Far too many people had been hoping Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. would throw his proverbial hat into the presidential ring if only to generate some badly needed intellectual excitement. I have heard all sorts of people everywhere say, “I am for Binay now, or I’m for Grace Poe now, but if Bongbong declares, then I’ll be for Bongbong certainly.” The only person I heard who said she’s for Mar Roxas was a pro-life worker from Mindanao who approached me at the Mactan airport on Wednesday to ask why I wasn’t running for President. When I explained why not, she said that means she’d have to stick it out with Mar Roxas because she is a girl scout and Mrs. Judy Araneta Roxas, Mar’s mother, is also a girl scout. She knew Vice President Jojo Binay is also a Boy Scout, but she believes If Mar gets elected, Judy would be the president.
It was the most cutting remark I’ve heard about Mar since he became PNoy’s LP anointed.
To many of his admirers, Bongbong’s slide from No. 1 to No. 2 was a great letdown. But the greater letdown was his willingness to become vice president to any presidential candidate, instead of just one particular candidate. Certainly he was not the first one to do this—-before him were Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, who primarily wants to make speeches against Vice President Jejomar Binay on the campaign trail, and Alan Peter Cayetano, who is openly courting Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, the off-and-on presidential aspirant from Davao.
But people were hoping that the son and namesake of the most substantial president we ever had, with his British and American university education and impressive service record as provincial governor of Ilocos Norte, would have more sense than Trillanes or Cayetano to be sucked into this idiotization of our politics. If he could not do anything to help minimize it, he could at least not contribute to it. For it is lunacy, pure and simple.
Just as no bride ever announces her betrothal without a fiancee, no one ever announces a vice presidential run without having been asked by a presidential standard bearer or drafted by a political party. In fact, it is the presidential nominee who normally announces his choice of a running mate, never the other way around. This is because only the President owes the electorate a program of government. He alone is mandated to form a Cabinet and appoint all other non-elective high officials of government.
Although he may name the Vice President to the Cabinet, as Ramos did with Estrada, Macapagal Arroyo with De Castro, and PNoy with Binay, the VP has no real duties under the Constitution, unlike in the United States, where he presides over the sessions of the Senate and proclaims the results of presidential elections. His only unwritten role, as some wit puts it, is to wait for the President to slip on a soap bar inside the bathroom and be permanently incapacitated or expire.
As of now, there are three declared presidential wannabes—-the Liberal Party’s Mar Roxas, UNA’s Vice President Binay, and the reputedly “independent” Sen. Grace Poe Llamanzares. Roxas and Binay have no known constitutional disability, but Llamanzares does, and may be unseated as senator by virtue of Rizalito David’s quo warranto petition before the Senate Electoral Tribunal, and consequently be disqualified from running for president, for not being a natural-born citizen of the Philippines.
There are on the other hand six vice presidential wannabes—-Rep. Leni Robredo for the LP, Gringo Honasan for UNA, Francis Escudero for the constitutionally questionable Mrs. Llamanzares, and the three Senate “ronins” (samurais without a master)—-Marcos, Trillanes and Cayetano. Without waiting for the campaign season to begin, some of them have already started campaigning. For instance, Cayetano’s posters are now plastered all over Makati, and possibly in other cities across the land.
This is the first time in the nation’s history that there are more vice-presidential “candidates” than presidential; and as many “independent” vice presidential wannabes as there are candidates belonging to a presidential ticket. Why is this so? Why is there so much more interest in the vice-presidency than in the presidency? Some analysts offer several mutually reinforcing views.
First, it is a function of political ignorance. Even in the so-called “upper church” of our political class, there is really no deep understanding of our presidential system or why we hold national elections. So it’s not just the well-informed exploiting the ignorance of the ignorant; it is also those who are supposed to know indulging their own ignorance.
