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Vice-presidential free-for-all

/ 12:36 AM October 14, 2015

What is in the vice presidency that has moved many candidates to aspire for it in the 2016 elections? To date, five senators (Alan Peter Cayetano, Francis Escudero, Gregorio Honasan, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Antonio Trillanes IV) and a congresswoman (Leni Robredo) have declared their intention to seek the post.

Escudero, Honasan, Robredo and Trillanes trace their roots to the Bicol region. Marcos identifies himself with his father’s bailiwick, the Ilocos region, rather than his mother’s native Leyte. Cayetano has no home province to speak of because his father is from Taguig City and his mother is an American.

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If there is truth to the popular belief that voters prefer candidates with whom they share regional or provincial ties, the presence of several Bicolano aspirants to the vice presidency is not a good idea. Under this premise, the votes of the three million or so registered voters in the region will be split three or four ways, depending on who among the Bicolano candidates are still in the running on Election Day.

It has been said that all elections are local. The party that has the resources and personnel to bring the voters to the polling places and vote for its candidates on Election Day has greater chances of winning. This element, plus the usual campaign activities that accompany national elections, costs a lot of money. Today, a decent campaign for a national position requires millions of pesos.

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By convention, the standard-bearer foots much, if not all, of the campaign expenses of his or her running mate. Since the campaign strategy is mapped out by the presidential candidate, the running mate often plays second fiddle to him or her, including in the sourcing of funds.

Even then, the vice presidential candidate is not supposed to be a freeloader. He or she has to contribute money to the campaign or pay for the campaign materials.

Obviously, money is not going to be a problem for Marcos whether he runs by his lonesome or teams up with Davao City Mayor Rodolfo Duterte.

In spite of the recovery efforts of the Presidential Commission on Good Government on the Marcos family’s wealth, it still has a lot of money stashed somewhere that it can use to fund the political ambitions of the late strongman’s only son.

For Escudero, Honasan and Robredo, funding may not be much of a problem because their standard-bearers are reputed to have sufficient resources to sustain the financial needs of their campaign.

Sen. Grace Poe knows from her experience in her late father’s 2003 presidential candidacy that running for the No. 1 post is not cheap. It is reasonable to assume that she threw her hat in the presidential ring with the confidence that funding will come from some big businessmen.

Barring unexpected developments, Cayetano and Trillanes would be going solo in seeking the vice presidency. While they may be said to have fire in their bellies, the overriding question is: Do they have the resources to pursue their ambitions?

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Unless they have secret Swiss bank accounts, the pile they may have amassed during their years in the Senate, from pork barrel allocations and other funding sources, may not go a long way.

Of course, they can solicit funds from businessmen with deep pockets. But that’s iffy because in presidential elections, businessmen prefer to contribute to presidential candidates rather than to their running mates. This makes sense because it’s the president, not the vice president, who can amply pay back the financial support given to him or her during the campaign.

Whether or not the businessmen who are supportive of Cayetano’s political plans would go all-out to give him financial support at the expense of the presidential candidates is a big question mark.

The same thing goes for Trillanes. Worse, his abrasive personality makes businessmen wary of dealing with him.

In a crowded vice presidential race, it should not come as a surprise if some candidates pull out in the middle of the campaign. If the results of earlier surveys are to be the gauge, it’s most likely Cayetano and Trillanes who will eventually withdraw from the race for lack of funds (read: because they sense they will lose) or upon being “persuaded” by President Aquino to do so in the interest of the country.

This development will not be far-fetched. After all, Cayetano had announced earlier that he would run for president. When he realized that the idea was beyond reach, he abandoned it and said he would concentrate instead on starting a family with his wife.

As for Trillanes, he has a history of surrendering when the odds are not in his favor. In 2003, he gave up when the “Oakwood mutiny” he was leading did not result in the military turning against then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. In 2007, when he took over the Manila Peninsula hotel, he surrounded himself with journalists to prevent soldiers from assaulting his position, then raised the white flag.

History has an uncanny way of repeating itself in a different form.

Besides, if Cayetano and Trillanes pull out, they—like Escudero and Honasan in case they lose—can return to the Senate until their term ends in 2019.

It’s a win-win situation for them. They are able to keep themselves in the national limelight and remain in the running for the 2022 national elections at minimal expense.

Smart.

Raul J. Palabrica ([email protected]) writes a weekly column in the Business section of the Inquirer.

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TAGS: Alan Peter Cayetano, Antonio Trillanes IV, Elections 2016, Ferdinand Marcos Jr, Francis Escudero, gregorio honasan, leni robredo, vice presidential candidates
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