Several weeks back in February, The Manila Times’ columnists had lunch with the Vice President. While we were waiting, a tour of the infamous Coconut Palace was made.
Interestingly, the place has been converted into the official residence of the Vice President.
The Coconut Palace remains an architectural wonder and for those interested in history, the place has several art works that truly represents the Filipino pride.
The lunch was not your typical catered gathering. The food warmers were on your foil food containers placed on food holders. There was the famous pancit of the Vice together with three viands and rice. Dessert was halo-halo. Nothing ostentatious there and truly Pinoy.
There were twenty or more columnists and we were around a huge, massive wood table placed in the center of the meeting hall. As the conversation progressed, I observed the Vice and his demeanor was just like when he was a mayor. Not much has changed. Still, the soft and fading voice was there, despite the microphone (we were straining to hear his words) but the handgrip was firm and solid. He would giggle one time and break into a smile then be focused and direct in responding to questions propounded. The questions covered the full spectrum from his 2016 plans, running mate, housing, foreign relations, peace process, relationship with President Aquino III, work ethic and a lot more.
My takeaways from the meeting are: the Vice President is a loyal ally of the President; if he is needed by the President, he will be there; the Vice President is valued by the President (VP got his official residence, an increased budget for the OVP; given the housing portfolio as well as point person for OFW concerns, among others); the Vice President plays a major and vital role in the remaining 841 days of the Aquino Presidency; the economy is important to him that is why he wants an economist for his ticket but he will concentrate on jobs and more inclusive growth; the VP is ready and anything is possible in politics.
In my book, Binay is ahead of everyone positioning for 2016. He has maintained a safe but watchful eye on the developments at the national and local levels. He does his job. He has several key people in his team that have upped the organization and mobilization and I heard this is up to the community level already. He said that PDP-Laban could be split, giving PDP to Sen. Koko Pimentel and holding on to Laban. That decision tells you how good a strategist the VP is. It was a wise move (Laban has history and PDP brand is really Pimentel’s) and talks of launching a political party by Independence Day 2014 is a political statement that would redefine the political landscape before the 2nd to the last SONA of the President. Binay is all about timing but then again, his taking the cudgels for Sen. Jinggoy Estrada and Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile is nothing surprising. People who understand measured capacity would know. Those who are against the VP kept hammering on corruption issues, admittedly, the weakest spot in his arsenal. Add to that the Dasma episode of Makati Mayor Junjun; the issue on political dynasty and the dismissed-recently revived corruption case against the VP’s wife. But then again, with Binay, governance has not been an issue.
At the rate the political pinball is hitting the so-called Three Kings of May 2013, things will heat up early and tandems will be tested. As I said, anything is possible in politics, just like a JOMAR is possible. Yes, Juan, a Binay-Roxas team up. Again, this is not something I came up with but all the columnists who attended the lunch heard it. My initial reaction was a raised eyebrow. I guess even as I was farthest from the VP, he probably saw my body reaction and like a sage added, “anything is possible.” Indeed, he speaks from experience.
Come to think of it. Names have been bandied around over the weekend. Who came up with such pairings is par for the course. Why release it to media this early is all about strategy. Even the Cayetano reverie about preparing, coming out with ads this early and the like are all part and parcel of testing the waters. There was the Binay-MVP (really a Php5 Billion donation???) initial buzz. But seriously, why would a sitting Vice President team up with a businessman who is into highly regulated utilities? Then another pitch: a Binay-Meloto, Mar-Chiz, Cayetano-Trillanes. Who ever authored those pairings clearly had one thing in mind: the negatives of the VP. Binay must be that strong to move early, to float tandems and glaringly present the contrast.
Now there are other pairings not being mentioned, such as the Ping-Poe (just like the game pingpong) and BongBong-Bong and the mad rush to secure a yes from the Batangas governor. Some are saying the PDAF has damaged Sen. Bong Revilla and Sen. Jinggoy Estrada. I would like to hold any decision on that because the whole charade is not over.
Indeed, the fight is for the VP if one is to accept that Binay has it for good measure. A friend asked, what about a Binay-Poe?
Any post Aquino II scenario would need the Binay card factored in. The issue on continuity is something Binay will have to address, soon and in clear and crystal terms.
With a JOMAR, one fuses the two opposing sides of the Aquino Presidency, the Balay and the Samar. BSA3 will play an important role in getting the two sides to work together to ensure his “legacy” lives on. If a JOMAR is hammered strongly, that’s a plus 12 years of continuity, assuming BSA3 can get the bulls by their horns.
But then again, it is too early to say how negotiations will shape the tickets. Even a statesman, seasoned and accomplished business manager like Sonny Belmonte can throw a wrench to the best-laid plans.
The wild cards to a successful run by Binay come 2016 are: implosion from his teams composed of varied colors and various influences; an Erap run and a four to five-cornered fight for the presidency. I will break these down in another column.
Too early? Nope, just right. Do I hear a People’s Draft?