August 2015

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Three is a crowd: Marcos, Trillanes, and Cayetano

Three is a crowd: Marcos, Trillanes, and Cayetano

With nine months to the presidential election on May 9, 2016, there are only two declared candidates for President and one “maybe.” And with the filing of candidacies on October 16, 2015 fast approaching, the two presidential candidates – Jejomar “Jojo” Binay and Manuel “Mar” Roxas II – have yet to pick their vice presidential running mates. Not because they’re in no hurry, it’s because they can’t find the “right person” whom they believe would help them win the presidency.

Corrupt mayor?

Corrupt mayor?

Binay, who made his presidential ambitions known even before he was elected vice president in 2010, was way ahead in the game and had consistently been topping the polls until recently. Hounded by plunder and corruption cases filed against him, his wife Elenita, and his son Jejomar “Jun” Jr., Binay has a hard time getting a running mate. He approached several high-profile personalities but they all declined. One of them was Sen. Grace Poe who is presumed to be seeking the presidency herself. Recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) and Pulse Asia polls show that she has overtaken Binay’s popularity ratings by more than 10% points.

It did not then come as surprise that President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III had been “courting” Poe to be Roxas’ running mate under the LP banner. Unsuccessful at “baiting” her, Poe – after four meetings with P-Noy – declined.

Musical chairs

Aquino anoints Roxas

Aquino anoints Roxas

When P-Noy finally “anointed” Roxas as the LP’s standard bearer, he left the door open for Poe to become Roxas’ running mate. Roxas then took the initiative of trying to attract Poe but to no avail. Lately, P-Noy and the LP stalwarts gave up on Poe and turned their attention to Rep. Leni Robredo, the widow of the late Secretary of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Jesse Robredo. But the word is that she’s more inclined to run for a Senate seat at this time, which she’d win easily.

Meanwhile, rumor has it that Danding Cojuangco, the founder of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), was supportive of a Poe candidacy. Poe and her ally Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero were invited to meet with members of the NPC – the second largest political party after the LP – at the NPC clubhouse. It was reported in the news that a majority of the NPC members would support a Poe presidential run.

Another major political party, the Nacionalista Party (NP), was also interested to have Poe as their guest presidential candidate. However, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV vehemently objected to the NP endorsing Escudero for vice president, who is Poe’s preferred running mate if she runs for president. Well, that is understandable because Trillanes made his intentions known that he is interested in running for vice president. But two other NP stalwarts, Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano are also eyeing the vice presidency.

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo "Digong" Duterte

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte

However, a recent news report said that an alliance between NP and Davao City Governor Rodrigo Duterte’s political party, the Partidong Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), is seemingly shaping up. The report also said that Duterte’s choice for his running mate has narrowed down to either Marcos or Cayetano. But regardless whom Duterte picks as his running mate, the two who would be left out would most likely seek the vice presidential slot in the UNA or LP slate. The latest word is that Binay is interested to have Marcos as his running mate. That would leave Cayetano out in the cold unless Roxas cannot get Leni Robredo and settle for his good “pal” Cayetano.

Odd man out

But how about Trillanes? Ruled out by Duterte and shunned by Binay, he might try to get the endorsement of Aquino to be Roxas’ running mate. If Trillanes gets Aquino’s blessing, Cayetano would be sidelined and nowhere to go.

Grace Poe-Chiz Escudero tandem?

Grace Poe-Chiz Escudero tandem?

If all these pairings would fall into place, we’d see an interesting presidential battle royale among LP’s Roxas, UNA’s Binay, NP’s Duterte, and NPC’s Poe. With Poe the only one so far who has a preferred running mate, the other three have to make up their minds pretty soon.

It’s interesting to note that the NP has three vice presidential aspirants but nobody wants to be president. One explanation could be that Binay and Poe are way ahead in the polls that it would be a political suicide for others to run against the two heavyweights. And by including Roxas and Duterte in the mix, there is just no way for Marcos, Trillanes or Cayetano to win the presidency. But in the vice presidential contest, the three Nacionalistas plus Escudero are all in the same weight class; they’re middleweights. It would be a toss up who’d win.

Historical data

Whoever wins the vice presidency would be in a good position to run for president in 2022. Statistics show that out of the 10 presidential elections since 1946 (excluding the presidential elections during the martial law), five incumbent vice presidents ran for president in the next presidential election and won. They were: Elpidio Quirino in 1948, Carlos P. Garcia in 1953, Diosdado Macapagal in 1961, Joseph Estrada in 1998, and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2004. But three other incumbent vice presidents had opted not to run for president, to wit: Emmanuel Pelaez in 1965, Salvador Laurel in 1992, and Noli de Castro in 2010.

