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There’s the Rub

Forward to the past

Shortly before Election Day, UNA put to the front of people’s minds what has been at the back of them. The 2013 elections were just a prelude to the 2016 presidential election.

During their miting de avance last week, Erap, Juan Ponce Enrile, and several of the UNA candidates introduced Jojo Binay as “the next president of the Philippines.” Migz Zubiri volunteered to be his campaign manager for the Visayas and Mindanao.

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“Of course we’re looking at 2016,” said Erap in an interview with the Inquirer. Ernesto Maceda and Toby Tiangco agreed. In fact, they said, local officials were already lining up behind Binay in anticipation of his run.

All of which doesn’t just push the question of the 2016 election at the forefront of people’s minds; it also pushes there the question of: What happens after P-Noy goes? The prospects are not just dim, they’re dark. Hell, they’re not just dark, they’re black. As it stands now, the fight in 2016 is just between Binay and Mar Roxas. It’s been that way for the last three years, since Binay stole the vice presidency from Roxas. Binay contends the “stole” is figurative, Roxas never understood that he merely drew strength from P-Noy. Roxas contends the “stole” is literal, even taking legal action against it, but has pretty much dropped it in practice if not theory.

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Of course it’s only Binay who has declared in no uncertain terms he will run. Roxas has in fact said the opposite: He has “no plans” to run for president in 2016. But people who have “no plans” to run can always be “persuaded” to run. Easiest thing in the world to manufacture a “public clamor,” however the clamor comes only from family and friends and however it is too feeble to be heard beyond certain corners of a TV station. Franklin Drilon did suggest a few months ago the Liberal Party was gearing up for a Roxas campaign in 2016. That would have been no small thanks to Roxas himself.

We did have someone who swore ardently before the grave of Rizal she would not run for president. That was shortly before she did. And Roxas shares a great deal of her hunger for power—she out of rebellion at enfeeblement, he out of a sense of entitlement; she out of wanting to get back at the world, he out of wanting to wrest things from the world.

It’s enough to have gotten some people wondering if it would not be a good idea if P-Noy ran for a second term, if a plebiscite could not amend the Constitution to allow him to do so, if a real public clamor out of a people’s instinct for self-preservation could not compel him to do so. Much as I myself find the idea tempting, I do not find it a good one. In the first place, I can’t see how P-Noy will do it; he is too much like his mother who was thrice offered the crown and thrice refused it, to paraphrase Julius Caesar. His mother refused; he will, too.

Quite apart from that, the point is to strengthen the institution, not to weaken it. The point is to improve the system, not to impair it. Democracy will not be the better for making exceptions out of expedience, it will be the worse for it. The road to hell has been known to be spiked with good intentions.

But which leaves us with a horizon that, unless drastically changed over the next three years, offers a horrible choice.

On one side, there’s the current head of UNA, Jojo Binay. It’s a testament to the company he keeps—or kept—that Zubiri was just volunteering last weekend to be his campaign manager in 2016 for the Visayas and Mindanao. Of course that’s not likely to happen now—as of Tuesday, Zubiri was two rungs below the Magic 12. He’s “damaged goods” in more ways than one. He’s just lost the elections in addition to being branded forever as a cheat, the second owing to the first. Or to Koko Pimentel’s efforts to drive the point home.

Zubiri might be gone, but not so Erap and Enrile. Erap has just won Manila, and Enrile has a way of surviving in more ways than one—not just politically but physically. Those who imagine he may not be around by 2016, figuratively or literally, forget that it doesn’t pay to trust in things like lupus. Binay keeps having Erap and Enrile and, who knows, Zubiri, for tea, and he will give whole new meanings to “vice” in vice president.

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On the other side, there’s the current head of the Liberal Party, Mar Roxas. It’s a testament as well to the nature of the man that he is the head of the Liberal Party even after he lost his bid as vice president. Even after P-Noy won as president. Even after kapinuhan, graciousness, and good manners and right conduct tell you to cede the headship of your party to your boss, the President of the country. Roxas is currently the second most powerful man in the country despite having lost the elections, owning the Department of Interior and Local Government, the Department of Transportation and Communications, and the Palace Communication Group—oh, yes, all of them. My friends correct me there: He’s not the second most powerful man in the country, he’s the first.

If the presidential election were held today, Binay would win hands down. In the election to be held three years from now, Binay would still win hands down. I’ve always said that, like Jose de Venecia, Roxas has only one way to become boss of this country, and that is by turning it from presidential to parliamentary and running as prime minister. But my friends correct me there, too: Not even so. His own party cannot abide him, his need for power is not unlike Gloria’s.

But that’s no cause for celebration. Binay vs. Roxas: That’s Scylla and Charybdis, that’s a rock and a hard place, that’s the devil and the deep blue sea. We’ve got three years to change things, we’ve got three years to look for an alternative. Otherwise, we won’t be going back to the future.

We’ll be rushing forward to the past.

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TAGS: 2013 Elections, 2016 Elections, Conrado de Quiros, Elections, Jejomar Binay, LP, Manuel “Mar” Roxas, opinion, There’s the Rub, UNA
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