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P-Noy’s quandary: Roxas or Poe?

opinion / Columnists
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As I See It

P-Noy’s quandary: Roxas or Poe?

/ 12:31 AM July 17, 2015

The hated, and illegal, pork barrel is like Dracula: It refuses to die. It is still alive in the 2016 national budget although the Supreme Court has already driven a spike through its heart, according to former senator Panfilo Lacson and Sen. Serge Osmeña. Lacson’s team made a detailed examination of the budget and found P424 billion in lump-sum appropriations in just 11 of the national government’s 21 major line agencies. Lacson said there may be more as his team is still examining the budgets of the other agencies.

Lump-sum appropriations are discretionary funds and can be spent at the say-so of the department head, and are therefore pork barrel funds in another disguise. Through the years, the pork barrel has undergone many disguises, the latest of which was the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) which the Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional and for which three senators—Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla—are now detained and being tried for plunder. Other former and incumbent lawmakers, as well as Cabinet members and other officials of the executive branch, have been or are about to be charged with graft and corruption because of the PDAF.

Senator Osmeña said that under the 2015 budget, each senator has been allocated P200 million, just like in the old days, but that “there are those with P1 billion” and “others have P2 billion…”

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He said Malacañang had promised Congress that it could still identify projects placed in the budgets of other agencies. Therefore, the pork barrel is very much alive and kicking—despite the high court’s ruling that it is unconstitutional—with the connivance of Malacañang.

What is happening to President Aquino’s anticorruption campaign, which started out so well? Is P-Noy going to end up just like his predecessors?

Lawmakers (except Lacson) routinely steal pork barrel funds but presidents like to have them. They use the pork to bribe lawmakers to pass their pet bills. It seems P-Noy is no exception.

* * *

I can understand the quandary of the President in choosing the administration candidate to succeed him in Malacañang. He wants his “daang matuwid” to be continued by the next president. That man is certainly Interior Secretary Mar Roxas. In his long career in the public service, the man has not been linked to any scandal. He has the experience and integrity to be president. He shares the anticorruption vision of President Aquino.

Besides, he unselfishly gave way to P-Noy to be the Liberal Party’s standard-bearer in the 2010 presidential election. In return, P-Noy promised him that he would be the next LP presidential candidate.

P-Noy wants to fulfill that promise. But Roxas is lagging behind in the presidential-preference polls, ranking only third or fourth behind Sen. Grace Poe, Vice President Jejomar Binay, and even Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte in the SWS survey. On the other hand, Poe is leading all the contenders and has the best chance of winning.

P-Noy’s quandary is this: Should he endorse Roxas and risk losing the presidential election to Binay? Or should he choose Poe and be certain of keeping the presidency away from Binay, who is up to his neck in corruption charges?

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Heaven help the Filipinos if Binay becomes president. P-Noy’s anticorruption campaign will be wasted. The corruption charges against Binay, his wife and son may be dropped. The plunder charges against the three senators may also be dropped and the trio released from detention. And what will that teach other public officials? That crime pays, so steal as much as you can while you are in power. Don’t be afraid you will go to prison. Politics will keep you out of it.

So should P-Noy cast his luck and the future of the Philippines with Roxas, or with Poe? Should he fulfill his promise to Roxas and risk Binay plunging the Philippines into more corruption, or should he break it by endorsing Poe and keep Binay away from Malacañang?

There is one added advantage in having Poe as presidential candidate. Former president and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada—the father of the United Nationalist Alliance which Binay uses as his party (Estrada’s Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino is 80 percent of UNA)—has repeatedly said that in a contest between Binay and Poe, he would dump the former and back the latter, who is the daughter of his best friend, Fernando Poe Jr. He explained that it was the only way he could atone for his failure to campaign for FPJ when the latter ran for president (Estrada was already in prison then), although it was he who convinced FPJ to run.

So with Poe running for president, Binay would lose the Estrada-controlled votes which would go to Poe.

P-Noy is trying to make Roxas happy by convincing Poe to be his running mate so she could attract more votes for him.

But with Poe as vice presidential candidate and Roxas as presidential candidate, Estrada will support Poe as VP bet but still back Binay as presidential candidate. So a Bi-Poe split ticket would win—a repeat of the 2010 election.

Should P-Noy endorse Roxas or Poe?

It’s a quandary that requires a Solomonic solution.

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TAGS: 2016 Elections, Grace Poe, Liberal Party, lump-sum appropriations, Mar Roxas, P-Noy, PDAF, pork barrel, presidential candidates
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