I did say you couldn’t just dismiss P-Noy’s “I hope it’s not me” as a joke, and his statements in Brussels the other day confirm it. Those statements, made before Pinoys in that country, show the quandary he is in and the ambivalence he feels in the face of it. He is of two minds about it, and you don’t quite know which one will win out in the end.
“Don’t we have a saying that if one wants something, nothing is impossible, but if he doesn’t, nothing is possible? So, if the vast majority thinks that this is the route that has to be taken, then there will be a way based on the Constitution to afford that opportunity.”
He explains his openness to running again thus: “Those who oppose us will push for their own candidate. And to those who are not with us today because their principles are inherently opposed to ours, is it not also natural for them to oppose everything that we have already done?”
If P-Noy were to run again in 2016, I personally would have no doubt that he would be the best candidate there. Even if I would continue to harbor doubts that he would win hands down, or at all, the way he did in 2010: Running again would take an immense, probably fatal, toll on his credibility. But he would be the best candidate there because of his proven track record. However you dispute some of his policies and ways of doing things—as I do—you cannot underestimate the depth of his accomplishment. The record growth of the last few years and the forging of peace in Mindanao are world-class achievements. So as well is the advance in national consciousness, however jagged, of the concept of the daang matuwid.
All this notwithstanding, P-Noy running again is a very bad idea. If the point is to preserve the gains and perpetuate the legacy, then it defeats it. It is the very assurance that the gains won’t be preserved and the legacy perpetuated.
There are several reasons for this:
One, it goes against the grain of another legacy, which is Cory not running again, thereby opting to strengthen the institutions of democracy rather than asserting that she is the institution of democracy that has to be preserved.
It is part of the magic realism, or plain surrealism, of this country that a mother and her son became presidents after the space of two decades and faced the same quandary at the end of their term. Except that Cory never suffered from the same ambivalence: She was definite about leaving after her term, a thing she made perfectly clear to those—and they were legion—who wanted her to run again.
In her case, her quandary was deeper and more dramatic: She wasn’t just faced with the prospect of being succeeded by pathetic individuals, she was faced with the prospect of being succeeded by the very representatives of the evil she fought against. Lest we forget, the candidates in the 1992 presidential election included Imelda Marcos and Danding Cojuangco. Cojuangco proved the more formidable one in the end.
In P-Noy’s case, the enemy is far more abstract and faceless. Who are “those who oppose us … whose principles are inherently opposed to us … who oppose everything we have already done?” The Arroyo camp has no presidential candidate and even less does the Left. The—until recently—dominant one and prohibitive favorite is Jojo Binay, whom P-Noy hasn’t included in the camp of the enemy. He not only has not spoken out against him in the name of the daang matuwid, he has also implicitly adverted to him as an ally. Continuing the tack he took in the speech at Brussels, he said Binay “has committed to me to be supportive until the last day of my term, and I appreciate that.”
So if P-Noy is running for a second time to stop a threat, who in God’s name is that threat?
Two, it brings the country to the edge of a political abyss. P-Noy himself is at least acutely aware of it. In a thoughtful interview with the Inquirer, he pondered his dilemma.
On one hand, there is his fear of the wrong successor making a mess of everything: “Paano kung bababuyin lahat nang ginawa mo?” On the other, he knows he could open a Pandora’s box: “[Changing the Constitution and running again] will open the ground for somebody staying in office and perpetuating himself. Think about it, if we allow a second term, then there will be those who would go for a parliamentary shift. There will be no term limits, for life. No matter how good you are, at some point in time you will be out of touch with your bosses.”
That is the point. Running again will set a very dangerous precedent that can, and will, be used by successive leaders, not all of which will have a record of achievement to trot out and not all of which can say with conviction, “None of my decisions stems from personal interest.”
While at that, why should a second term be enough? Why can’t you say at the end of a second term, “Corruption is still rife, the growth is still not enough to bring us on par with our neighbors, the peace in the South remains fragile, I need yet one more term”? An argument for a second six-year term is not just an argument for another six-year term, it is an argument for perpetuity.
Three, it opens up yet another danger that P-Noy himself has had the perspicacity to see. “No matter how good you are, at some point you will be out of touch with your bosses.” The folly is to imagine that when you act, you remain unchanged, you merely change the world around you. In fact, when you act, you yourself are changed by your action, along with the world around you. The P-Noy who will run in 2016, if he runs in 2016, will not be the same P-Noy who ran in 2010. He himself proposes it could be an improved one, bettered by experience.
Others will worry it will be a despoiled one, laid low by power.
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