(First published in The Philippine Star issue of Feb. 19, 2013)

EITHER-OR: Our elders admonish us against “namamangka sa dalawang ilog” (rowing a boat on two rivers). Sooner or later we reach a junction where a difficult either-or decision will have to be made.

Senatorial candidates Chiz Escudero, Grace Poe Llamanzares and Loren Legarda have allowed themselves to be common nominees of both the administration Liberal Party coalition and the United Nationalist Alliance.

While it may seem mathematically smart to be in both the LP and UNA tickets – politics, the veterans say, is addition – it is physically impossible to be campaigning at the same time in different places with both teams.

At the February 12 campaign launch of the two teams – at Quiapo’s Plaza Miranda for the LP and Cebu’s Plaza Independencia for the UNA – the trio chose to be with the LP instead of the UNA, although Llamanzares and Legarda sent proxies to the UNA miting de avance.

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REPLACEMENT: Escudero cannot snub the UNA just like that. So now he has been singled out as a rogue guest candidate who refuses to place both feet, both heart and soul, on the party line.

UNA campaign master Rep. Toby Tiangco, former President Erap Estrada and Vice President Jojo Binay have taken turns in the past two weeks assailing Escudero’s hard-headedness and failure to join UNA’s sorties.

Escudero has been threatened with expulsion from the UNA ticket, supposedly over the reelectionist’s insistence that he would run his own campaign the way he has done so since 2007.

There is talk that evangelist Eddie Villanueva is being considered as replacement as soon as UNA moguls find the right time to throw Escudero out for his supposed attitude, his ingratitude and so forth and so on.

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SAME BANANA: One problem of UNA is lack of credibility when it presumes to take the high ground and talk about principles and gratitude.

It cannot even bring itself to saying clearly if its role is opposition or collaboration. The lack of product differentiation between the LP and the UNA is stark. To most observers, both gangs are the same old banana.

Escudero was originally with the LP coalition. The party took some time to announce the final lineup (he was not in early speculations on the LP slate), but it was clear from no less than President Noynoy Aquino that he was on board.

The LP embraced him a bit late. It was only after the LP ticket was already announced that UNA decided to adopt Escudero together with Llamanzares and Legarda.

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NO CHOICE: Actually, the UNA power brokers had no choice since they (and also the LP) could not glue together a complete powerhouse senatorial slate before the candidacy-filing deadline.

Besides, Escudero and Legarda have been consistently topping the surveys. It is odd that UNA would lasso sure winners to beef up its team, then proceed to dictate on them what they can and cannot do.

But then that is Philippine politics where anything can and does happen.

The top three items on the party agenda are Victory, Victory and Victory -- which might be enough reason why principles that have not taken root in the first place are pulled out when they get in the way.

Throwing out Escudero will be a delicate operation. One crude misstep and he might emerge a martyr drawing sympathy for the LPs.

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2016 PREVIEW: With the May elections being a preview of the 2016 presidential polls, it is crucial for the UNA to win more Senate seats than the ruling LP coalition.

The Senate has been the launching pad for most presidential rockets.

The UNA ticket does not include Binay, a confessed presidential wannabe. An impressive showing of his senatorial team this May will register as some sort of affirmation of his leadership and winning potential.

But what if Escudero tops the senatorial derby and, using the Senate as base, proceeds to eclipse Binay and succeeds in metamorphosing into the opposition’s answer to whoever the LP fields as its presidential bet in 2016?

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WHO’S OPPOSITION?: The bigger picture is actually 2016. We can discern more clearly against this backdrop the guest candidate issue.

Binay has been saying that UNA is not the opposition. At this late date, he is unable to cut clean from his buddy Noynoy and make a clear stand as a leader of the opposition?

This tactical detail about Binay, a creation of then President Cory Aquino, should be food for thought for DILG Secretary Mar Roxas, whose laidback style is to wait for his dream delight, such as a presidential nomination, to be served to him on a silver platter.

They also serve, the line goes, who only stand and wait. But it is those who work hard on it who eventually win.

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SHIFTING WINDS: Binay has declared his presidential intentions for 2016, and it is an open secret that Erap Estrada wants his son Jinggoy to be Binay’s running mate.

The one person who stands in their way is Escudero. So how to handle the Bicolano lawmaker?

Talk was rife two years ago that Binay had his eyes on Escudero as his running mate for 2016, having been close allies in 2010 when the former Makati mayor ran for vice president and won against Roxas.

However, the creation of UNA and the subsequent realignment of political forces presented an opportunity for Estrada to mention his son to Binay as running mate. As the political winds shifted, the equations changed.

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