MANILA, Philippines -- Philippine politics could be going retro with the country's oldest political parties -- Liberal Party and Nacionalista Party -- emerging this early as the main combatants in the 2010 presidential elections.
Both parties are rebuilding to relive their post-war glory and both are led by individuals widely viewed as presidential material: Senator Mar Roxas for LP and Senate President Manuel Villar for NP.
But while the NP and LP could lay claim to having the best presidential timber, the country's biggest political party, Lakas-CMD, still holds the key on who would have the edge in the 2010 elections with its vast and well-entrenched network, its resources, and its battle-tested experience, having retained its dominance in the last three administrations.
In an interview with reporters earlier this week, Villar said: "The NP is planning to be number one again and it is determined to become one of the two biggest parties in the whole country in the next few years. Just watch out for the NP.''
Villar expected public interest in the NP to soar this year with the party celebrating its centennial.
"This is a very important year for NP which is the first in the Philippines,'' said Villar.
When asked whether he had plans for 2010, Villar replied, "That's still far off, we should first talk about the hardships of our countrymen.''
Villar's intensive maneuverings to extend his hold on the Senate presidency is seen as a prelude to his run for the highest government office in the land.
While the NP might be the oldest political party, the Grand Old Party has yet to recover from its splintering in the Martial Law years. But Villar expressed optimism that it could be done.
While NP is just starting to bring back its glory years, its bitter rival, the LP, has already been beefing up its ranks over the past few years and has become relevant again with the Commission on Elections recognizing it as the dominant minority party in the last elections and a number of its members winning key elective posts.
"Bearing in mind the history of the LP, we intend to build not just a big party but a strong principled party. We in the party believe that our people are our greatest strength. This is why we all agreed on legislative agenda to put people first,'' said Roxas, the grandson of LP founder President Manuel Roxas.
While he has been coy on his plans for 2010, the Roxas for president in 2010 movement has been gathering steam with the LP revival targeting the youth (considering that the bulk of the voting population is aged below 30 years old). Other signs include the sprouting of Roxas for president spots in cyberspace ( www.marroxas2010.blogspot.com and www.liberalpresident2010.blogspot.com); and his colleagues endorsing him as the party's standard bearer -- Senator Benigno "Noynoy'' Aquino III declaring him LP candidate for 2010 and LP chair emeritus Jovito Salonga introducing him as "the next president of the Philippine republic.''