Battle Royale: Poe, Roxas, Binay, and Duterte.

Battle Royale: Poe, Roxas, Binay, and Duterte.

Based on these historical data, whoever is elected vice president in 2016 would most likely win the presidency in 2022, which begs the question: Does that mean that Poe, Roxas, and Duterte don’t have a ghost of a chance of beating Binay? Not necessarily. A case in point was Aquino who – like Poe – was an incumbent senator when he ran for president in 2010. Out of a field of nine presidential candidates, which included heavyweights former Senator Manny Villar, former President Joseph Estrada, and former Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, Aquino beat them all with 42.08% of the vote!

Positioning

Binay and Aquino: A heartbeat away from the presidency.

Binay and Aquino: A heartbeat away from the presidency.

Indeed, “positioning” is the name of the game. A good example is Binay who ran and won as vice president in 2010. A longtime family friend of the Aquinos, he sought a high-profile appointment from President Aquino. As the administration’s “Housing Czar,” he worked hard to raise his profile; thus, positioning himself for a presidential run in 2016.

Binay would have been unbeatable in 2016 had he kept his nose clean. But with the corruption activities that he was allegedly involved when he was mayor of Makati City, his rivals would certainly hammer them in during the campaign. That was what happened to Manny Villar in the 2010 presidential election. He was the front-runner before the campaign started. But his ratings plummeted when allegations of corruption were exposed during the campaign.

On the other hand, there is Poe – a rookie senator – who gained the respect and admiration of the people for her efforts in the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill in the Senate and for chairing the Senate hearing on the Mamasapano massacre.

The vice presidential derby in 2016 would be interesting to watch. We’re looking at four young and capable – and ambitious — senators whose record of public service earns them the respect and admiration of the people. All of them have proven their mettle in these challenging times. But only one will be elected vice president. And whoever that person is, he has six years ahead of him to position himself for a shot at the presidency in 2022. And as vice president, he’d be “president-in-waiting” and just a heartbeat away from the presidency. Indeed, the vice presidency is the best on-the-job training without really doing much… and just wait.

So, who doesn’t want to be vice president?

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Rear Admiral Caesar Taccad

Rear Admiral Caesar Taccad

Last August 10, 2015, the new Philippine Navy Commander took his oath before President Benigno Aquino III. Aquino’s marching orders clearly outlined what he expected the new commander, Rear Admiral Caesar Taccad, to accomplish during his tenure. Taccad’s marching orders were to balance the navy’s resources and capabilities to secure the country’s territorial waters while the government is trying to rearm it amid rising tensions in the West Philippine Sea. It sounds like a simple and straightforward order but given the state of the Philippine Navy (PN), it’s a tall order because the capability of the PN can be characterized as impotently incapable of defending the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Philippines.

During the change of command ceremony, Taccad vowed to defend the country’s maritime domain from China’s aggressive moves. He said that he would work for “stable, productive and constructive relationships” with the navies of other countries to preserve peace in the region. “We will continue to protect our seas and secure the future of our nation and its people. We shall continue to be a dependable naval force, prompt in response and sharp in action,” he said. He also promised, “I shall steer the Philippine Navy towards continued transformation, modernization, professionalization and overall progress in order to provide the maritime defense and security that is expected from a strong and formidable navy.” It seems like it was the appropriate response to Aquino’s marching orders. But what else could he have said?

Faux pas

Reclaimed Fiery Cross Reef with runway and harbor.

Reclaimed Fiery Cross Reef with runway and harbor.

But when he shared his personal views, they ran counter to the Philippines’ position in her territorial disputes with China. He said that he did not see any expansion from China. And when asked about China’s aggression in the Spratly archipelago – where China built artificial islands on seven reefs – he said, “They have been there for a long time and they are guarding what they think is their interest in the South China Sea. No expansion is happening. They are just pursuing their interest.”

And in an apparent attempt to drive his viewpoint home, Taccad said that the “prevailing security in the disputed archipelago is much better compared with the past.” He added, “It’s much heated before. I think we are in a better position now. We are communicating with China, and more or less not as threatened as before. You know what they are trying to do and we try to maintain more or less peaceful co-existence or settlement of what issue we have.”

