THE phenomenal rise of Sen. Manny Villar of the Naciona lista Party (NP) in the surveys has changed the political atmosphere.

Erstwhile frontrunner Sen. Noynoy Aquino of the Liberal Party suddenly found himself in a neck-to-neck battle. After obviously coasting along content with the thought of his overwhelming lead, Noy’s camp is now fighting back.

For many observers, Villar’s immense spending for television and radio advertisements, including a game portion of a noontime show, was the strategy to get him to within striking distance with the Liberals.

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Villar’s strategists might have considered that more ordinary television viewers and radio listeners would positively absorb their campaign message compared to those who would ask how he is going to recoup the billions he is throwing away today.

Besides, not all those asking would consider being corrupt as bad. An ordinary urban poor resident in Mambaling, Cebu City said she will vote for Villar because he uses the money he has amassed to help the poor. Another said in his heart he is for Noynoy but if given even just P500 of Villar’s money on Election Day, he would vote for “Sipag at Tiyaga.”

Never mind if the election spending has already gone up without any ceiling. For the Villar camp, the point is winning.

When asked recently, I told a friend from way back that I am for Aquino despite all his weaknesses and shortcomings because he is bringing back decency and delica-deza back into politics.

Unfortunately, the numbers of those who don’t care about delicadeza anymore has grown significantly. We will soon see if they are enough to get somebody elected president.

Then, we should also consider Villar’s built-in support.

There is the Solid North because of Rep. Bongbong Marcos.

Villar, after all, is the head of the NP that used to be the party of the late Ferdinand Marcos whom Ilocanos love. Now, he is allied with the son. I would not be surprised if Villar, if he wins, would allow a hero’s burial for the dictator.

Villar supporters in Cebu are also telling me that he has the Iglesia support. This should easily translate to 4-5 million votes. The senator’s camp is reportedly also trying to woo the leaders of El Shaddai.

Then, the militant Left considers him as lesser evil compared to the other candidates. In the past elections, the militants have demonstrated their ability to get several party-list congressmen elected. They should be able to add over a million votes for Villar on May 10.

As of the moment, I could only say that Villar should worry about political leaders pocketing his money on Election Day. Kuyaw gyud kuprason.

In Cebu, Villar nevertheless has a big organizational problem.

Without local candidates, who will shepherd voters to the precincts, distribute election goodies, and watch the voting process in his behalf? But then, with his surge in the surveys, I am sure many are already thinking twice about their support for Lakas-Kampi candidate Gibo Teodoro.

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Has Gov. Gwen Garcia already junked actor Edu Manzano for Loren Legarda? Despite what many are saying, the governor’s camp recently said they still have to decide. Manzano’s supporters in Cebu should not lose heart. One Cebu could still provide him with the needed votes to shore up his chances.

On the other hand, the recent survey saw Loren’s popularity sagging while that of Mar Roxas going up. It seems many who support candidates other than Noynoy are going for Mar Roxas.

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Talisay City Mayor Soc Fernandez has again failed to demonstrate his ability to rein in his adopted son Joavan. If the Catholic defender could do something beyond prayer, like putting Joavan inside a rehabilitation center, he should do so fast. The mayor should worry that Joavan would do something stupid again as election approaches. This could erase whatever lead he is enjoying now. Neither Joavan nor Soc owns Talisay.

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