Mar RoxasIf the May 2016 presidential elections were a referendum on the administration of President Aquino as the latter wanted it to be, Liberal Party presidential candidate Mar Roxas may be facing another disappointing defeat.

From all indications, the President’s endorsement of his candidacy has only added to the burden of his own lack of acceptance by the voters. He is now being pictured as a puppet of Aquino who will do the latter’s bidding throughout his presidency.

Exactly five months after Aquino chose him to be the administration’s presidential candidate to continue his “Daang Matuwid” program, Roxas remains stuck at the bottom of the five-man presidential race.

In the latest Pulse Asia survey, done after it became highly probable that independent candidate Sen. Grace Poe and PDP-Laban aspirant Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte would be disqualified by the Commission on Elections, Aquino’s anointed was lagging in fourth spot, behind the resurgent Vice President Jejomar Binay, the official candidate of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance.

Binay had 33 percent, followed by Duterte and Poe, both with 21 percent; Roxas with 17 percent; and Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, 4 percent. It was a big 14-point jump for Binay, who only had 19 percent in the September survey. Duterte also gained by 7 percent while Poe lost 5 percent from September. Roxas dropped by 3 percent.

In the Social Weather Station survey, released a couple of days after the Pulse poll, Binay and Poe were tied with 26 percent. Roxas fared better, coming in third with 22 percent, followed by Duterte, 20, and Santiago, 4. In the September SWS survey, Binay had 26 percent, Poe had 24 percent and Roxas 20 percent.

Based on the surveys, the possible disqualification of Poe and Duterte would benefit Binay more than it would Roxas. If the moves to disqualify Poe and Duterte were orchestrated by the administration as alleged by the two aspirants’ camp, then it obviously has boomeranged as it put back Binay in front of the field.

If eliminating the two previous frontrunners would not spell victory for Roxas, what would?

Aquino and his fellow Liberals think a more aggressive endorsement by the President would raise Roxas from the doldrums. And so the President promised to accompany Roxas and his running mate, Rep. Leni Robredo, in their campaign sorties starting next month.

But will it really help? Rep. Miro Quimbo, Roxas’ spokesman believes so.

“The support of the President becomes the most crucial in a tight race like this,” Quimbo said. “It becomes even more significant when the outgoing president is a popular one, not a lame duck. P-Noy has the highest performance rating for an outgoing President in our history.”

While it may be true that Aquino has the highest performance rating for an outgoing president at this time, Quimbo conveniently overlooked the fact that the President’s performance rating in December dropped by 9 points in December, which continues a downward trend from August 2010 or one month after he became president. His performance rating is now 58 percent, down 30 points from 88 percent in 2010.

With the people finally realizing that most of Aquino’s campaign promises remain unfulfilled, particularly his benchmark goals of eradicating corruption and poverty, it is not unlikely that his net satisfaction rating could go down to single digit or even negative before he steps down from office.

Quimbo also overlooked the results of a recent survey that showed that Aquino’s endorsement of Roxas would have a negative effect on Roxas. An SWS survey conducted in the last week of November showed that Aquino got a -6 net effect on endorsement nationwide and -26 percent among crucial Metro Manila voters. The figures reflect the percentage of those who will probably vote for his candidate minus those who will probably vote against him. As columnist Alex Magno aptly describes it, Aquino’s endorsement is a reverse Midas touch.

Some political pundits even claim that perhaps Roxas would have been better off if he had run with his own agenda than claiming that he would continue Aquino’s “daang matuwid” program. That Roxas remains lagging behind is a clear manifestation of how Aquino’s administration measures up to the people.

So how will the Liberals solve a problem like Mar Roxas?

The opposition warns that the government would pour all its resources to back the Roxas campaign, such as the possible use of the billions of pesos under the Conditional Cash Transfer program and the billions of pesos of unused funds from the various departments.

Will they pursue the disqualification of Poe and Duterte, which after all have basis in law, and risk a virtual one-on-one with Binay, with Santiago burdened by failing health?

While surveys have shown that Binay could benefit more from the disqualification of the two frontrunners, the Liberals may actually favor a one-on-one race with Binay for the simple reason that it simplifies the campaign because they only have to train their guns on one opponent who is more vulnerable to attack than either Poe or Duterte. And it would be easier to make the people accept a Roxas win because of the many dents in Binay’s armor.

One month before the official campaign starts and less than five months before the actual election, every move remains tentative on the part of the candidates and every analysis remains speculative until the Supreme Court has made a final decision on the disqualification cases against Poe and Duterte.

Meanwhile, the voters are left hanging and confused, many of them unable to decide whom to vote for in May. It also left in disarray potential campaign donors who are unhappy with the Aquino administration. Apparently, the Liberals are basking in the confusion. (valabelgas@aol.com)

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