To make a president
There are six serious candidates for vice president so far: Rep. Leni Robredo and Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Chiz Escudero, Gringo Honasan, Bongbong Marcos and Sonny Trillanes.
Only Robredo comes from a local representation, elected to public office for the first time in 2013—a political freshman catapulted onto the national scene. If she wins as vice president, she will be a heartbeat away from the presidency. And she seems different from her opponents in many ways. It looks like she will take the position Sen. Grace Poe could have been in had Poe decided to run for vice president.
The survey question will be definite after the filing of certificates of candidacy: Who will you vote for vice president among the candidates? Here’s a fearless forecast, considering her short but fairly baggage-free record of public service, her legal career, her being the widow of Jesse Robredo, and assuming that the Liberal Party’s election machinery will work: Robredo will be elected vice president in 2016.
But this will happen only if Robredo carries Mar Roxas’ candidacy for president. Among the presidential aspirants, only Roxas is not self-propelled. He needed President Aquino’s endorsement for his run; he needs a booster from a running mate to sustain that run. P-Noy will be unable to keep the momentum for him: All the hitches and glitches in the administration can bring down his campaign, and will drag Robredo down, too. She has to be the booster that Roxas needs, and that will require her high visibility and a proactive stance in laying down the governance program they will submit to the people.
In an earlier commentary (“Shoo-in for PH transformation,” 5/21/15), I suggested that Poe, an overwhelming favorite to be vice president a year from the 2016 elections, could be privileged with leverage in determining her presidential running mate. She could set as a condition for that would-be alliance the development of a 12-year governance plan for the country. I said a six-year term seems too short to achieve fundamental transformation because, for example, poverty eradication programs would take time to be self-sustaining, and fighting graft and corruption would take longer to have results. But Poe chose to run for president. The 12-year horizon with her as vice president is out.
Only the “Ro-Ro” tandem looks like a truly united front. “Bi-Hon” (Jejomar Binay and Honasan) may not have solid complementation given Honasan’s intimation that he wants to retire from politics in 2019. Poe-Chiz may be it for now, but what can prevent a “Bi-Chiz” given the 2010 experience?
The burden is on Robredo to make her partnership with Roxas a real choice for the people to get an administration committed to deliver public service. She can anchor that service on the people’s vision for a just and humane society expressed in the preamble of the 1987 Constitution. She is the gust of fresh air on a presidential run with sputtering steam carried over from a vice presidential debacle in 2010.
And Robredo can provide substance if there is a 12-year plan where she will play an active role in key areas of governance under a Roxas presidency that will transition to a Robredo presidency in 2022. For a change, they should campaign to make the people’s outlook longer-term, but raising the expectation that there will be continuity of good and effective governance over 12 years of a Ro-Ro administration (2016 to 2028). This scenario may challenge the other tandems to do likewise, to look long-term. No one can have monopoly over long-term planning as long as getting the 2016-2028 term is possible. Just as no one can have monopoly over “daang matuwid” as long as they can say it straight-faced.
If Ro-Ro wins, Robredo may in the first two years be in charge of government clusters on poverty eradication, such as economic development, social welfare, peace and order, including the insurgency issues to the extent that their root causes are deemed economic. After she has achieved milestone targets in these areas, she may be involved with finance and fiscal concerns, infrastructure development, energy, environment and natural resources. She may then proceed to national defense and security and foreign policies and international relations. Overall, she will effectively be guided by Roxas, who, by a deliberate decision, will prepare her to be the next president.
Of course, there are many assumptions in this scenario apart from the tandem’s victory. It is a deliberate program of making a president. Robredo needs to be truly worthy of the challenge. Her husband’s “tsinelas” politics will have to become visible again. Humble and true, competent and effective public service will have to be delivered.
An unaffected Robredo may be required for her partnership with Roxas to get a chance to work on the implementation of a 12-year governance plan. The challenges are steep. Poverty incidence is still at a 25-percent high, with 17.5 percent in the rural areas. Getting past this hurdle must be a sustained effort over a set timeline. She must be a transformational leader and manage to be seen as such throughout the campaign up to Election Day and beyond. She can stay positive as there seems to be no negative issues that can be thrown at her. She only must show that she will deliver on promises that will be made.
It is rare in Philippine elections that a winning president carries the running mate. Gloria Arroyo had Noli de Castro winning, too, in 2004, in elections marred by “Hello Garci.” Ro-Ro offers a unique opportunity under the slogan “Ituloy ang Daang Matuwid.” If they both win.
Danilo S. Venida ([email protected]) holds undergraduate and postgraduate degrees from the University of the Philippines and the Center for Research and Communication/University of Asia and the Pacific. He is a former president of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and is now a business consultant.