THE PHILIPPINES’ presidential elections can result in some pretty schizophrenic government because the head of the country is backstopped by somebody who may be a total polar opposite from him… or her. As we have mentioned in the past our Vice President is elected separately from the President, unlike in the US where they are elected as a team. This situation makes it all the more important to seriously consider who to vote for as VP, and not just merely pass the position off as a spare tire.
There seems to be a battle royale between Bongbong Marcos and Leni Robredo for the vice presidency. It is an interesting fight because, aside from being neck and neck in the surveys, the theme of their battle is classic dark vs. light or good vs. evil, at least the way Robredo and her campaign puts it. Robredo projects herself as the antithesis of the traditional politician. She is following in the footsteps of her late husband Jesse Robredo, whose progressive political and social views have given him a reputation for true public service and servant leadership. Robredo also shows her self as living a simple life, like taking the 10-hour public bus ride regularly to and from Manila and Naga.
Marcos, on the other hand, presents himself as the return of peace, order and prosperity which he claims was led by his late father, former president Ferdinand E. Marcos. This comes with a further claim that a vote for the junior means the continuation of what was supposed to be our bright future, cut short by an unjust ouster.
So in her narrative of the battle between good and evil Robredo goes after the Marcos legacy, one she says is marred by blood of the human rights abuses of his military and associates. And as such she pulls out the ace of her own work for marginalized and abused sectors – the poor, farmers, women – as a former lawyer of the public attorney’s office and in private practice.
But Robredo’s folly is her own compromises in her campaign, having to “dance with the devil,” so to speak, as she continues to espouse and support the cause of her Liberal Party and benefactor President Benigno Aquino as well as their standard bearer Mar Roxas. She goes to town vowing to continue the failed program Daang Matuwid and joins them in gaining and giving support to known jueteng lords and very traditional politicians, something her late husband actively campaigned against.
Robredo even goes beyond with her support for the Roxas-Robredo LP tandem. It’s Roxas for president or nothing, she says, proclaiming and emphasizing that should she win as VP she cannot and will not work with Presidential race leaders Rodrigo Duterte and Grace Poe.
Which brings us to a third factor in this VP race: Chiz Escudero. In the noise of the Robredo-Marcos slugfest Escudero still remains within the top levels of the surveys, basically tied with the other two. While he has remained a close companion of his presidential candidate Grace Poe, the Escudero campaign has built itself up within the reality of this unique President-VP election system. Of the three candidates Escudero has presented himself as one who is capable of contributing positively to government, whoever ends up getting elected president. Of course, that means Grace Poe, but it also means Rodrigo Duterte, Jejomar Binay or Mar Roxas – yes, even Roxas.
Escudero detractors of the Roxas campaign are quick to demonize him, that he was responsible for Roxas’ loss in his VP bid against Binay in 2010. In this they are wrong.
It’s true that Escudero played a central political role in the 2010 Noy-Bi campaign, which essentially split the pro Aquino votes for president in their choice for VP. But what the pro Roxas people fail to realize it was their own leader Aquino and his original Yellow Army who screwed Roxas and his Balay yellows.
The original Yellow Army of Corazon Aquino which included the likes of Maria Montelibano and Sonny Coloma joined up with Paquito Ochoa – then the right hand of QC Mayor Sonny Belmonte – in the Samar group which whole heartedly went with the Noy-Bi campaign. The Yellow Army identified with Binay, who was part of their ranks under Cory. They did not like Roxas because he was never part of the yellows had let them down when Cory supported Fred Lim’s candidacy under LP in 2004.
In the end it was all about Noynoy Aquino and the consolidated votes for him that the Noy-Mar and Noy-Bi campaigns would bring. And if Roxas got screwed, well guess who pushed it to happen. In fact, it was the hallmark of the PNoy presidency, pitting the Samar and Balay factions against each other to compensate for his inability to decide, act and lead.
So in the vice presidency Escudero brings this political savvy, skill and knowhow that will work with a Roxas presidency, should God suddenly decide to directly intervene and turn things around. But considering the current front runners, he shows that he will be an asset to their administration.
Poe is, of course, a given. Escudero will contribute his vast government experience to her kind of compassionate leadership which their campaign has dubbed as makataong pagbabago.
But noteworthy is Duterte. Escudero will complement the lack of concrete programs of Duterte who may be able to lead, inspire and possibly even implement the necessary reform programs. But to this day it is unclear what programs he will implement.
Duterte is strong on crime, and his way may be able to address this. But this is only the effect of deeply rooted economic problems like the lack of inclusive growth and social inequity. Escudero will be able to address poverty, the root of criminality, corruption and hopelessness. He is capable of providing that perfect balance to a Duterte presidency.
These Robredo and Marcos cannot do as VP. Robredo has openly rejected working with both Duterte and Poe, even if certain yellow factions are working for a Poe-Robredo win with the hopes of preserving the oligarchy’s protection.
And Marcos carries with him the baggage that will not complement either presidential candidate, even with some factions working for a Duterte-Marcos win. There will be mutual distrust between the two, with Duterte constantly watching his back against Marcos and Marcos constantly second guessing the intellectual capacity of his president.
In the end, Robredo or Marcos will be relegated to the sidelines waiting for their turn in 2022 at the Coconut Palace.