Aquino-Roxas combat in 2016?
CANBERRA—Apparently shaken by the Pulse Asia survey results showing that 62 percent of Filipinos oppose a run for reelection by President Aquino, Malacañang had been forced to plead for a second opinion in the polls.
Speaking as if the administration was facing a life-threatening scourge of the likes of the bubonic plague that swept medieval Europe, a Palace spokesperson indicated to the Inquirer that one survey is not enough for the vacillating President to make a final decision.
“Perhaps we can have a broader picture when we learn of the third-quarter survey findings from SWS (Social Weather Stations) and Pulse Asia,” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma (one of three Palace spokespersons, giving the people mixed messages of the master’s voice). The President “would like to continue getting feedback from various stakeholders, especially on what can be done to ensure the continuity and permanence of reforms,” Coloma said.
This statement puts SWS on the spot. What if its findings turn out different from those of the Pulse Asia survey? What would this make of Mahar Mangahas’ SWS survey? Findings similar to those of Pulse Asia may also be devastating to Malacañang. Up to this time the President has been twiddling his thumbs and consulting his “bosses” over whether he should seek reelection, after fueling speculation over what he intends to do when his term ends.
It appears that time is running out on the President to candidly declare that he is standing for reelection by hook or by crook. Whether Malacañang likes it or not, the early surveys conducted in the twilight period of his term sent signals that a second run for him would not be a walk in the park. The terrain is full of risks for a run for reelection, regardless of whoever will be his opponent—Vice President Jejomar Binay of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) or Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, who is also a member of the Liberal Party. The ruling party is rife with intrigue to ease out Roxas as the LP’s official presidential candidate in 2016. Mr. Aquino appears to be running scared and vulnerable in the wake of the survey results showing not only a strong rejection of a possible term extension for him but also some gains for Roxas as a viable LP candidate against Binay in 2016.
Uncertainties cloud an easy reelection bid by the President, given the background of his declining popularity in previous surveys. His satisfaction and trust ratings suffered double-digit drops in June and July—his lowest since he was elected in 2010. The decline came as he entered the twilight years of his presidency, putting an end to his four-year popularity run in the polls. It indicated that his cloak of invincibility had worn thin, making him a lame-duck President and opening him to leadership challenges from his own party mates with presidential ambitions, including Roxas.
With the September survey results hovering over Mr. Aquino’s head, there is even less reason for him to be confident that his party would choose him as its standard-bearer in 2016. Now the knives are out for an assassination inside the LP from party mates seeking a new leader. In plain language, Mr. Aquino may be dumped in the event of a leadership spill or shakeup in a possible challenge to revitalize the LP as a party of change, a party that is breaking out of the stale, vindictive and self-righteous mold of the current “daang matuwid” prescriptions.
If the LP is to search seriously within its ranks, it will find that there are more than enough talents in the party who can offer fresh economic-policy initiatives as well as political-reform programs, and who can claim honesty, integrity and experience in public service without being chained to the crippling legacy of the Aquino dynasty.
The latest survey results reveal that the next presidential election need not be limited to a face-off between Mr. Aquino or Binay. We don’t have to wait for Mr. Aquino to end his vacillation over whether he will seek a second term. It’s already clear: He is lusting to keep power despite his coy protestation that he is still consulting his constituents, and he is not above dumping Roxas as an alternative to Binay.
The struggle for power in 2016 is already in place in the LP—between Mr. Aquino and Roxas as the viable option to Binay, who is mercilessly being pilloried in a smear campaign that is playing out in the inquiry of the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee into the allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall parking building constructed when Binay was mayor.
The battle royale between Mr. Aquino and Roxas in the LP will be an epic conflict that bears watching because of its implications for the future of the multiple-party system of Philippine democracy. Senate President Franklin Drilon and other LP leaders have said that the recent survey is relevant to the issue of constitutional change. Mr. Aquino cannot run for reelection unless the constitutional provision on term limits is amended. The LP is holding a caucus this month to address the issue of Mr. Aquino’s pursuit of a term extension. It has to consider the survey results showing strong opposition to a term extension for the President.
This caucus will amount to a preelection convention that will decide who are to square off in 2016. It could be brutal combat between Mr. Aquino and Roxas.
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