CALLS on senators not to politicize Senate deliberations produce good sound bytes. But it definitely runs against reality. The Senate has always been a political entity.

Even maverick senators of the past like Vicente Sotto, Jose Diokno and Lorenzo Tañada played a brand of cause-oriented politics that won them enough national populist and party support to keep them in the Senate for several terms. For great politicians like these three, producing good legislation was good politics.

Click here for stories and updates on the Sinulog 2010 Festival.

The Senate also served as a platform to gain national prominence for such politicians as Ferdinand Marcos and the stage for the impeachment trial that brought down Erap Estrada.

With this perspective, I view the current C5 insertion and diversion controversy as a political clash between the camp of presidential aspirant Manny Villar, on one hand, and a coalition of presidentiables and supporters of presidentiables, on the other.

Indeed, the timing of the resumption of the investigation seeks to bring down Villar’s sharp rise in the presidential surveys.

So far, Villar was not able to dent the over 40 percent support of Sen. Noynoy Aquino. However, he gained more from the supporters of Loren Legarda and Chiz Escudero than Estrada or Lakas-Kampi bet Gibo Teodoro.

The Liberals Sen. Noynoy Aquino and Mar Roxas want to keep their party’s lead. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile seeks to arrest Villar’s run because it will benefit third-placer Erap Estrada.

Supporters likewise believe Gibo Teodoro will gain if Villar goes down. Gibo, a supporter said, needs to hit 15 percent in the surveys by Feb. 9 to preserve the support of Lakas-Kampi supporters, otherwise, they will flock to the Liberals or the Nacionalistas. Note that by that time, President Arroyo cannot anymore release pork barrel funds and thus becomes a lame duck.

Unfortunately for Villar, the allegations have some truth to them, prompting him to carry out his non-appearance strategy, while intensifying his advertising drive in a bid to control the damage and preserve his campaign momentum.

Is Villar’s strategy working? I don’t think so.

By not appearing before his accusers, he is being labeled as a coward; his ploy akin to that pursued by the President in evading Senate investigations. And like their response to Arroyo’s evasion, members of the public are beginning to believe that there indeed is truth to the C5 insertion and diversion case. While Arroyo is a sitting president on her way out, Villar still wants to become one.

How about Villar’s advertising blitz? I eagerly await the results of the next surveys.

As of now though, Villar’s detractors are trying to derail his advertising messages. Who has not yet received text or e-mail messages of revised lyrics of Villar’s famous commercial that goes “Nakaligo ka na ba sa hindi mo pera? May insertion at diversion ng kalsada …”?

Meanwhile, Estrada deftly shot down Dolphy’s endorsement. “Naghanap buhay lang yong, mama,” Erap said.

Villar’s rivals are also intensifying their sorties. Noynoy and Mar recently barnstormed Cebu. Gibo worked on getting the endorsements of Visayas governors. Estrada just announced his successful sorties in North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Davao Oriental and South Cotabato as part of his “Lakbay Pasasalamat” for the public’s continuing support for him, despite being jailed for more than six years.

“I have made my own survey and I am pleased to inform you, Mr. President, 90 percent of the people of North Cotabato would vote for you,” said former governor Manuel Pinol, during their meeting at the house of former Kidapawan City mayor Augusto Gana last Wednesday.

If Villar weathers this storm, there is a big possibility that the campaign homestretch will be a battle royal between the Liberals and the Nacionalistas. If he falls, who will gain most?

Noynoy, Erap or Gibo? Dugaya sad sa sunod survey ba.

***

It could be because the journalists around steered the discussions towards Cebu City politics. Winston Garcia, GSIS president and general manager as well as the governor’s brother, did not mince words in pointing out the failures of Mayor Tomas Osmeña during the last nine years.

The only developed areas in Cebu City are the vicinity of SM and Ayala. Osmeña’s pet South Reclamation Project remains “lapok.”

The development successes Tomas is crowing about now are still promises that we are paying P800 million a year, he said.

***

If Benhur Salimbangon still has some pride and honor in him, he should preserve this by stepping down immediately in favor of former Bogo mayor Tining Martinez. As of now, some are saying Salimbangon actually just wants to get all the pork barrel that he could to deny Tining these resources when the campaign period starts. Is this worth it? Well, if fourth district voters prefer the P200 they get for voting on May 10, it pays to corner all possible resources for one’s campaign and not give it on a silver platter to the opponent.

(Check out www.inbetweencolumns.wordpress.com)