Sona Libre. A Free Zone

Such is the oft-repeated phrase the past few days, if not weeks already, among some political personalities in explaining the current situation, where the significance of being part of a particular political party has notably been reduced in the coming elections.

Not a few political observers and analysts have pointed out the fact that voters do not really care much about the political organization in casting their votes on the ballots as they seem to give more weight on the personalities running for public office.

Not even the ruling Liberal Party (LP) has been spared, the reason why it failed to sustain the coalition formed during the 2013 mid-term polls, as even some of its allies and party members have shunned from being tied to the party’s name and would rather be identified with so-called frontrunners in the coming electoral exercise.

A case in point is Pasig City Rep. Roman Romulo, a member of LP and who has long been eyeing a Senate seat. He has made a sudden turnaround and decided to be endorsed by the tandem of Senators Grace Poe and Francis “Chiz” Escudero.

Senate President Franklin Drilon practically admitted, during a recent television interview, that they were caught off-guard by Romulo’s move as the latter even sought his help to ensure, supposedly, his inclusion in the LP’s senatorial line-up.

“He talked to me and I said that I will help him. He came to my office, we talked a few weeks back and I said yes, I will help you. A few weeks after that, he was in Dumaguete City ‘campaigning’ with another presidential candidate,” Sen. Drilon said.

“He was the one who made the choice to run with another presidential candidate,” he added.

Sen. Drilon was referring to the Poe-Escudero tandem, which Rep. Romulo opted to run with.

The Senate leader said that even days before the said appearance in Dumaguete of the said tandem, which they consider as the strongest rival of LP’s standard bearer – Manuel “Mar” Roxas II and Leni Robredo – the congressman was still talking to them. While Romulo has not formally resigned from LP, he has effectively removed himself from the party, Sen. Drilon said.

“We see these as signals that they will not want to be with us. At this point, everyone will be trying to assess where he would be best suited,” he said.

The so-called “three kings” of the political opposition – Vice President Jejomar Binay, former president and now Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada, and Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile – obviously do not have a collective stance in choosing their presidential and vice presidential candidates.

Mayor Estrada who helped in putting up the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) coalition in 2013 with the Vice President, has not made any categorical statement supporting the presidential bid of Binay, as he appears to be leaning towards the candidacy of Sen. Poe.

He was conspicuously absent when the Vice President formally declared his presidential bid, but was present when Sen. Poe endorsed the senatorial candidacy of Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares.

Insofar as the vice presidential race is concerned, the former president has attended the proclamation of Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. as vice presidential candidate in Intramuros, Manila last Oct. 10.

Sen. Enrile’s presence in said event has surprised a number of people, including Sen. Drilon.

“We know that Sen. [Gregorio] Gringo [Honasan] is his protégée and yet, he cast his lot with Bongbong. I know Gringo respects Enrile and would not make any move especially in his political life without consulting Enrile. But here comes Enrile raising the hand of Bongbong. That is something I don’t know and I can’t figure out,” Sen. Drilon said.

“They have abandoned Binay. The three kings ay iisa na lang,” he added.

Sen. Honasan, who is the Vice President’s running mate, has an explanation to this. Sen. Enrile and Mayor Estrada are “not” members of UNA party.

“Members sila ng UNA coalition nung 2013. Nung nirehistro na namin ang UNA bilang partido, hindi na dun kasama sina Sen. Enrile at Mayor Erap,” he said.
Sen. Marcos’ party, the Nacionalista Party (NP), is seen to adopt a “free zone” set up among its candidates in the local level, especially as it has three members vying for the vice presidency.

Sen. Marcos and his party mate, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, who is likewise seeking the vice presidency, were at one point in time, seemed to be engaged in a tug-of-war of sort over Davao City Mayor Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte, as both tried to convince the latter in forming a tandem with them.
Both, however, failed.

The third NP vice presidential candidate, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, is rallying behind the Sen. Poe’s presidential bid.

Admittedly, Sen. Drilon said, it’s one of the difficulties in the country’s political system.

“Our political parties continue to be based on personalities and after the election, either you have a party which expands or which collapses because these are based on personalities,” he said.

“Difficult as it is, we would like to encourage political parties based on platforms of government. Difficult I must say, I’m not saying we [LP] have succeeded, but we will keep on trying and we do not abandon that quest to have a real political party based on a party platforms,” he said.

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