The much-ballyhooed merger of the two administration parties, Lakas and Kampi, called Lakas-Kampi-CMD (a terrible brand name to market) is supposed to steamroller the Opposition in next year’s elections.

And, why not?  The wedding of the year creates a mammoth conglomeration of 145 out of 265 members of the House of Representatives, 56 out of 81 governors, 85 out of 129 city mayors, and 1,112 out of 1,507 municipal mayors.

Remember Team Unity?  In the last senatorial elections, the administration slate, called Team Unity, with the backing of most of the local politicians, was supposed to clobber the Opposition.  Instead, Team Unity was practically wiped out.

Relying on the supposedly automatic support of the local politicians, Team Unity opted to mount an extremely expensive and extensive advertising campaign never seen before hereabouts.  The strategy was a total failure. As a result, the Opposition now controls the Senate.

The merger will work – if at all — only for the candidates on the national level – the President, Vice President and 12 Senators.  In the local level, it will be a free-for-all, inspite of the merger.

But, even for the candidates on the national level, there will be a lot of ground level work to be done.

We have to understand how politics works in the local level.  Let us say I am a mayor of a small town of 20,000 votes. I have my political machinery.  My colleagues hold a solid majority in the council.  Most of the barangay chairmen are my compadres.  I stand in almost every wedding and funeral.  I should be able to arrange the hospitalization of a sick child, even in the middle of the night. Finally, I should be prepared to give an occasional handout to a voter who is down on his luck and cannot pay his electric bill.  It has taken a lot of money to build and maintain my political machinery.

Now, here comes a senatorial candidate of my party to ask for my support. The whole town knows about the visit.  The candidate has to back up his request with a generous sum.  The money – for logistics – is some kind of rental for the use of my machinery.

If I announce my support – in caucuses around a conference table laden with expensive food and drink – of the senatorial candidate, I must spread the money around.  If I do not, I will be suspected of pocketing the money.

If I am running for re-election, my opponents will certainly include members from the merged party.  As I have already said, it will be a free-for-all.  The merger contract, if ever there is one, will have no effect whatsoever on the ground.

The ongoing debate in the House to convene Congress into a constituent assembly – without the Senate – is part of grand scheme to take away term limits – from President all the way down to barangay chairman – and allow everybody, especially the President, to run beyond their current terms.

In the end, the whole spectacle is designed to allow President Arroyo to stay in power.  And, she wants everybody else to have the same chances.  She is not all that selfish.

Let us all hope and pray that the President and every one of her allies have run out of time.  See you at the voting booth.


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