.
I’m sure both camps employ people doing demolition jobs. An attack on Noynoy does not follow that Villar was behind it and vice versa. However, it is expected that Noynoy will get more of the smear campaigns as long as he is the frontrunner in surveys.
Avoiding negative campaign is a big mistake. Failure to anticipate what your opponent’s smear campaign against you is just like forfeiting your ability to prepare for what your opponent will say and do.
Back to Villar and Legarda, if ever the two will emerge victorious, maybe a film titled “Strange Bedfellows” will be a big hit.
Side trip: While touring Mindanao during 2007 campaign sorties, I already learned few days before the May 14 elections that not one UNO candidate will win in ARMM-controlled provinces. In fact, Legarda was so angry when informed by her campaign officials that she will not land in the top 12 in the Ampatuan region.
Cheers to the Supreme Court for its two recent decisions ordering a TRO for the implementation of RFID and directing the Comelec to include Ang Ladlad Party List on the 2010 printed ballots.
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