Taccad’s comments probably rankled Aquino who was seated behind him as he spoke, which makes one wonder: How can Taccad wholeheartedly – and competently — execute Aquino’s marching orders to secure the country’s territorial waters against China’s aggressive moves in the Spratly Islands when they’re in conflict with his own beliefs? And this led me to believe that Taccad wasn’t fully vetted for the job. Surmise it to say, Aquino might not have interviewed him personally for the job, particularly on Taccad’s personal views and positions on the problems the Philippines is facing in the South China Sea (SCS) vis-à-vis China’s claim of “indisputable sovereignty” over the SCS. Had Aquino done that, Taccad would have failed the “litmus test” for the job.

What’s the truth?

The following narrative refutes Taccad’s unfounded assertions:

Marines raising Philippine flag on BRP Sierra Madre.

Marines raising Philippine flag on BRP Sierra Madre.

1) “No [Chinese] expansion is happening.” — Chinese aggression and expansion began in 1994 when China took possession of the Panganiban (Mischief) Reef and Subi Reef, both of which are within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ). In 2012, China grabbed Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal. Recently, China deployed a Coast Guard ship near the grounded BRP Sierra Madre manned by a contingent of Philippine Marines protecting the Ayungin Shoal. The Chinese ship was blocking Philippine troop rotations and re-supplying them.

South China Sea and the "nine-dash line".

South China Sea and the “nine-dash line”.

2) “They [Chinese] have been there for a long time and they are guarding what they think is their interest in the South China Sea.” – Recently, Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio showed several ancient Chinese territorial maps. The maps proved that the most southern Chinese territory was Hainan Island. It is located northeast of Vietnam in the SCS. The maps also proved that China didn’t have any territory beyond Hainan, including the Spratlys and Panatag Shoal. In 2010, Xi Jinping – who is now China’s President, Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party’s Politburo, and Chairman of the Central Military Commission – chaired the group responsible for China’s South China Sea policy. Through Xi’s group’s recommendation, China issued a statement concerning her core interests, which was expanded to include South China Sea, East China Sea, and Yellow Sea. The claim to “indisputable sovereignty” over these waters included the islands, fisheries, and subterranean minerals housed in them. China used the “nine-dash line” – an imaginary tongue-shaped line demarcating China’s maritime claims – to justify her sovereignty over the three seas.

Scarborough-map-and-Filipinos-planting-flag

3) “We are communicating with China, and more or less not as threatened as before.”—This is not true. The only time that the Philippines had officially communicated with China was when Aquino sent Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV to China — by way of backdoor channels — was in 2012 after she grabbed Panatag. The Chinese agreed to withdraw their ships from the shoal provided the Philippines withdraws her ships, too. The Philippines agreed and withdrew her ships. But instead of doing the same, China sent more ships and then roped off the only entrance to the shoal’s lagoon, thus preventing Philippine ships and fishing boats from gaining entry. Today, China has de facto possession of Panatag.

Airstrip comparison in the SCS. (Source: Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, CSIS)

Airstrip comparison in the SCS. (Source: Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, CSIS)

4) “Prevailing security in the disputed archipelago is much better compared with the past.” — This is pure hogwash! With China building seven artificial islands less than 200 miles from Palawan, two of which have runways that could accommodate China’s largest warplanes and deep harbors where huge warships could moor, any part of the Philippines is within reach of China’s warplanes and ballistic missiles within minutes of launching.

5) “You know what they are trying to do and we try to maintain more or less peaceful co-existence or settlement of what issue we have” – Yes, we know what they’re trying to do. But for the Philippines to co-exist with an invader is tantamount to capitulation without putting up a fight just like what happened to Panatag. And the “settlement” that China would only agree to is through bilateral negotiations. But China has put a heavy price for bilateral talks; that is, the Philippines has to recognize China’s “indisputable sovereignty” over the West Philippine Sea. That is called “surrender”!

Retraction

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima (second from left) and Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio (third from left) attend the UN Arbitral Tribunal at The Hague.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima (second from left) and Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio (third from left) attend the UN Arbitral Tribunal at The Hague.

And this begs the question: Can the Philippines afford to have a Naval Commander who kowtows to China? With the United Nations arbitral tribunal currently reviewing the Philippines’ claim that the “nine-dash line” is illegal, this is not the time for the Philippine Navy’s top honcho to make statements that China could use to propagandize the validity of her “indisputable sovereignty” over the South China Sea.

