President B. S. Aquino 3rd is all but psychologically defeated. He can not hold on to the presidency much longer, but he does not want to go to jail for the 44 Philippine National Police-Special Action Force commandos who perished at the January 25 Mamasapano, Maguindanao massacre, and other unpunished crimes. So he needs an exit plan. This includes, among other things, the destruction of Vice President Jejomar C. Binay.
Sometime last year, Aquino’s favorite uncle-in-law Len Oreta, the businessman-husband of Ninoy Aquino’s younger sister and former senator Tessie Aquino Oreta, was reported to have approached Sultan Ibrahim Ismael of Johor to arrange for PNoy’s possible asylum in that southern Islamic state of peninsular Malaysia. Aquino and the Sultan, who is a couple of years older, are said to be second-generation friends, their late fathers having been friends in their time. They share some common interests, like guns, motorcycles and fast cars, and how to handle Muslim Mindanao and the Philippine Sabah claim.
The Sultan was reportedly excited about the proposal. But Aquino’s political mentors have since come up with a better plan that would allow Aquino to ride the storm and withdraw at his own pace, after picking his own successor. This appears to be the focus of his survival-planning now. However, it is premised on doing away with his loyal friend Jojo Binay. Binay has to be removed as Vice President and as a prospective candidate for the projected 2016 presidential elections, and replaced by either Senate President Frank Drilon or Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. of the House of Representatives.
President Drilon with VP Belmonte or vice-versa
Aquino could then step down, and allow his new Vice President to take over. If that happens to be Drilon, then he could appoint Belmonte as his Vice President later; if it happens to be Belmonte, then he could appoint Drilon. Thus both Drilon and Belmonte, not just the one or the other, could benefit from the scenario, if the execution is successful. This increases the stakes, the number of players involved, and the intensity of the play, amid calls for Aquino to step down. It is a strategic move, not a mere diversionary propaganda tactic, which shifts the eye of the storm from Aquino to Binay.
Under the Constitution, whenever the office of the Vice President falls vacant during the term for which he was elected, the President shall nominate a Vice President from among the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives who shall assume office upon confirmation by a majority vote of all members of both Houses of the Congress, voting separately. This happened in 2001 when Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo succeeded then-President Joseph Ejercito Estrada, the current mayor of Manila, who was ousted in a judicially assisted coup after his botched Senate impeachment trial. GMA chose Sen. Teofisto Guingona, Jr., then Senate minority leader, to succeed her as Vice President.
Guingona served as Vice President and concurrently Secretary of Foreign Affairs until 2004, when he was succeeded by TV broadcaster Noli de Castro, who has since returned to broadcasting.
How Malacañang intends to force Binay out still remains a secret. It will not be a piece of cake. Binay is a political street fighter and no pushover. Malacañang should know this by now. But Aquino has all the power and resources at his command, and as shown in the Corona impeachment and removal, and the jailing of the three opposition senators, who had helped him convict Corona, he will not hesitate to use them for his own ends. The current effort to suspend Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr. and take control of the financial district is obviously just an opening gambit.
Aquino regime determined to control Makati
The Court of Appeals has temporarily restrained the suspension order for 60 days. But the Ombudsman and the Secretary of Justice have opined that the TRO was served too late, prompting the Department of Interior and Local Government to defy the court order.
Together with the use of close to a thousand policemen to serve the suspension order, this defiance showed how determined the regime is to gain control of the city, which the Binays have run continuously for the last 29 years.
I first wrote about this story as early as 2013, long before Binay’s political enemies took the first step against him in broad daylight. I had tried to sketch out what Binay’s enemies would to do to him before they took off their gloves inside the Senate. First, they would attack his wife Dr. Elenita Binay in connection with some old transactions when she was city mayor. Then the VP himself on some similarly old mayoralty business. Then Mayor ‘Junjun’ Binay, in order to humiliate him in the Senate and drive him out of City Hall, if they could. If necessary, they would come up with some Corona-type impeachment and trial of the Vice President. But for the last part, this is exactly what has happened, except that we do not know whether or not they are reserving the best part for last.
The anti-Binay plot was said to have been put together in a series of small meetings presided by Aquino himself, for the benefit of DILG Secretary Mar Roxas, whom Binay had defeated in the controversial 2010 automated elections and who is dying to have another crack at the office. So serious was the planning, sources said, that Aquino decided to exclude Roxas from the meetings, and brought in his elder sister Maria Lourdes (Ria) Ojeda, who reputedly has a good head, better than her brother’s. Some of the meetings were reportedly held in Malacañang, others inside the boardroom of a politically friendly conglomerate at Ortigas Center.
The ultimate objective was to make it impossible for Binay, who has been leading all the paid propaganda surveys until now, to “file his certificate of candidacy” when the time comes. But they calculated “removing” him not earlier than the last quarter of 2015 with Aquino still on the saddle. They did not count on anything happening like the Mamasapano massacre.
Plan accelerated to finish VP this Lenten season
With Aquino now about to fall from the saddle, because of his criminal accountability in the Mamasapano affair, some of his closest advisers apparently thought the only way to save him and his regime would be to reconfigure the political leadership to give Aquino some breathing space and the anti-Aquino crowd a new “Ecce homo” to focus their attention. Thus from the earlier deadline of last quarter of this year, they have accelerated their timetable to this Lenten season.
Malacañang’s allies will now do everything to “finish” Binay while trying to save Aquino from his crime which cries to the heavens for justice. If we care enough for what is just and fair, even if we may not be so eager to see Binay running in an absurd 2016 repeat of the 2010 and 2013 elections, we will have to condemn what they are trying to do to him. It is simply not fair.
But we cannot confuse this with the real crises and scandals of the nation, which now lies in extremis. Certainly we need an exemplary leader to lead us from the moral sewer where Aquino has taken us; but not only have we run out of men and women of quality from whom to choose such a one, we have also lost the very process by which we could freely and intelligently choose. Whether or not we succeed in giving Aquino the boot, it is our right and our duty to hope that our next leader after him would be his exact antithesis—a morally upright and just man who will have worked his way to qualify for the office, who has prayed enough to be endowed with Solomon’s “listening heart,” and who has the humility to learn from his own mistakes and from the wisdom of others.
But we have no right or duty to imagine that such a leader would come to us if we do not even have the will to make a criminally accountable president answer for his crimes, and if we do not even insist that before we talk of choosing someone to lead us, we should first make sure that the constitutional order works, and that we could assume without question the honesty, integrity, fairness and credibility of the choosing process. I continue to hope that in fighting for his right to run in the next elections, the Vice President will have the courage to declare that he is interested in running only if, as a precondition to the conduct of the next elections, the Commission on Elections would be abolished or overhauled, Smartmatic banned from our electoral premises, and the rigged PCOS machine publicly incinerated.