The problem of the split ticket | Inquirer Opinion
The Long View

The problem of the split ticket

It was Boo Chanco who first mentioned that within some administration circles, the tandem to beat in 2022 would consist of incumbent senator Bong Go for president, and outgoing President Duterte as vice president.

This would hopefully jiu-jitsu the present administration out of the time-tested dilemma faced by all expiring administrations since 1987.

The dilemma is this: While having the resources of the government at his or her disposal, and being the head of a ruling coalition, a president nearing term-end actually has little leverage over both.

In other words, a single-term presidency means an incumbent president automatically becomes a thoroughly lame duck by the last two years of his or her term.

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At the same time, the power of endorsement of a president, strongest in the midterms, becomes weaker as election day nears to choose a successor. Coalitions assemble, or more precisely, expand to maximum size, not before but after the results of a presidential election are known.

During the presidential campaign, national parties, which are little more than subsidiaries of business interests that need political pull to prevent their access to favorable policies and treatment being denied, are looking for candidates to invest in; meanwhile, local parties, which are the only ones that matter, are busy protecting their turf by promoting their local candidates.

Some of these parties will support a presidential candidate, but in any case, most will then decide whom to formally support once the winner is known.

The bureaucracy, which slavishly obeys an incumbent, becomes suddenly independent for a brief period as one administration ends and a new one is about to begin.

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If administrations are resource-rich but authority-poor when it comes to mobilizing the government and its resources in a presidential election, the ability of a soon-to-retire incumbent to weigh in and anoint a successor is also limited by geography and media.

When the Snap Election of 1986 saw two all-Luzon tandems, Aquino-Laurel and Marcos-Tolentino, it was a sign of things to come.

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The population of Luzon dwarfs that of the Visayas and Mindanao; the dominance of television means people are more likely to make choices based on advertising than media or machinery.

The solution, it seems, lies in the administration proposal to vote the president and vice president as a tandem, which leads to the inevitable question of why we vote for them separately—and have done so since 1935. The date of our first national election provides the answer.

Since a directly elected presidency and the new institution of a vice presidency were being created that year, the drafters of the 1935 Constitution felt that it was important for both officials to have their own electoral mandates, particularly since the country was going to have a unicameral National Assembly, which some delegates believed left the legislature unqualified to select a presidential successor, which was the proposal of the delegates who opposed the creation of the vice presidency as an otherwise useless office.

The surprising thing is that, by sheer force of habit, what was felt to be required as an institution-building provision in 1935 hasn’t been seriously reconsidered since, particularly during the drafting of our present 1987 Charter.

Now, seeing that the President will likely retain his popularity to the end of his term, and knowing the otherwise weak or unreliable (or both) potential contenders to be his successor, the idea of a tandem election makes it possible for the current President to campaign for the vice presidency (thus ensuring an anointed successor can sleep easily at night, politically speaking) while maximizing the unique trust and confidence Mr. Duterte has in Go.

With the overall priority being—for both of them and the current leading lights of the ruling coalition, as well as their lieutenants in the police and elsewhere—to protect the President and his people after the current administration expires in 2022.

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TAGS: 2023, Bong Go, Boo Chanco, Duterte, politics, presidential elections, tandem

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