It was one of the weirdest things I heard, and had it not come straight from the horse’s mouth, I’d have dismissed it outright. The horse in this case is Jojo Binay, front-runner among today’s “presidentiables.” He has heard talk, he said, that the Liberal Party is thinking of inviting him as the “adopted” or “guest” presidential candidate for 2016.
Realizing how mind-boggling that revelation must sound to most people, he added: “Sa pulitika walang imposible. Sa pulitika maraming probabilities.” (In politics, nothing is impossible. In politics, there are only probabilities.)
Yes, but some probabilities are more probable than others. Is this one of them?
Two things suggest that it is at least not out of the realm of it.
The first is that the Liberal Party is, to put it mildly, in a horrendous state. Its leading candidate is not leading at all. Despite being the party head, despite having the resources of government at his disposal, despite having acted as the unofficial vice president despite having lost his official bid to become so, despite being seen at the President’s side on every conceivable occasion, despite proclaiming himself as the alter ego of the President, despite the President giving him every opportunity to shine, he is lagging behind. Far, far behind. He is not just lagging behind Binay, who has left him biting his dust, he is lagging behind Grace Poe, Chiz Escudero, and several other candidates.
However nothing is impossible in politics, the possibility, let alone probability, of him winning in 2016 is just not there. What is the LP, whose top officials are dreaming of another six years, to do? It’s not just that Mar Roxas’ “winnability” is not on their side, it is that history is not on their side. No ruling party has yet survived a presidential election, not even Cory’s Laban, which pretty much disappeared from sight after she endorsed Fidel Ramos’ candidacy. And at that, those ruling parties had reasonably decent champions to lead the charge. The LP does not.
The party officials want to survive, they have to bite the bullet. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Even if inviting Binay to be the “guest” presidential candidate looks more suicidal than desperate.
The second is that there is no great ideological or familial divide between Binay and P-Noy, or at least between Binay and the Aquinos. By history or pinagsamahan, Binay in fact is a lot closer to the Aquinos than Roxas. Binay goes back to Cory’s time when he was her staunch ally in the fight against Marcos. It was no accident that Binay chose to launch the revelation, or gossip, that P-Noy’s party might take him as its own at an exhibit of Cory’s memorabilia during her fifth death anniversary. As P-Noy reminded the world in his State of the Nation Address, he and Binay share a common past. A sentiment Ballsy, his sister, echoed at the exhibit: Binay is one of the few brave men who defended her mother during martial law.
Roxas has no connection whatsoever to Edsa. A fact he himself drove home by insisting on wearing blue instead of yellow in the last presidential election. Which was how Binay stole the vice-presidency from him despite his commanding lead. Roxas not being particularly keen to associate himself with Edsa, Binay grabbed it with both hands, trotting out pictures particularly toward the end line that showed him in the company of Cory. No, there are no formidable ideological barriers standing in the way of a rapprochement.
But there are very political ones, and they are formidable as well, if not more so.
Not the least of them is that P-Noy has invested a great deal in Roxas. For some reason, P-Noy feels a debt of obligation to him, although Roxas has also made it a point to remind him at every turn that he stepped down for him in 2010, as though that were an ultimate sacrifice and not bowing down to necessity. From the start, when he still wasn’t a public official—losers had to wait a year before they could be appointed to a position—Roxas anointed himself the anointed. He might not have become the vice president, but he was going to become the next president, with P-Noy’s help. For P-Noy to even consider anointing another candidate, let alone the abominable Binay, Roxas would consider it the ultimate betrayal.
Quite apart from that, P-Noy is the LP’s spiritual head even if he is not the titular one, and would not wish it to come apart after he’s gone, the way the other ruling parties did. Of course he can always do a Cory and pick someone outside his party, however that threatens his own. But it would be the most ironic thing if the one person who came to power on the strength of the mantra “pag walang corrupt, walang mahirap,” and who maintained his relative popularity, give or take a wild swing or two, would end up being associated with, indeed supportive of, the one person widely seen to be subversive of it.
Of course, a crisis, as they say, is also an opportunity. The dilemma, quandary, conundrum isn’t irresolvable.
P-Noy can always endorse someone who has the heart and head to keep his “daang matuwid” matuwid and is the only one who can unlock Binay’s lock on the presidency. Who is Grace Poe, who is No. 2 in the surveys, arguably way behind Binay but even more arguably because she hasn’t yet thrown her hat into the ring and continues to show a reluctance to do so. Of course, too, she is not a full-fledged Liberal, only a nominal one, and won’t be controlled by that party—which should be good for the country. Maybe P-Noy can, and should, do a Cory after all.
What else is there? Binay has a clear, if not necessarily matuwid, path to Malacañang, and Roxas can padyak all he wants but he won’t get any nearer to it.
Some impossibilities are more impossible than others.
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