The best thing that Taccad could do now to repair any damage done to the Philippines’ claim before the arbitral tribunal is to retract his toxic statements. He owes his loyalty to Aquino, but he also owes his loyalty to Aquino’s bosses: the Filipino people.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Chinese fortifications on Panganiban (Mischief) Reef.

Chinese fortifications on Panganiban (Mischief) Reef.

For the past two years, China has embarked on an aggressive encroachment of the East China and South China Seas and the islands and reefs in those waters. And her neighbors aren’t happy about China’s bullying and salami-slicing techniques. But the most disadvantaged among China’s neighbors is the Philippines, which is the weakest militarily among the Asian countries. The country is at the mercy of China who had been grabbing Philippine territories since the forced removal of U.S. bases in 1992.

In 1994, China took possession of the Panganiban (Mischief) Reef in the middle of the night and built fortifications on it. China said that it was going to be used as a rest area for fishermen in the area. China also occupied the Subi Reef and built a 4-story building and deployed around 200 troops. It is located 16 miles southwest of the Philippine-occupied Pag-Asa Island. It is claimed by Vietnam, Taiwan, and the Philippines.

Twenty years later, China took another slice of “salami” when she grabbed Scarborough Shoal, a Philippine territory about 124 miles west of Luzon Island.

Fiery Cross Reef

Fiery Cross Reef

In 2013, China started reclaiming seven reefs in the Spratly Islands. In one of them, Fiery Cross Reef, China built a runway that could accommodate China’s largest aircraft. Recently, it was reported in the news that China is about to start building a larger runway on Subi Reef. Speculation is also rife that she would build an air and naval base on Scarborough Shoal. It could then be used as a forward operating base when China is ready to break out of the First Island Chain (also known as Inner Island Chain) through the Bashi Channel, a narrow strait between Taiwan and the island of Luzon, that is a major maritime lane for goods destined for Japan. The island chain is a natural land formation that consists of Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Vietnam. It is the U.S.’s first line of defense against Chinese expansion.

And once China has broken through the Bashi Channel into the Western Pacific, she would be in a position to attack the U.S. mainland with her long-range submarine-launched nuclear ballistic missiles. No American city would be safe from such attacks. To the American military planners, this is not an acceptable scenario. But this has been a Chinese dream for the past three decades.

Chinese Dream

Admiral Liu Hiaqing

Admiral Liu Hiaqing

In 1982, Chinese Admiral Liu Huaqing, the former commander of the PLA Navy and the mastermind of China’s modern naval strategy, said that it would be necessary for China to control the First and Second Island Chains by 2010 and 2020, respectively. The PLA Navy must be ready to challenge US domination over the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean in 2040. To date, China has yet to accomplish taking control of the East and South China Seas. However, the flurry of land reclamation that China is doing in the South China Sea (SCS) would allow her to catch up with Admiral Liu’s timetable.

The Second Island Chain (also known as Outer Island Chain), which runs from Japan through Guam, Marianas Islands, and New Guinea, is the U.S.’s second line of defense. It is no surprise then that the U.S.’s “Pivot to Asia” strategy calls for the deployment of 60% of America’s naval and air forces to the Indo-Asia Pacific region by 2020 to counter Chinese incursion into the Western Pacific waters.

However, with China building artificial islands – and militarizing them — in the SCS, tension is building up between the U.S. and China over China’s reclamation projects. And this is where the U.S. drew the line.

Nine-dash line

Nine-dash line

Nine-dash line

Recently, to China’s surprise, the U.S.’s top diplomat for East Asia, Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel, made it clear that the U.S. is not neutral when it comes to following international law in the SCS and “will come down forcefully to ensure that all parties adhere to the rules.” He clarified that the U.S. “neutrality” in the SCS only extended to the competing claims and not the way in which the disputes were resolved. In my opinion, his clarification seems to suggest that China should participate in the United Nations’ arbitral tribunal that is hearing the Philippines’ assertion before the body that China’s “nine-dash line” is not valid. China’s refusal to participate in the arbitration seems to indicate that she would go to war – if need be — to protect her “indisputable sovereignty” over the SCS.

At the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Foreign Ministers meeting in Kuala Lampur last August 5, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told the gathering: “Freedom of navigation and overflight are among the essential pillars of worldwide maritime law.” He then slammed China for building facilities for “military purposes” on the artificial islands, which has raised tensions among the other claimant states. However, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi claimed that the land reclamation has “already stopped.” But what Wang didn’t say was that construction of fortifications and buildings is now in full swing.