Executive governance rests on a presidential team, built upon elements that worked together to win power through the last election, rather than a team composed of various parts that competed for power during the last election, as happens in the parliamentary system. Because not a single party has won 50 percent plus one (1) of the seats in Parliament, the various parties have to forge a coalition to form a government, as happened in Germany under Angela Merkel. This is not well understood by most.
In the presidential system, we hold elections in order to choose a president who could at the very least intuit a program of government, and a vice-president who supports it, rather than a president who has a program and a vice-president who has no commitment whatsoever to what the president is publicly committed to. By program, I do not mean anything like Mrs. Llamanzares’s so-called 20-point something, which seeks to throw a bone at every hungry dog, without saying where the bone will come from. I mean a concrete plan based first of all on a world-view, on a clear understanding of the common good, and how to make governance an effective instrument of making society what it wants to become. It is not enough the MRT is a scandal, or the traffic is unbearable, and I will fix it.
In my book, A Nation on Fire, I essay a proposal on the remarking of Philippine democracy and Philippine society, which has earned a number of favorable reviews. For one, the eminent writer Carmen Guerrero Nakpil has called it a program which a new political party should adopt. It has no room for a vice-president running independently of a presidential candidate.
Secondly, most of the political players seem to believe that although various civic and patriotic groups, led by the National Transformation Council, have not given up the fight for total system change, the administration is already saying “game over” to all the other participants.
For the best of reasons, they expect Mrs. Llamanzares to be ultimately barred from running, and Susan Roces, her surrogate mother and longtime “Queen of Philippine movies” may not be able to successfully take her place. For the worst of reasons, they look forward to seeing Binay jailed on some trumped up charges, or ousted by the Presidential Electoral Tribunal on Roxas’s five-year-old electoral protest. He could then end up unopposed, unless by next week an unexpected new challenger should emerge.
Only such a challenger —- especially if he has the courage, energy and muscle to confront the “hocus PCOS”—-could hope to alter the present rules of political engagement and rewrite any prearranged results. But who is the madman on the horizon who would make this leap into the dark and risk everything, beginning with his common sense? Wouldn’t it be electoral suicide?
The political players expect the Venezuelan firm Smartmatic with its precinct count optical scan machine to perform the same “hocus PCOS” it did in 2010 and 2013. They have already locked into the manufactured propaganda surveys, which will provide an advance reading of the prearranged results of the May 2016 elections even before the first voter casts his vote. As a redundancy measure, they have also already conscripted the services of the most notorious political operators in the country, including the infamous former Comelec commissioner Virgilio Garcillano of the 2004 “Hello Garci” fame, and the even more dangerous Ronaldo Puno whose “special operations” skills are widely known and said to be in the service of the deepest pockets.
And as the formerly prodigious donations to the Llamanzares and Binay camps dry up, the LP war chest continues to grow exponentially from the fund-raising in the various corrupt agencies and through the P424.14 billion illegal presidential lump sums in the current General Appropriations Act, which the Philippine Constitution Association, Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa, Archbishop Romulo de la Cruz of Zamboanga, Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla of Davao, former national security adviser Norberto Gonzales and this writer are asking the Supreme Court to strike down as unconstitutional and void.
One other reason for the unusual interest in the vice-presidency is that because of the organized effort to rig the presidential election in favor of the administration candidate, the process could become so scandalous that no one may be declared president-elect, or the public may not accept its results.. Under Sec. 7, Article VII of the Constitution, if a President shall not have been chosen, or if the President-elect fails to qualify, the Vice-President-elect shall act as President until a President shall have been chosen and qualified. Or if at the beginning of the term of the President, the President-elect shall have died or shall have become permanently disabled, the Vice-President-elect shall become President.
This is where Mar Roxas could still lose, even if unopposed. And this is where the real fight shifts to those who competed for vice president, rather than for president. Is this what prompted Bongbong Marcos to announce his vice-presidential bid even without a presidential candidate? If so, then the fight for the presidency will be a six-cornered fight, rather than three. And by ostensibly giving up any immediate desire for the presidency, did Bongbong not actually bring himself closer to it? Let’s wait and see.