TEAM UNITY

The administration’s official senatorial lineup was formally announced today with the simultaneous filing by the wannabe senators of their certificates of candidacy at the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) main office in Intramuros, Manila. This was preceded by a Mass at the nearby Manila Cathedral and a press conference where the members of the slate, namely Ed Angara, Joker Arroyo, Mike Defensor, Jamalul Karim III, Vic Magsaysay, Tessie Aquino-Oreta, Carlos Petilla, Butch Pichay, Ralph Recto, Tito Sotto, Chavit Singson and Miguel Zubiri, each (except for Singson) gave a short speech before a partisan crowd.

I was there to support a close friend who is a born politician. This is a cliché but absolutely true in his case. It was also a chance to touch base with college buddies who have not lost their appetite for politics.

The group was shepherded by Reli German, who has “moved on” from being an electoral strategist and tactician for the deposed former President Joseph Estrada to being an electoral strategist and tactician for President Arroyo.

The administration slate, dubbed Team Unity (Together — Everybody Achieves More, get it ?), is President Arroyo’s last bid to wrest control of the Senate and buy peace during the final half of her term.

My fearless forecast for Team Unity is at that it will bag at least six (6) of the contested twelve (12) seats, with my impressions as follows:

1. Edgardo Angara — despite his mind-numbing lack of charisma, his campaign appears to be the most well-funded. In fact, he reserved the function hall of Barbara’s, a fine-dining establishment in Intramuros, for his supporters while others made do with pack lunches. He also has some residual goodwill left over from his previous term as Senator, where he passed a number of social-welfare bills.

2. Joker Arroyo — widely considered as credible and independent. His maverick stance has served him well, and he is not perceived as subservient to GMA despite his close ties to Malacanang.

3. Mike Defensor — one of the most charismatic personalities among the administration candidates, despite his being the youngest. His stint as Palace Chief of Staff has made him more mature and allowed him to build personal alliances across the country. He also has a good campaign organization and seems to have deep pockets.

4. Tito Sotto and Ralph Recto — the show-biz and name-recall factor will work in their favor.

5. Chavit Singson — also has deep pockets and has nationwide support through the League of Governors. The local government units will play a major role in safeguarding the votes of the national candidates, specially in the more remote areas.

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