By Perry Diaz
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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?