The fates of two people reveal a great deal about the nature of Philippine elections in particular and politics in general.
The first is Nancy Binay who has been thrust at the forefront of the campaign. After languishing in 12th place in the SWS survey, she has pole-vaulted to No. 4. Grace Poe hasn’t joined the “Magic 12” in SWS but she has in Pulse Asia—and done so with many Filipinos not even knowing she is running. I suspect it’s just a question of time before she also does a Binay, which is when she gets to project herself more. Her leap in Pulse Asia was huge as well. I wish her well.
But back to Binay. Her “great leap forward” probably owes to one of two things, or both.
One is that “Binay” has become a brand name as well, and UNA is right to imagine it’s an “open sesame” to the masa vote. For the same reason “Aquino” will most likely boost Bam’s candidacy, the only difference (so far) being that Jojo Binay has been actively campaigning for UNA while P-Noy has not for the other side. There is one other difference, which is that P-Noy is seen as not running again, no small thanks to his own party which has been unwittingly depicting him as a lame duck of sorts—Frank Drilon has revealed Mar Roxas will run for president in 2016—while Binay has said he will definitely do so. That makes Binay’s endorsement an active one compared to P-Noy’s, and that makes being named Binay an endorsement unto itself.
Two is that Team PNoy may keep trying to drive an ideological wedge between itself and UNA, repeatedly twitting Jojo Binay for suggesting UNA is friend to P-Noy, but the public isn’t seeing it. No small thanks to their ranks being raggedly put together, their own bets being as ideologically disparate or even as opposed as you can get. Quite apart from the common candidates, quite apart from the inclusion of people like Cynthia Villar, Koko Pimentel is there as well only because UNA refuses to part with Migz Zubiri. There’s very little, if at all, to distinguish UNA from Team PNoy.
Nancy Binay is proof of it. If there were, you’d have the Yellow Brigade up in arms against her in particular. As it is, the Yellow Brigade is probably more hospitable to Jojo Binay than to the Liberal Party. After all, he worked with Cory while some of the LP stalwarts are downright allergic to Edsa. So what exactly does Team PNoy signify?
No, this year’s elections will be as traditional as they come, as lacking in ideological differences as they come, as proof of this country not having any real parties as they come, in stark contrast to 2010. Which brings us to the fate of the second person.
That is Teddy Casiño who continues to languish in the lower rungs of the senatorial surveys. For reasons that are not hard to understand. He has little money, no advertisements and is running as an independent. The first and second flow from the third. You have no (mainstream) party affiliation, you’ll have no funds and ads. Few, if any, independents have won in elections, least of all for higher positions like senators. The one person I know who did it was Kiko Pangilinan who ran as an independent in 2007. But he had several advantages going for him: He had been with a mainstream party before (the LP), he had been a senator before, and he had been a majority leader of the Senate before. And he had the redoubtable Sharon Cuneta to campaign for him.
Casiño has none of that. If he had been with a party before, it was with the opposite of a mainstream one, if arguably an infinitely truer one. He had been a party-list representative, of course, but as he himself admits, that is a quite different league from being senator. His decision to run as an independent owed to the bitter experience of his predecessors throwing their lot with a mainstream party. Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza joined Manny Villar in the last elections and, quite apart from losing badly, made the Left look bad and lost. They made it look like it was no better than the compromise-making, wheeling-and-dealing, selling-soul-to-the-devil groups you find crawling all over the place. Casiño looks headed to the first fate, but he will at least be spared the second.
I myself wish Casiño had a chance, and will keep hoping he gets it. I like him. He’s intelligent, articulate, reasonable. Having him should improve the discourse in the Senate, providing it with a true clash of ideas and not just, which is what we see now, clashes of personalities. But that is also what makes it the hardest thing for him to win. His situation reflects the tragedy of the Left. If the people occupying the higher rungs of the surveys show us the dangers of having little, or no, ideology, people like Casiño on the other hand show us the dangers of having too much of it.
A friend of mine gave me to glimpse it some days ago. Look at South Africa and Brazil, he said, and you’ll see what the Left in this country did that was so very wrong. Where it changed and evolved and innovated in those countries, it just retreated, calcified and insisted on reaffirming the un-reaffirmable here.
Look at Brazil in particular and see what Lula—Luiz Inácio da Silva—did there. Lula was as leftist as they came: He was the head of Brazil’s only socialist party, the Workers’ Party, and won on the strength of it. And he was as innovative as they came: As president for two terms, he turned Brazil around while pursuing modified socialist policies. “Under Lula,” the Washington Post enthused, “Brazil became the world’s eighth-largest economy, more than 20 million people rose out of acute poverty, and Rio de Janeiro was awarded the 2016 Summer Olympics, the first time the Games will be held in South America.”
Not bad, for an ideologist.