MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/9 June) – Now it can be said with finality. Sen. Benigno Aquino III and Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay won as President and Vice President, respectively. Aquino, son of the late President Corazon C. Aquino, will govern until June 30, 2016 with someone who ran under another party as his “spare tire,” as a former American vice president would call himself.
How Aquino will relate with Binay is worth watching. For unlike in the United States where the vice president remains largely in the background, this has not had been the case in the Philippines. Tradition dictates the Chief Executive to confer on the second highest official of the land an aura of importance, usually by giving him a Cabinet post. Tita Cory gave the late Vice President Salvador Laurel the plum foreign affairs portfolio. She replaced him, though, when their differences became irreconcilable.
Presumably, Aquino faces the dilemma of how to treat Binay vis-à-vis his plans, if any, for the political future of his star-crossed running mate, Sen. Manuel Roxas II. The incoming vice president was always loyal to Cory. But he (Aquino) cannot just sideline the outgoing senator without risking a mutiny by sections of the Liberal Party loyal to or supportive of Roxas.
These elements will have second thoughts, however, about challenging Aquino’s crucial decisions owing to his popularity at the moment. The most that they can do is pressure Aquino into delegating a menial job to Binay, one that will render him inconsequential. Nonetheless, they will find it hard to outmaneuver Binay whose shrewdness in organizing and calculating moves hit Roxas like a thunderbolt.
Meanwhile, Roxas will try to stage a comeback. He will exploit his links with Malacañang – perhaps get an important Cabinet position – and reassert his leadership in the LP. The midterm elections in 2013 will give him a chance to return to the Senate and revive a once prominent political stature spoiled by an upset loss in the hands of an underdog.
Yet despite Aquino’s nominal closeness to Roxas as a party mate, he also cannot ignore the Noy-Bi (Noynoy-Binay) elements some of whom are reportedly his relatives on the Cojuangco side. In the squabble for loot that has always characterized post-election politics in this country this clique might also try to prevent Roxas from getting more concessions than he deserves. Allowing him to get what he wants might work against them in the future, when Roxas shall have the means and power to strike back at those who he thinks betrayed him.
The 2013 polls will also determine Roxas’ chances in 2016, i.e., if he decides to pursue his political ambition, with or without Aquino’s support. But Sen. Francis Escudero, the silent operator who engineered the Noy-Bi cabal and Binay’s last-minute, devastating blitz against the LP’s vice presidential bet and a re-electionist by then, is expected to again derail his plan. At this stage, Escudero knows it sounds unrealistic to prevent Roxas from winning another term as senator. He has to be content with frustrating Mr. Palengke’s effort to land on the top spot like he did in 2004 to the tune of at least 100 million pesos.
This observer believes that regardless of Roxas’ would-be performance in 2013, his defeat in this year’s polls will leave a scar on his image. Nobody likes a loser. He should learn a lesson or two from Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago who placed second in the 1992 presidential elections and ran again for the same position in 1998, only to suffer a bigger loss. Even his colleagues in the LP might already be aware of the consequences of his losing to an underrated neophyte in a contest for a national position. They themselves will have second thoughts on entertaining his plan for a shot at the Palace especially if his rival will again be Binay – or maybe Escudero.
Will his defeat write finis to Roxas’ marred political ambition?
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)