THE memory of Edsa 1 evoked in me images of people from all walks of life spontaneously going out into the streets in response to a call for change. The scene of millions that neutralized battle-scarred soldiers kindled pride in our being Filipinos.

Unfortunately, the democracy that came about as a result of the heroism of millions had not been ideal. More than a decade later, we had to stage again Edsa 2 that only replaced the tenant of Malacañang with somebody worse.

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Still, the system has provided us with a mechanism that could make things right.

I don’t mean the kind of systemic change I advocated during my younger days is possible on May 10, 2010. But I believe the Filipino people could either choose to bring back decency and delicadeza in politics that the present administration trampled on or we could prefer more of the present under a new president.

We could either opt for a leadership that rejects spending billions for our votes or go all out for somebody endorsed by the country’s King of Comedy to soften the impact of corruption issues. We could either go for empowerment or the worst of money politics.

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The Villar-Wowowee extravaganza last night gives us an idea of the impact of money politics marked by billions of pesos poured into ads and the use of popular noontime show celebrities. It is “trapo” politics with a lot of modern marketing. But it works. And Sen. Manny Villar has become a serious contender in a field narrowing down to two.

So far, the leader Sen. Noynoy Aquino has maintained his lead in various surveys followed closely by Villar. He bounced back to leading by 11 percentage points again. Former president Erap Estrada on the third spot continues to fight despite his meager resources spent on advertisements. Estrada is apparently drawing his energy from the response he is getting from ordinary folks during his sorties.

But Lakas-Kampi bet Gibo Teo-doro is limping behind with still single digit figures. Gibo’s excellent showing during debates and forums has not erased doubts of Arroyo administration local leaders. Unless Gibo dramatically rises in the surveys, talks of an exodus to other stronger parties are getting stronger.

In Cebu City, former mayor Alvin Garcia bared overtures by the Villar camp. With Mayor Tomas Osmeña pushing for Aquino and Sen. Mar Roxas, the local opposition could only choose between the Villar and Gibo camps. The pronouncements of city-based Garcias should give us a hint of how their provincial counterparts would deal with the presidential race in the coming weeks.

Judging from the way Mayor Osmeña has been alienating potential voters by his brash ways, Alvin now has a good chance of winning the city’s top seat, especially that his prime rival is not anymore the mayor but a stand-in in Vice Mayor Mike Rama with Tom’s sister Georgia competing for the Osmeñista votes.

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Because they rely more on “masa” support, the Estrada camp has expressed concern on the need for more voter education on poll automation. “Comelec’s voter education is extremely inadequate, and our entire organization is very apprehensive about this,” PMP spokesman Ralph Calinisan said. He cited a recent survey conducted by pollster Pulse Asia, which revealed that seven out of 10 Filipinos would not know how to vote using the Precinct Count Optical Scanners.

Poll automation also has particular impact on individual candidates. Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, for instance, now has to stress Defensor-Santiago, not Miriam, in the name recall game. The new ballot lists her as “Defensor-Santiago, Miriam” and this caused the senator to drop a few points in the surveys, said a Miriam campaign insider. A voter looking for “Miriam” could easily miss her full name.

But then, I thought, Miriam diehards would patiently look for her name. Besides, the feisty senator always stands out during public appearances of the Nacionalista slate. As a popular incumbent, Miriam is sure to win another Senate term.

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In the vice presidential race, Sen. Loren Legarda was seen campaigning separately from Villar. From where I stand, Legarda needs to double time in Cebu, considering that Sen. Roxas is pulling away in survey ratings. If her slide continues, her second slot might be even taken over by Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, who had been working on his counterparts in Cebu Province for some time now.

One particular problem Legarda needs to hurdle were her statements shortly after the resounding defeat she and the late Fernando Poe Jr. suffered in 2004 at the hands of Cebuanos.

Legarda had joined the opposition chorus then, calling Cebuanos “cheaters.”

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