PARTNERSHIPS between candidates for president and vice president are nothing but marriages of convenience. Believe me, there is no love there. This takes an even more bizarre twist if you consider the fact that the two are voted separately, not as a team, unlike in the US. You end up voting for a president with one agenda and his automatic successor in case of an unfortunate circumstance with an agenda going in a totally opposite direction.
The 2016 race presents a curious set of couples, considering it has become totally clear that one problem that has beset our country is the lack of vision, the continuity of policy and practice for everything good that comes out from one administration to the next. It was a welcome development when in the early days of President Benigno S. Aquino III a Strategic Planning and Communications Office under Ricky Carandang was organized. We all hoped that finally a long term vision will take us beyond the myopia of politicking and down putting together a roadmap for the next century and starting off on that journey.
Alas, it was a useless agency, because as its website – now inactive – clearly states, it was just concerned with “strategic communications” (whatever that means) and nothing to do with getting off a visionary presidency and government. In other words, it was created with a convoluted name just so Aquino could play the Balay faction, of which Carandang is part of, against the Samar faction which was represented by Palace communications chief Sonny Coloma and the original Yellow Maria Montelibano working in the shadows. Thus, Aquino could have his cake and eat in too, and with that focus he ran government with his hallmark “governance by press release,” or as my late Army father would rib his military buddies: “the Air Force: 99 percent air, one percent force.”
So of these 2016 marriages of convenience, which one emerges as convenient to a more strategic and sustainable governance? First we have Mar Roxas and Leni Robredo. Roxas has come to accept that mass appeal has always been his weakness. He has not been able to connect with the masses. Even with the unique opportunity presented by typhoon Yolanda/ Haiyan Roxas has failed to show his oneness with the people, could not show empathy and came out as a do-nothing and political opportunist (a nasty combination) at the people’s worst time.
Roxas hopes that Robredo’s oneness with the masses will rub off on him. Her tsinelas governance, inherited from late husband Jesse who went around in his trademark everyman’s rubber flipflops, has been an effective tool and image to connect with the ordinary folk. Sure, Roxas’ wife Korina has had her mass TV appeal through her advocacy of giving away slippers to poor schoolchildren who have not had good footwear. But giving away slippers is far different from wearing slippers.
A bonus for Roxas, perhaps, is the fact that Robredo is from the Bicol region. As Philippine election lore goes, Bicolanos will always vote for a Bicolano and given voter demographics of that region that’s a pretty large piece of the pie.
Jejomar Binay’s partnership with Gregorio Honasan must be banking on that same numbers game for Bicol since the latter is also from that region and has attributed his high success in past senatorial races to his bailiwick. Another possible strength is Honasan’s history with the reformist military, although I know of many from his ranks who will contest this and even say they have been abandoned by their Mistah. Whatever it is, at this point Binay needs Honasan more, and not the other way around. Honasan represents a credible and stable image for his United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) party which has been plagued by members about ready to jump ship because of those nasty corruption charges and the freezing of his and his associates’ bank accounts.
In fact, in a recent launch of his party’s senatorial lineup, many have presented themselves as “guest candidates.” UNA could not even have a full slate of its party members. It wasn’t a pretty picture at all.
The Miriam Santiago-Bongbong Marcos partnership is totally convenient for the latter. It seems that Marcos wants to enter the presidency through the back door with the hopes that if their team wins, her health issues eventually give way to his ascendancy. Marcos is likewise banking on the lack of historical knowledge of the youth voters, a big chunk of which find Santiago’s wit worth voting for. This, after all, won him a seat in the senate in 2010 and needs a bit of a boost for 2016.
In any case Santiago won’t go away empty handed. It wouldn’t be too bad to have a piece of Marcos’ P400 million plus personal net worth, as officially declared, of course.
Alan Peter Cayetano is hoping for a Rodolfo Duterte marriage, but as we all know that will depend if the latter will want to run to start with. As some wags in Manila’s cocktail circuit nastily put it, both are neither here nor there. Whether this is a reference to gender issues or just plain indecisiveness is still to be determined. But the ladies and gents in polite society are not holding their breath but rather sipping their latest Japanese whisky finds.
Grace Poe’s and Chiz Escudero’s marriage of convenience is another one banking on that Bicol lore, with Escudero hailing from the region. The difference with Chiz is that he has served as Senator and thus has been supportive of the broader region while Robredo has just been member of the House of Representatives for one district of one province. As to Honasan, while both have been senators hailing from Bicol, Escudero’s political and personal roots run deeper in the region with his charismatic father a major political player from the Marcos days all the way to his recent passing.
But beyond the Bicol numbers game, the Poe-Escudero tandem seems to be the only one working as a tandem. It is heavily rumored that Escudero has been the brains manipulating the political neophyte Poe, like some Rasputin constantly whispering to her ear to tell her what to think, what to do and how to act. On the other hand this closeness can be taken as a sign of teamwork that is not present with the other political pairings. Sure, Escudero may be providing a lot of inputs to Poe, given his experience in the field and having the legal background and resources to play the disqualification game that has been lodged against her, but the way she has conducted herself thus far indicates that she can take in the input and decide for herself. In other words, as I have previously posted on Facebook, being smart isn’t just knowing things, it also means knowing who, when and what to listen to and how to act after.
The convenience of the Poe-Escudero political marriage is for both parties, one feeding off and working off the other. This balance, if finally brought to a term of office, will bring a chance for a more strategic form of governance which the republic sorely needs: social and political reform; policy changes for transparency, accountability and modernization; structural and systemic solutions to age old and parochial problems plaguing the archipelago; a foreign policy that seeks to work with the world with our interests paramount; a leadership that inspires the citizenry to action.
But, like we pointed out, there are a lot of “ifs” and “chances.” So in 2016 do we take a chance with possibilities, or do we live with what we see in front of us?