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VP: More than a spare tire

/ 05:05 AM October 08, 2021

Schoolchildren are often forced to memorize the names of the presidents of the Philippines for Araling Panlipunan. To make it more challenging, the list has to be chronological, beginning with Aguinaldo, to Quezon, Osmeña, Roxas, Quirino, Magsaysay, Garcia, Macapagal, Marcos, Aquino (Cory), Ramos, Estrada, Macapagal-Arroyo, Aquino (Noynoy), and Duterte. (An online teacher’s suggested mnemonics is: “AQueLORQuiMaGMacMAREA…AD”).

I wouldn’t be surprised if teachers offer extra points to those who can provide first names and that of their spouses. So much for the Quiz Bee culture in the elementary grades. I admit that there is some benefit to developing and exercising memory, but the rote memory that everyone hated in history class was made redundant by the internet age. Why memorize the list of the presidents when your smartphone can cough up the names faster than you can type Google? If memory is to be taught in class at all, I believe it should be deployed to encourage critical and higher forms of thinking.

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I don’t remember being instructed to memorize the names of the vice presidents of the Philippines. Like spare tires in the boot of a car, they are not seen as relevant until they are needed. Now that Leni Robredo has finally thrown her hat into the ring for president in 2022, I looked up the list of vice presidents that preceded her: Jejomar Binay, Noli de Castro, Teofisto Guingona Jr., Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Joseph Estrada, Salvador H. Laurel, Fernando Lopez, Emmanuel Pelaez, Diosdado Macapagal, Carlos Garcia, Fernando Lopez, Elpidio Quirino, Sergio Osmeña. If you want some controversy, go way back to the Tejeros Convention and list down Mariano Trias.

The best reference for 2022 is the Philippine Electoral Almanac published by the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (2015) under the direction of Manuel Quezon III. The book is downloadable for free and will provide hours and hours of fun, beginning with the first four pages of infographics that generate interest to plow through the hard data painlessly presented in the rest of the book, which covers not only the presidency but the Senate and House of Representatives as well.

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The four spare tires who became useful were Sergio Osmeña, Elpidio Quirino, Carlos Garcia, and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The first three were literally a heartbeat away from the presidency, and the last ascended to the office in the wave of Edsa 2 and the resignation of President Estrada as ruled by the Supreme Court. (The first thing I do when I replace a flat tire with the spare is to drive to the nearest vulcanizing shop to have the flat remedied, if possible, because you may have extremely bad luck and meet another flat on the way home or before you have bought a new tire.)

Three VPs who became Presidents, and who did not have a spare tire: Osmeña, Quirino, and Garcia. Quirino, Garcia, and Macapagal-Arroyo finished the unexpired term of their predecessor and won a new mandate. Only Osmeña lost reelection to the office he succeeded, probably because he did not campaign as hard as he should have. Only President Macapagal-Arroyo had two VPs: Guingona and De Castro. Only one VP, Fernando Lopez, served under two presidents—Quirino and Marcos, both Ilocanos. This was an example of having a “geographical balance,” with the presidents from Luzon and the VP from the Visayas.

Nine VPs previously served in the Senate: Osmeña, Quirino, Lopez, Garcia, Pelaez, Laurel, Estrada, Macapagal-Arroyo, and De Castro. It is curious that the only VP who was denied a Cabinet position was Diosdado Macapagal. Some were given the most senior or highest-ranking Cabinet position, like Osmeña who was Secretary of Public Instruction. Postwar, the most important Cabinet post was Secretary of Foreign Affairs, which was occupied by Quirino, Garcia, Pelaez, Laurel, and Guingona. Lopez served as agriculture secretary twice. Macapagal-Arroyo was social welfare and development secretary, while Estrada was chair of the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission. De Castro, Binay, and Robredo were chairs of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council with Cabinet rank.

One of the perks of the VP, under the 1987 Constitution, is that they do not need confirmation by the Commission on Appointments to take a Cabinet post.

There is more to a vice president than being a spare tire.

—————Comments are welcome at [email protected]

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TAGS: History, Leni Robredo, Vice President
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