A Binay-Roxas tandem? Well, stranger things have happened. Mar Roxas, in any case, has shot down the idea, saying in so many words that a coalition between his Liberal Party and the United Nationalist Alliance of Vice President Jejomar Binay would be a betrayal of the good-government reforms President Aquino has instituted. “We have to choose someone who beyond doubt will continue [Mr. Aquino’s] program and clean governance,” he intoned, in effect saying: Binay, with his panoply of graft cases and newfound affluence ever since becoming chief executive of Makati City, doesn’t cut it.
But he—Mar Roxas, the President’s rock, who never left the President’s side or decamped from Malacañang despite a yearlong ban on losing electoral candidates serving in government—apparently does, along with his political party. “We in LP are fully committed to the leadership and platform of P-Noy and his anticorruption agenda as well as his covenant with our bosses [the people]. In other words, we are committed to all the programs covered by daang matuwid.” And so on.
That much is clear for now. But who knows, really? This is the Philippines, after all, where pragmatic politics ensures that nothing is ever certain except the supreme self-interest of the political animal. If even the Left can be persuaded to hold hands with the scion of its historical nemesis, Ferdinand Marcos, for the opportunity to take a crack at gaining power—remember Bayan Muna’s Satur Ocampo and Liza Masa joining Bongbong Marcos on stage as senatorial hopefuls of presidential candidate Manny Villar in 2010—you know that the cardinal rule in these parts is to expect the unexpected. “We are not collecting from the son” was Ocampo’s explanation then. Think how that kind of pragmatic bending of principle can apply more easily to Roxas and Binay, whose political positions and interests are hardly as diametrically at odds as were those of Bayan Muna and the Marcoses.
The fact, of course, that Binay and Roxas and their respective camps are resorting to this dance-cum-skirmish suggests that, at this time, less than two years before the 2016 presidential election, the terrain remains fluid and much territory is there for the taking. Binay is riding high in the polls and appears to be the frontrunner, but he can’t be too forgetful of recent history. Villar, way before the official start of the 2010 election, had similarly been declared the candidate to beat, with a vast war chest to solidify his lead in the polls and the public consciousness.
Except that he got blind-sided by a development he never expected: Cory Aquino died, and her only son suddenly became an attractive option to an electorate increasingly suspicious of Villar’s ties to the disgraced Arroyo administration. In the end, the billionaire senator-business mogul couldn’t even manage second place. Joseph Estrada, the only president convicted of plunder so far in Philippine history, still beat him to it.
Binay himself is cognizant of Estrada’s still considerable hold on the masses. That’s the only explanation for his insistence that Estrada’s son Jinggoy, despite being mired in the pork-barrel scandal and now incarcerated for it, is no damaged goods and is, in fact, among those he’s considering for a running mate. Only the naive would assume genuineness in this display of comradeship; Vice President Binay—who’s supposed to stand by the government’s campaign for integrity and accountability in public service—seems to be playing the game of political addition, slyly factoring in the numbers that Estrada pere can bring to Estrada fils’ vice-presidential run under his wing.
All this is to say that, with the landscape remaining arid but for the usual suspects, the prospects for a much better government after the 2016 polls—one that will build on the reforms made by the Aquino administration and learn as well from its blunders—appear dismal at this point. Where is the good candidate that will inspire the Filipino electorate to go beyond having to choose, once again, the so-called lesser evil of the lot? And what does it say of our brand of democracy that it has been unable to produce leaders we can unequivocally rally to and pin our hopes on? The paucity of choices is dispiriting. Now, more than ever, the public must learn to choose the right candidates for the next generation of leaders who can give this country the push it so sorely needs.
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