Looking back, Chito Gascon, director general of the Liberal Party (LP), admitted that Estrada’s decision to run might have hurt other candidates, particularly Nacionalista Party (NP) standard-bearer Sen. Manuel Villar who appeared to be the survey-favorite and Aquino’s toughest rival for the presidency during the early part of the campaign.
Gascon said they had difficulty handling Estrada’s case since Aquino’s advocacy concerns the battle against corruption – an issue sensitive to the deposed president who was ousted from power on corruption charges.
“Mayroon kaming ilang issues na gustong patingkarin kaugnay kay GMA (Gloria Macapagal Arroyo) pero sabit din siya (Estrada). Pero ayaw naman rin naming sabihin nating ma-antagonize dahil sa totoo lang nakatulong yung kaniyang pagkakandidatura para pambawas ng boto ng ibang kandidato,” said Gascon, who was a guest in the “Tonight with Arnold Clavio” show in QTV Channel 11 Monday night.
“Tingin namin kapag hindi siya tumakbo at hindi pinayagan ng palasyo, mas malakas ang pag-asa ni Manny Villar. May ganoong dynamics noon. They (Estrada and Villar) were going for the same market – the Filipino masses,” Aquino’s spokesperson Edwin Lacierda added.
Gascon said they were not surprised by the surge in Estrada’s ratings at the late stage of the campaign owing to the former president’s reputation as a “favorite of the masses.”
Aquino’s New Media Bureau head Vicente Romano III described Villar as the “wealthiest” among the candidates.
Romano said to counter Villar’s strategy of investing on television advertisements, they had to boost Aquino’s media exposure by having him interviewed by provincial radio and television stations.
“Para malaman ng taong-bayan, andito ako sa probinsiya. I’m concerned about you. Malakas ang epekto nun, ay andito pala si Senador Aquino. Ang laking bagay noon pagpunta niya sa lahat probinsiya eh. Malaking tulong iyong kampanya sa radio, sa TV, sa mga provincial stations,” Romano said.
Lacierda said another issue that hurt Villar was his camp’s exposes on Aquino’s psychiatric condition which proved to be fabricated.
“Nakita ng tao how can a campaign of another candidate could get so low. It was below the belt, but it backfired,” he said, noting that Aquino’s survey rating even surged after the fake psychiatric reports were made public.
Among Estrada, Villar and administration candidate former Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, “Team Noynoy” considered Villar as the toughest to deal with particularly during the part when Aquino’s lead over the NP bet went down just to 2 percent.
“Doon kami nangamba pero nga nag-shift kami ng strategy. Tapos at the same time that we are fixing our organization ay pagpasok ng fake report nagkaroon sila ng meltdown. Nawala yung discipline,” Lacierda said.
On the other hand, “Team Noynoy” believed that Teodoro was greatly affected by his association with President Arroyo who has negative approval rating.
“It’s a kiss of death. Seventy percent will not vote for GMA’s candidate,” Lacierda said.
Meanwhile, “Team Noynoy” said the decision of actress-host Kris Aquino-Yap to devote herself full-time to the campaign of her brother was a big help to Aquino’s bid.
“Ang laki ng naitulong ni Kris sa mga sorties noong sumama siya. Ang laki ng ginawang tulong ni Kris noong nagdesisyon siyang mag-fulltime,” Lacierda said, referring to the crowd-drawing power of Aquino’s sister owing to her celebrity status.
A lot of factors might have helped Aquino’s campaign, but the three agreed that his being the son of the late President Aquino and the late Senator Aquino helped him a lot in his bid for the presidency.
“Malaking contribution talaga yun. The legacy is very, very important. Pero through the campaign naipakita naman ni Senador Aquino na seryoso siya sa kampanya .Seryoso siya sa pangako niya na kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap. May malaking issue sa atin ang corruption eh,” Lacierda said in defense of Aquino who was criticized for allegedly capitalizing on the legacy of his parents and not on his own reputation alone.