In what was billed as “a working lunch” with columnists and the top honchos of The Manila Times at the Coconut Palace last Thursday, Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay admitted that he had always dreamt of becoming president but added that things might change and so he could not categorically say that he would run for the post in 2015. Still, he readily answered our questions about what he would do if he were elected president.
Binay said there’ll be an easing of tension with China even if the conflicting claims over the West Philippine Sea will be pursued. This is because he said he favors joint exploration of the contested areas, which is also the position of China, and the setting aside of questions of sovereignty.
Many nationalists want the country to stress its claim over the West Philippine Sea. President Benigno Simeon Aquino 3rd even said that Filipinos would be willing to defend their territory to the last drop of their blood. The stand of the Veep shows that there would be no such belligerency if he were in power. Why? Because despite the Mutual Defense Treaty, there’s no iron-clad guarantee that the United States would come to our succor if China invades us.
When asked how he could ensure that economic gains would trickle down to the masses, he answered that he’ll push for the amendment of the Constitution to allow foreigners to own more than a 40-percent equity in a corporation, including those engaged in mining. He also favors foreigners to own land. This would attract more foreign investments and the increased economic activity would create jobs and reduce unemployment.
Many, including me, agree that this limitation in the Constitution is the main reason why foreign investments have not been entering our country, unlike our neighbors that have no such restrictions on foreign investors. As regards land, well, foreigners can’t bring the land with them to their native land. Many Filipinos own land and houses in the United States and in other countries, and we can’t question the nationalism of the citizens of those other countries.
I was disappointed; however, to hear the Vice President stress that amendments of the Constitution will be limited to its economic provisions. I’ve been hoping to hear from him a call for a shift to a federal-parliamentary form of government. I’ve been disappointed with our highly centralized form of government and I believe that the impetus on “Imperial Manila” has been stifling the progress of many regions.
Our VP said he feared a constant change in government once we shift to a parliamentary form of government. He contended that the stability of a government should not be decided by a handful of lawmakers who might not even represent majority of the thinking of the populace.
This stand convinced me that he has already distanced himself from the PDP-Laban, once called the only political party in the Philippines with an ideology. The espousal of a federal-parliamentary form of government and of cooperativism has been a hallmark of Partido Demokratiko Pilipino (PDP) since its founding in 1982 by Sen. Nene Pimentel and of the PDP-Laban since PDP’s merger in 1986 with the Lakas ng Bayan (Laban) founded by Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino in 1978.
Binay is the current chair of PDP-Laban but he’s also the head of the United Nationalist Alliance, the umbrella organization of non-administration parties. In our meeting last Thursday, he pointed out that he originally belonged to Laban, as if to explain further why he wasn’t pursuing PDP-Laban’s advocacy of federalism.
Oh yes, speaking of PDP-Laban, I’m reminded of an anecdote involving the late Sen. Blas Ople. Ka Blas was walking near a restaurant at the Century Park-Sheraton Hotel when he said Binay, Nene Pimentel, then Sen. Joker Arroyo and then Makati Rep. Teddyboy Benigno in a huddle. Ka Blas went over to their table and quipped: “It looks like the PDP-Laban is having a national convention.”
If the Veep were the President, he would allow the interment of former President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani with full military honors. He made such a recommendation to the President about a year ago and got the approval of now Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos and Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos. Rep. Imelda Marcos, I think, wanted state honors, not just military honors. Anyway, the President turned down the recommendation to inter the late strongman at the heroes cemetery.
He said a few more things that he would do if he were in Malacanang, like stricter implementation of laws and the imposition of more discipline. What he would not do until 2016 is declare the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) an out-and-out opposition party. He played it safe and said UNA would be a “constructive oppositionist.” So, UNA’s foot will be half in and half out, which I find disconcerting.