MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 23 Oct) – With the beating that Vice President Jejomar Binay has gone through courtesy of the ongoing Senate probe into his alleged ill-gotten wealth, it would not be a surprise if President Benigno S. Aquino III ousted him as national housing czar. But Aquino allowed Binay to remain in his post – at least, until this writing – and that should create questions what the President is contemplating at this stage of the investigation, which is primarily a prequel to the 2016 elections.
Go figure. Binay is not even a member of the ruling Liberal Party, or at least of a party that belongs to the majority coalition. He leads the United Nationalist Alliance, and barring obstacles other than the exposé of his and his family members’ purported wrongdoings as public officials, he will be the opposition standard bearer in 2016. Only one thing could have made Aquino hesitate to remove the vice president from the Cabinet – deference to Binay’s loyalty to Aquino’s late president-mother, Corazon C. Aquino.
Go figure this too. With less than two years left before the next presidential elections, the administration does not have a visible candidate yet. Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas is the Liberal Party’s presumptive bet. Yet until now Aquino remains noncommittal to endorsing him, apparently because the surveys don’t match the enthusiasm of the secretary’s cheering squad.
Blame Roxas’ sloppy PR work. Blame his general blandness. Or better yet, blame his loss to Binay in 2010 as the culprit for his poor showing in surveys even after his rival’s rating also went down. Roxas’ standing as a pretender to Malacañang has improved, but it’s not as significant as his camp might have wished it to be as a result of the Senate investigation involving the Binay family.
It’s interesting to see how Binay would fare in a future survey now that he is being named as the owner of a 350-hectare estate in Batangas. Add to that the result of a survey showing that 80 percent of the respondents wanted him to face the Senate and answer the allegations. Obviously feeling the heat now, the vice president has declared he would do so if the hearings were conducted by the blue ribbon committee itself, not the sub-committee presided by Senator Koko Pimentel. Also, he sought an audience with Aquino to implore him to ask the Senate to go slow on him. At least, that’s what Aquino told the media.
How the investigation into the 350-hectare property unfolds in the coming days – and whether Binay will face his accusers or not at the Senate – could be crucial to his presidential ambition. If Senator Alan Peter Cayetano and company can obtain conclusive evidence that it really belongs to Binay, such development might erode his chances further. If not, his rating will possibly remain unchanged, bad news for Cayetano, Roxas and other presidential hopefuls.
Until then, Aquino will have to wait before declaring his plans for 2016.
Roxas too will have to rein in his eagerness – just like what he’s doing now amid the trouble bugging Binay – and concentrate on cementing his base at the local level. Lucky guy, this Roxas. Congress is set to give his office P21 billion for this under the 2015 national budget. The amount makes the average presidential campaign kitty a pittance. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)