LAWYER Harry Roque has a very legitimate fear. That Mr. Aquino and his legal posse are setting the ground for a “legal coup” which involves the following:
• Jailing Mr. Binay on corruption charges
• Disqualifying Grace Poe on citizenship grounds
Then, the last job, this time to be handled by Mr. Aquino’s press flacks, is to demonize Senator Santiago and question her fitness (physical and in the others) to be president. Meanwhile, the window for the meandering Digong Duterte to run for president via the PDP-Laban nomination would have shuttered for good.
Accomplished, the three operations will set the stage for the coronation of Mr. Roxas, the anointed, who despite all the nonstop positive plays from the mainstream media, is struggling to get traction as a presidential candidate. With the winnowing job done, he will be competing against a bunch of non-entities, an easy path to victory. At least, that is the expected outcome of the “legal coup” and the demolition job on Senator Santiago.
But would that exactly lead to the coronation of the uncompetitive Mr. Roxas? Or, is it misplaced optimism? Before we come to that, let us first raise the reasons behind the fear of Mr. Roque.
The LP anointed, Mr. Roxas, has been in politics for so long that voters have more or less a firm view of him. He can be senator but can’t win in a competitive presidential race. The reason Mr. Roxas gave way to Mr. Aquino in 2010 was more on the grounds of non-electability than magnanimity of character. The underfunded Mr. Estrada, fresh from jail, would have won the 2010 election without doubt, had the LP opted for Mr. Roxas and not the incumbent president. Mr. Roxas is Mr. Aquino’s choice as successor. Even within his circles, there are great doubts on the anointed’s ability to win in a fair election.
When people see Mr. Roxas, they can see through him, a heartless and cold technocrat who would demolish what is left of the welfare state. There is a voting base that would elect him to the Senate of 12 choices but not enough to win an ultra-competitive presidential contest. He tries to pretend that he understands the aggrieved but his straight talk on the income tax reduction proposal, the plight of the Yolanda victims and his tanim-bala reaction (personal responsibility that is straight out of Mitt Romney) are classic quips on technocratic cruelty.
With four major candidates in contention (Roxas, Binay, Poe and Santiago), the best case scenario for Roxas is getting 24 percent of the votes just like the voting percentage of Mr. Ramos in 1992, just enough for a small margin. But the polling “bumps” expected from his positive media, the presidential endorsement and his day job as caretaker of the republic have not materialized and Mr. Aquino and his Palace aides are worried sick.
They have, at this point, silently acknowledged the uninspiring run of Mr. Roxas and they have to adjust to the grim circumstances. How? By staging a “ legal coup” as defined by Mr. Roque.
The problems inherently built in a “ legal coup” are two and the two would be both ugly to the No-Ro (Aquino – Roxas) Bros. Okay, you can say that No-Ro also means No to Roxas.
A legal coup and a demolition job on Senator Santiago may very well backfire. With Mr. Binay in jail and with Ms. Poe disqualified, they can be both bomb-throwers out of the presidential race but potent anti-Roxas campaigners. They can rally their supporters behind Senator Santiago, whose feisty campaigning style and lethal political polemics are enough to drown out the timid “daang matuwid” iterations of Mr. Roxas in the presidential debates.
Mr. Roxas can’t debate Senator Santiago. With her vast intellect, her predisposition to quote the classics, her supreme belief that nobody in the country is her intellectual equal, Senator Santiago would find the task of dismissing Mr. Roxas in debates as easy as swatting flies.
With the supporters of the disqualified Poe and Binay at her back, Senator Santiago will easily beat Mr. Roxas.
The second scenario is more terrifying – a possible EDSA 4.
Filipinos may be timid and passive on their politics but there is one thing they loath and there is an apt Tagalog term for it – panlalamang.
A jailed Mr. Binay and a disqualified Ms. Poe will not be acceptable. It may lead to a mass protest at EDSA. Religious and civic groups disgruntled with the Aquino government may join in. What about forces from the Right and the Left?
That would be a scary scenario and the chaos that it would turn out would set back the country – politically and economically – for 50 years.
A “ legal coup” is indeed tempting as Mr. Roque has said.
But if there is any sliver of temperance and sobriety left in the Aquino circles, the better option is this: Don’t.