Political scientists and campaign strategists call it the period of mist-clearing in an election season–a time when the fog of too many candidates and incoherent issues, and uncertain coalitions, begin to be cleared up, and the really serious and viable candidates are the ones left standing to go the distance.
In the US presidential race, mist-clearing is the period of the primaries and the party conventions, prior to the start of the formal election campaign. This is the situation now in the 2016 race for the US presidency.
In our own presidential race next year, we are now in the period and process of mist-clearing. We the people find ourselves in a real fog. We face before us a watershed election of far-reaching importance to the nation, and yet at this point, only one prospective candidate, Vice President Jejomar Binay, has so far openly announced his decision to run for President.
While there are many others who are interested in the office (“presidentiables,” we politely call them), most can’t find the guts and moral stamina to announce their candidacies.
Not even the putative candidate of the administration and the Liberal Party, DILG Secretary Mar Roxas, has announced his decision to run. Strangely, it’s only his mother and his wife who appear to have announced his candidacy.
The inconsequential presidentiables drown themselves in their own braggadocio with statements like “the presidency or nothing.” Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who briefly shot up in the surveys, makes statements on his reasons not to run and his family’s stern opposition to his running.
And then there is Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., who stands tantalizingly between a formidable political base determined to enter him in the contest, and his Hamlet-like dilemma on seeking the highest office of the land.
Mist-clearing will sweep away the fog.
Binay vs. Roxas: A Scylla and Charybdis contest
If only to spare us the tedium of a two-way contest for the presidency between Jejomar Binay and Mar Roxas (a repeat really of their vice-presidential duel in 2010), I hope that Senator Marcos will end his handwringing and decide to take up the challenge and join the race for President in 2016.
A woman friend, a keen and wry observer of politics, grimly describes Binay-vs-Roxas as a “Scylla-and- Charybdis” contest–a predicament in Greek mythology, wherein avoidance of either of two dangers means exposure to the other.
If only to help clear the field of too many wavering candidates, I submit that a Marcos decision to run will accelerate the process of mist-clearing. It will hasten the strengthening of parties, the formation of coalitions and the development of platforms and programs.
I dread the prospect of waking up every day to another round of attacks on Vice President Binay by the three stooge-senators, and another exchange of press releases between the Binay and Roxas camps. If Bongbong runs, we will at least have a three-way fight of press releases.
For sure, a Marcos candidacy will change the political conversation and the calculation of odds in the May balloting.
My colleague Kit Tatad laid out last week the most cogent case for a Marcos candidacy. He believes that if Marcos can forge a coalition among the formidable Ilocano vote base, the reformist forces in the country and the overseas Filipino communities, and then fashion a reform program of government, he could become an unstoppable force next year.
Striving beyond certainty
Filipino presidential wannabes are fond of saying that the presidency is destiny. It is a form of fatalism, and a prayer for providence to anoint them as the one.
But in the real world of politics, destiny does not drive the achievement of the prize. Ambition, desire, vision and commitment make the difference between success and failure.
In the pursuit of the highest office, real leaders forge their own destiny. There is such a thing as “striving beyond certainty.”
Perhaps, the most succinct explanation of this principle was made by Eleanor Roosevelt (her husband, Franklin Delano Roosevelt won the US presidency four successive times). She memorably said: “If we wait till we’re ready, we’ll never get started.”
In much the same vein, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, while testifying on funding and installing of a missile defense system, said: “If you didn’t do anything until you could do everything, you probably wouldn’t do anything.”
Indecision will send you into what Rumsfeld hilariously described as “known unknowns and unknown unknowns.”
This time, Bongbong should say ‘YES’
In mid-2009, I had a brief meeting with then-congressman Bongbong Marcos at my office in Makati (party-list congressman Jonathan de la Cruz arranged the meeting). In our conversation, I presented to him my belief that it was time and it was propitious for him to run for senator in the 2010 elections.
Within a month or so, BBM decided to throw his hat into the ring.
Within weeks also, the health watch over former President Cory Aquino ended in her death, and exploded into a wave of national mourning. And then, from out of nowhere, the banner of Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino 3rd was raised as a candidate for the presidency.
I don’t know whether my advice helped BBM in making his decision. But he did run and went on to win a seat in the Senate, where by any reckoning, he is serving with great distinction.
Faced with a decision in the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona, Sen. Marcos said “NO” to President Aquino’s dark agenda, and voted to acquit Corona.
Offered a “bribe of “ P100 million in DAP funds so he would go along with the majority in the Corona trial, Sen. Marcos said “NO.”
Charged with the task of shepherding without changes the Palace-cum-MILF version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) through the Senate, Bongbong said “NO.” He will conduct hearings and consult all stakeholders. And he will come up with a substitute bill.
Now he is faced with a life-changing decision of seeking the presidency of the Philippines. This time, Bongbong should say “YES.”