MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/18 April) – The next presidential election is still four years away. Next year’s midterm election however will be pivotal for anybody who wishes to run for president in 2016. Vice President Jejomar, who has publicly declared his intention to run for the highest post, has started his own preparations by initiating an alliance which is fast shaping up as a major opposition bloc despite denials he has parted ways with President Benigno S. Aquino III.

Binay, presumptive leader of the United Nationalist Alliance or UNA, is just waiting for Malacañang to announce who will carry the flag for the administration Liberal Party. It seems the Palace is biding its time. It is not even testing the waters but simply standing on the shore keeping a keen watch on movements on the horizon.

Just because he has limited his response to issuing calibrated statements on the noise in the emerging opposition camp does not mean that Aquino is sitting idly by. The day of reckoning is too distant to even think of how to deal a final blow. He knows that the constantly shifting “loyalties” – in short, opportunism – of our politicians makes it difficult to predict with absolute certainty the final alignment of forces.

Another factor that may have prevented Aquino from taking UNA’s bait is the absence of a strong presidential contender within the LP.

Communication and Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas is still smarting from his loss to Binay in 2010, although he had questioned the result and filed a protest before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal. No one else within the party can give Binay a respectable fight if elections were held today. In fact, the vice president has gone around a lot, using as official cover his position as housing czar.

If Roxas wants to regain lost political ground, the best way is to run again for the Senate next year and mount the kind of campaign that enabled him to land on top in 2004. His current Cabinet post is not the ideal launching pad for the presidency. Unlike, say, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the DOTC hardly rings a bell to the masses, although it allows him to rub elbows with big business.

Moreover, Binay’s position in the Cabinet, though not as prestigious as Roxas’, gives Mr. “Sa Makati” a direct line to the lower classes.

But Roxas faces a dilemma: If he runs next year, it would mean abandoning his protest at the PET and conceding the vice presidency to Binay. Worse, he may not fare good enough in the Senate race for at least two reasons – the presence of other strong candidates like reelectionists Francis Escudero and Loren Legarda, and the stigma of his having lost in the bigger battle.

For now, the LP can only wish that UNA would implode from having to accommodate a cacophony of interests and bizarre bedfellows like Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and forced-to-resign senator Juan Miguel Zubiri. (H. Marcos C. Mordeno writes mainly on the environment, human rights and politics. He can be reached at