Arms race

U.S. Carrier battle group.

U.S. Carrier battle group.

A few days after Wang’s misleading claim, U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Scott Swift told the media: “The ‘angst’ China has generated has led East Asian nations from Australia to Japan to fortify their own defenses and also to seek much deeper US military engagement.” Indeed, China’s militarization of the SCS has started an arms race among her neighbors: Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and Vietnam, and Australia.

Swift also said that his “Pacific Fleet is larger and more powerful than any national navy outside the US, comprising five aircraft carrier groups, 200 ships and submarines, 2000 aircraft and a quarter of a million sailors and marines. The fleet currently accounts for about half of all US naval assets, moving to 60 per cent.”

Which begs the question: How would China perform in a carrier battle with the U.S.? An article published in Want China Times last August 7 said: “Konstantin Sivkov, a Russian defense analyst, said in his piece written for Moscow-based Military Parade that even as China speeds up the development of its first domestic aircraft carrier, it would still be unable to defeat the United States in a future carrier battle.

China's Liaoning  battle group.

China’s Liaoning battle group.

“The Russian expert also said that China’s air defense missiles can only intercept between four and five US anti-ship missiles during the first round of the fight. Under US electronic attack, the capability of Chinese air defense systems would drop to between 30% and 70%. In this scenario, the Liaoning would be able to intercept probably no more than three American anti-ship missiles in a confrontation.

“The primary weapon systems of the Liaoning against a US aircraft carrier is the YJ-83K anti-ship missile. Sivkov said that China is unlikely to win a carrier battle against the United States with its current warship qualifications. While US destroyers can fire between 30-40 long-range anti-ship missiles against a Chinese carrier battle group 600 kilometers away, the PLA Navy’s surface combat vessels can only fire 30.

“In a direct confrontation with the US Navy, the chances of the Liaoning not being hit by a US anti-ship missile is only between 20% and 30%. The chances of China bringing serious damage to a US carrier is only between 7% and 15%. Meanwhile, China will lose twice or perhaps even four times the warships, which the United States would. Sivkov said that it is impossible for the PLA Navy to win a carrier battle with the US in near future.”

So, who is afraid of China?

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Aquino-endorse-RoxasFinally, Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay has an opposition in the race to Malacanang. With President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III’s “anointment” of Interior and Local Government Manuel “Mar” Roxas as the Liberal Party’s presidential candidate in next year’s elections, Roxas will give Binay a run for his money.

Although polls show that Roxas is far behind Binay and Sen. Grace Poe in the latest SWS and Pulse Asia surveys, it’s anybody’s guess who would eventually be elected to the presidency in May 2016. But Binay — who has been in “campaign” mode since he was elected vice president in 2010 — carries a lot of excess baggage that has made a lot of people wonder if they want another corrupt person to occupy Malacanang.

Binay-nooseHis failure to face the Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee investigating allegations of massive corruption practices that also involved his wife and children, has cast a dark shadow of a doubt on his honesty and integrity. As someone once said, “Once corrupt, always corrupt,” Binay faces a strong challenge from Roxas who never had any charges of corruption against him in the years that he’s been in public service. Indeed, the stark contrast between them could lead people to choose between good and evil. And if that were the case, Binay’s presidential run would be doomed to perdition.

But it’s too early to speculate or predict who would eventually win. And there are still many known unknowns as well as the unknown unknowns that could change the direction of the campaign.

Knowing the unknown

Grace Poe and Chiz Escudero

Grace Poe and Chiz Escudero

One known unknown is Sen. Grace Poe. It is known that she has ambitions to run for higher office – president or vice president – but the unknown is that she has yet to decide which to pursue. Another known unknown is Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero, who made known that he’d like to run for vice president.

Poe had indicated several times in the past that if she were going to run for president, she would like Escudero to be her running mate. Escudero had indicated that he’d go along with that.

But on July 30, it was reported in the news that Poe and Escudero “are now open to a possible candidacy in 2016 without each other.” Poe said that their political plans are not dependent on each other, saying that Escudero may run in 2016 without her, and vice-versa. Escudero was in agreement, saying that the two of them are now going through different decision-making processes individually. Now, that is a game changer… in a big, big way! It was a sad denouement to a vibrant “political union” of two promising leaders.

