MAY 2016 is the first time in Philippine electoral history to have more vice presidential candidates than full and complete tandems. In this COC filing week, there are five vice presidential candidates, four with tandems and two solitary runs. The tandems are Binay-Honasan, Roxas-Robredo, Poe-Escudero and Poe-Trillanes. The solitary runs are Cayetano and Marcos.
The vice president is a spare tire in our tradition. He waits until the president is incapacitated, dies or impeached. If such event happens within 2 years and 6 months of the term, the vice president can run for another term, or a total of 9 years, just like what GMA did in 2004, after Erap was dislodged less than three years in his six-year term. Traditionally, Filipino voters pick split tickets in voting for president and vice president. The only instance Filipinos voted for one single ticket was during Aquino-Laurel in Edsa and Arroyo-De Castro in 2004. Then we had Ramos-Estrada, Estrada-Arroyo and Aquino-Binay, all splits.
The tradition of giving a cabinet position to the vice president started with Ramos and this practice was carried through until today. That it was done was strategic since it removed the partisanship with the appointment and prepared the vice president for the future governance role. Estrada was appointed anti-crime czar, Arroyo as social welfare secretary and Binay as housing and OFW head. The practice was a welcome development so that the vice president would not be a deadwood or be placed in a position where he/she conjures scenarios to unseat a president. It also enhances continuity of good plans, programs and activities into the next administration. The downside, one the other hand, is it defangs the opposition, creating a future where oppositions are just incidental and temporary.
It is rare that in Philippine politics today, you have more vice presidential candidates than team ups. You are a spare tire to whom becomes really troublesome. What are Cayetano and Marcos up to? Same could be said of a Poe-Escudero-Trillanes?
At least Seneres and Syjuco running for prez are strategic. Señeres has a sectoral issue to carry. If properly planned and executed, Señeres may have a built in advantage with OFW and absentee votes. If he is serious, we will see more overseas voters engaged in 2016. Syjuco will be the fly on the face of Roxas, creating problems on the Roxas heartland and highlighting the problems with Tuwid na Daan. Syjuco is not campaigning to win but a campaigning to frame 2016. There just might be two other more to file for president to contrast the failures of Tuwid na Daan.
Cayetano and Marcos, coming from the Nacionalista, together with Trillanes is not coalition politics. It is the most transactional move seen in Philippine politics. It is a move replete with so many possibilities for the anointed and against the incumbent Vice President. At least, Trillanes had a strategic sense of hooking up with Poe, the populist leader of the pack today. Trillanes blocs an Escudero run away and brings the fringes to Poe. Since politics is addition, Trillanes brings a different base to Poe and removes the add on to Escudero.
The decision of Cayetano and Marcos to run for Vice President respectively is quite tactical. Tactical to a Roxas, since Cayetano was one of those courted in the last minute scramble by LP, with LP members and donors, being vocal with their support to Cayetano. Tactical to Roxas when it comes to a Marcos too because of the Araneta bloodline and/or affinity. With both running for vice, Cayetano and Marcos can, at the end, turn the support to ensure a Roxas victory, if Roxas edges the presidential field two weeks before EDay. Cayetano and Marcos could also do the same for Duterte considering their tenacious fight for the support of Duterte. Why? Because Duterte has a base. Cayetano and Marcos know the mayor from Davao has command over the 22% votes of Mindanao and the 19% votes of Visayas.
The politics of spare tire is no longer inconsequential. In fact, the vice presidential fight is the most exciting battle for 2016. And it will put to great test the strength of regional votes from two proud ethnic blocs: Bicolanos and Ilocanos. It has been said that 5 of the 6 candidates for vice president have roots from Bicol: Honasan, Robredo, Escudero and Trillanes are oragons while Cayetano is Bicolano by affinity. Who will get the nod of Bicolanos? Talks on the ground point to Robredo. Voters are saying Robredo makes Bicol proud. “She is the best candidate we have. Robredo brings honor to Bicolanos. She is smart, clean, honest, simple and a hardworker. The other Bicolanos have been eaten by the political system and pork.”
If Robredo represents the best of Bicol, can she withstand the vaunted Ilocanos? That would be the battle royale because Robredo is not just a housewife to begin with. She is an economist, a people’s lawyer and advocate. Her stock is the best of what politics today has to offer. The selling point to Ilocanos would be the tsinelas leadership, a reaching out, caring and listening champion that they can have in the next administration. With Robredo, it will not be a shut out six years for the Ilocanos. But Robredo will have to choose at what point she becomes her own candidate, going to the center to secure support from all.
Spare tires have been redefined in Elections 2016. Today, it is no longer a shocker to run solely for vice president, without a head. But a serious vice presidential candidate would need to have a base or command votes to strut like a peacock and swing the same to a presidential bet who edges out everyone. Without a head, vice presidential candidates are wild cards that could make or unmake a presidential candidate’s endgame. It will be a transactional endgame, as has been in Philippine elections, so it behooves the team ups to work doubly hard and make the case to the Filipino voters that voting as a ticket is the way to go. Lone vice presidential candidates are just that, lone wolves waiting for the pack to land. Dangerous, yes but can be exposed for their games.
In the end, 2016 would be as Machiavelli said, “the fact is that a man who wants to act virtuously in every way necessarily comes to grief among so many who are not virtuous.” ###