At Large

Choices for the NP

I wouldn’t want to be in the shoes of former senator Manny Villar and his wife, Sen. Cynthia Villar, stalwarts of the Nacionalista Party, these days.

Meeting with media friends at the blessing of Andrew and Sandee (Siytangco) Masigan’s newest branch of their XO 46 restaurant at SM Aura, the senator spoke of the “dilemma” that confronts the party. In other times and circumstances, it would be a “delicious” dilemma for any political party. Three of the NP’s most prominent members, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, Sen. Antonio Trillanes and Sen. Bongbong Marcos, have indicated their intent to run for vice president.


While Trillanes had long declared his “availability” for the No. 2 post of the land, Cayetano this week declared his candidacy in an “odd” location—in Davao City—leading to speculation that he was in active courtship of Davao City Mayor and urong-sulong presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte. Marcos has yet to formally announce his availability, but one presidential aspirant, Vice President Jojo Binay, has mentioned him as a possible running mate.

Ever the judicious politician, Senator Villar has told the media that the NP would support not just one but all three of its vice presidential aspirants, although how this would affect the party’s future alliance with the eventual winner and the winning party is still unknown. No wonder the senator didn’t sound all that enthusiastic about her party’s embarrassment of riches with regard to vice presidential aspirants. No matter who emerges the winner, or who gets the bulk of the party’s support (especially its funds), there will be the disgruntled and the disappointed to contend with.


Complicating matters is the possible senatorial bid of Villar scion Mark, currently the representative of Las Piñas, who has already put out his own TV ads and is rumored to be included in the senatorial slate of the Liberal Party. How will this added wrinkle affect relations between and among the Villars and the NP’s three aspirants for veep?

* * *

This is the first time, at least in my living memory, when we’ve had so many potential running-mates shopping around for their own principals. Time was when presidential candidates announced their plans and then set about shopping for their own vice presidents.

And for the first time, too, a vice presidential candidate, Sen. Chiz Escudero, held his own separate announcement of his candidacy, without the presence of Sen. Grace Poe, his declared presidential partner. Does this signal the end of the era of the running mate as mere shadow and spare tire?

Is Escudero sending out signals that should their tandem win next year, theirs will be a “shared” or coequal presidency? If so, I suggest he read up first on the sad political fate of the late former senator Doy Laurel. If he had only bided his time and been satisfied to act as President Cory’s consort, Laurel could have sauntered his way to Malacañang when Cory’s term ended. But he may have thought that Cory’s time in office was doomed to a premature end, losing no time before announcing his own “program of government” and even reportedly consorting with those who desired to overthrow Cory through a series of coup attempts. That’s how Doy ended up in the trash bin of history.

* * *

The dilemma confronting the Villars and other pillars of the Nacionalista Party leads me to wonder whether the party system is still relevant or necessary today.


In earlier years, and in other countries, “party discipline” would have been wielded at the outset, precisely to avoid the situation of pitting a party’s most prominent members against each other.

What are NP supporters to do now? Who and how will they pick among the three vice presidential aspirants? And what about the NPs running for local office? Will they now be obliged to campaign for and accompany all three of the men running for VP? What if the visiting candidate does not support—or is in fact campaigning against—the presidential candidate the local official is supporting? How do you sort out such conflicting loyalties?

I can only wish Senator Cynthia and her husband the best of luck in solving this thorny dilemma. How they manage to negotiate the conflicting aspirations of their three members, while preserving the loyalties of all other party members, should be a lesson in party politics for inclusion in poli-sci textbooks in years to come.

* * *

As of this writing, definitive word from Rep. Leni Robredo on the offer to run alongside Mar Roxas as the Liberal Party’s vice presidential candidate has yet to be issued.

So many politicians and election-watchers have said that Leni is “in the bag” for the LP, but direct confirmation from Leni herself has yet to be heard. I can understand her situation. Although only her eldest daughter is said to still be staunchly against her veep candidacy (the other two girls have, presumably, given their consent), there are many other things for her to consider.

What I hear is that Leni is very concerned about the state of her home district, with her husband’s long-time rivals (and relatives), the Villafuertes, chomping at the bit to again dominate politics in their native Naga. I can well understand how Leni would be worried that the “new and alternative” politics that she, her late husband Jesse and their allies sought to establish in Naga could be dismantled with the return of the “old” power bloc.

What assurances would finally convince Leni to leave the local politics of Naga to take a stab at the national level? And what can she accomplish as veep that would make her sacrifice worthwhile? Mar Roxas, and P-Noy, had better have the best package to offer her.

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TAGS: Alan Peter Cayetano, Antonio trillanes, Bongbong Marcos, Chiz Escudero, Cynthia Villar, Elections 2016, leni robredo, manny villar, Nacionalista Party
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