Enter the heavyweights

Manny Villar and Danding Cojuangco

Manny Villar and Danding Cojuangco

In my opinion, there are a couple of reasons why they separated. First, just a week prior to their announcement of going separate ways, a news report said: “Billionaires Eduardo ‘Danding’ Cojuangco Jr. and Manuel ‘Manny’ Villar are forming a tactical alliance to support the run for President and Vice President of Senators Grace Poe and Francis ‘Chiz’ Escudero in next year’s elections.”

If this tactical alliance materializes, this could be seen as a “Third Force” merging the resources and political capital of Villar’s Nacionalista Party (NP) and Cojuangco’s Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC). The two parties have wide political network with a combined strength of seven senators, 67 representatives, 21 governors, and 22 city mayors.

But adopting two independents to be the standard bearers of two of the major political parties is easier said than done. Right after the NP and NPC’s announcement of supporting the Poe-Escudero tandem, Sen. Cynthia Villar – Manny’s wife – denied that the NP and the NPC were backing a Poe-Escudero tandem.

And just after Cynthia’s denial, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, an NP member, also denied that the NP is forming a tactical alliance with NPC. Trillanes, who had declared his plan to run for vice president next year, said that the tactical alliance in question was just Escudero’s “propaganda play.” He said that the NP might carry or adopt Poe but definitely not Escudero.

Two other Nacionalista senators, Bongbong Marcos and Alan Peter Cayetano, are rumored to be eyeing the vice presidential slot in the NP slate. Which means that if Poe decides to run for president under the NP banner, her running mate would either be Trillanes, Marcos or Cayetano. A week later Poe and Escudero announced their “separation.”

Enter the “anointed”

Escudero, Aquino, and Poe

Escudero, Aquino, and Poe

On July 20 Aquino met one-on-one with Poe for the last time for five hours. They met three times before and sometimes Escudero was included in their meetings. It became obvious that Aquino’s agenda was to convince Poe to be Roxas’ vice presidential running mate. But Aquino failed to convince her. Poe left the meeting thinking that it’s over.

Last July 31 at a gathering of Liberal Party (LP) members, allies, and supporters at the Club Filipino, Aquino announced his endorsement of Roxas as the LP’s standard bearer. But no sooner had Aquino announced his endorsement than word was out that Poe remains the LP members’ top choice as Roxas’ running mate. It was also reported in the news that Aquino and several LP stalwarts are keeping the door wide open for Poe to join the LP team as Roxas’ running mate.

Poe’s dilemma

Battle Royale: Mar Roxas, Jejomar Binay, and Grace Poe

Battle Royale: Mar Roxas, Jejomar Binay, and Grace Poe

Now, Poe has to decide whether to run for president under an NP-NPC “Third Force” or as Roxas’ vice presidential running mate. Many people believe that she should not run for president. If she ran for president, her lack of experience would be an impediment that Binay could use against her on the campaign trail. There is also the issue of her citizenship and residency that Binay’s supporters have been barking about.

On the other hand, if she decides to run for vice president, she’d only be 47 years old. And when she runs for president in 2022, she’d only be 53 years old. By that time she would have enough experience to make a run for the presidency… and win.

Let’s assume that Poe decides to run for president under an NP-NPC “Third Force.” If so, it could be a Poe-Trillanes, Poe-Marcos or Poe-Cayetano tandem. With billionaires Manny Villar, Danding Cojuangco, and a few other mega-donors bankrolling their campaign, Poe has an excellent chance of winning.

In a three-way battle royale among Binay, Roxas and Poe, in my opinion Roxas doesn’t stand a chance. He’d most likely finish last. The contest would really be between Binay and Poe. It’s going to be a very close fight. Binay has the money and he claims that he has the experience. But that’s debatable. You can’t compare the experience of a city mayor to that of the President of the Philippines. But his biggest problem would be the perception that he is corrupt. Some say that he would be more corrupt than Marcos, Estrada, and Arroyo rolled into one. That may be exaggerated but that is enough for people to doubt his integrity. He is also accused of being pro-China. With the strong anti-China sentiment in the Philippines because of the Spratly disputes, this could be a big problem for Binay, who has been referred to in the social media as a “Manchurian candidate.” Poe, on the other hand, has unquestioned integrity. Her performance as a senator, short as it may be, shows that she is mature for the job. Her “newness” would be a big plus for her because a lot of the people are sick and tired of the corruption that has been going on with the traditional politicians. Barring election cheating, Poe will win the election.

Is a three-way battle royale in the offing?

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)