MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/08 February) – Aside from being a supposed showcase of the colorful cultures of Bukidnon’s seven tribes, Kaamulan has also served as a barometer of the current political leanings of the province’s foremost kingpin, Vice Governor Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr.
For this year’s commemoration of Bukidnon’s foundation day on March 10, also officially the last day of the Kaamulan, the province has invited Vice President Jejomar Binay as guest of honor. Like in previous years, the invitation to the second highest official of the land is not just for the sake of having a national figure grace the province’s founding anniversary; it gives a hint of where Zubiri wishes to align himself in 2013 – and possibly, in 2016 too.
The likes of Senators Manuel Villar and Loren Legarda had also been guests of honor in past Kaamulan celebrations, at a time when they appeared to be strong contenders for the presidency. Villar came in 2008, Legarda in 2009, after the former was implicated in the controversial C-5 road project that reportedly benefited one of his real estate development ventures.
For the time being flirting with Binay’s camp is a good choice. Zubiri’s long-time ally, former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, has been immobilized by the criminal charges against her. With her party Lakas-Kampi now torn apart by internal bickering, it will only be a matter of time before it finally disintegrates.
Ever the astute politician, Zubiri has formed a local party, Paglaum (Hope), maybe to keep allies in the province from seeking new affiliations elsewhere, most notably the camp of Senator Teofisto Guingona who belongs to the administration Liberal Party.
By cozying up to Binay, Zubiri probably hopes that his son, resigned senator Juan Miguel F. Zubiri, can have a slot in the vice president’s senatorial slate – if he decides to field one. For sure, Arroyo will not gamble her resources by fielding her own senatorial slate which she knows will lose anyway especially since her election operators are no longer around to do the old, dirty trick of manipulating results.
That leaves the younger Zubiri a potential orphan in 2013. Aiming to win as an independent is, as the Tagalogs would say, “suntok sa buwan” or next to impossible. Binay, who is silently building up his machinery for 2016, may be willing enough to welcome him into his fold.
In exchange, the elder Zubiri will assure Binay that he has the solid backing of Bukidnon’s officialdom, although the same assurance did not translate into a win for his presidential candidate in the province in 2010. Perhaps it was due to his flip-flopping decision on who to support. At one time, he endorsed Villar, and the next minute he declared support for Gilbert Teodoro. Still later, he would switch back to Villar.
I can already foresee the scenario on stage come March 10: The vice governor will introduce Binay as the next president with Bukidnon’s mayors and other officials applauding in the background. That would be picture perfect for Zubiri. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at email@example.com)