Early in the year I began expressing through the social wire my initial views on the candidacy of Vice President Jejomar C. Binay for President. For sheer want in specifics on the demolition job being undertaken against him, I could only resort to citing historical patterns by way of contributing to his cause. Jojo and I had an interlude of camaraderie in the past, and this interlude, no matter how brief, had prompted me to do something for him for old time’s sake.
I cited three modes of succession to the presidency undergone by the country. The first mode, the most popular one, is election. The second mode, power grab by the successor. The third mode, death of the incumbent.
Of the third case, there have been two occasions. One was the death of President Manuel Roxas in 1948 and then Vice President Elpidio Quirino succeeded him. Another was the death of President Ramon Magsaysay in a plane crash in 1957 and Vice President Carlos P. Garcia took over.
Of the second case, the first time was the power grab by Cory from President Ferdinand E. Marcos in the EDSA uprising in 1986, and the second time was the military breakaway that resulted in the removal from office of President Joseph Ejercito Estrada and the infamous installation by Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide of then Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as president.
We elaborate on the first case because it has been the democratic means of changing Philippine presidents, or at least that’s how it has been pictured to us, and it is the means currently ongoing and hence deserving the most attention now.
Without any attempt at all to hide my sympathies for Jojo, I nonetheless tried my best to be objective about the matter of him being the historically-destined one to succeed to the presidency.
To begin with, it is in the psyche of electorates that the next president is the sitting vice president. I don’t pretend to any expertise at socio-psychology or some such by which to be able to explain this phenomenon. I just put it in terms of a layman’s understanding that in many sphere’s of social living, people get disciplined on the principle of next-in-line: the queue at the cashier’s counter in supermarkets, at the movie theater ticket windows, at transport terminals, the examples are many. In succession to authority in the family, when the parents are gone, the eldest of the children becomes the family head – and that, by no force of law, is the tradition.
History itself bears me out in standing by this contention.
No vice president who ran for president has lost. Vice President Diosdado Macapagal ran for president in 1961 and won. Vice President Joseph Ejercito Estrada ran for president in 1998 and won.
When I made this contention on Twitter, somebody was quick to point out that Vice President Salvador P. Laurel ran for president in 1992 and ended up at the cellar of the contest. I was quick to retort likewise that Laurel was not a duly-elected vice president in 1987 but a bogus one, like his president Cory, both of them having been forcibly rammed by America down the throat of the Filipino nation. Laurel does not fit in this reckoning and my contention remains unchallenged.
Now the country is into the fever of another electoral change in the presidency. Studying historical patterns of presidential elections, we notice the interesting detail that presidents have been coming only from three training grounds, if we may put it that way. What are these three?
First, indeed, is the Vice Presidency. Already cited are the cases of Vice President Diosdado Macapagal in 1961 and Vice President Joseph Ejercito Estrada in 1998. In fact, the very first president of the Republic of the Philippines, Manuel Roxas, must also fit into this category. Remember that when Roxas ran for president in 1946, he was the effective vice president of the preceding commonwealth government. President Manuel L. Quezon had already died then and Vice President Sergio Osmena must succeed him to the post, thus vacating the post of the vice president. Who would fill in the vacancy? The sitting Senate President, who else but Manuel Roxas.
In this regard, Manuel Roxas must also serve as the precursor of Senate Presidents succeeding to the presidency through election. Next Senate President to do so was the longest-serving President of the Philippines, Ferdinand E. Marcos, who was Senate President when he ran for President and won in 1965.
And the third historically proven training ground for Presidents is the Secretaryship of the Department of National Defense. First defense secretary to get elected president was Ramon Magsaysay in 1954, beating the sitting President Elpidio Quirino. Next was Fidel V. Ramos, who was Secretary of National Defense prior to winning the presidency in 1992.
A fluke in this pattern was the election of incumbent President Benigno C. Aquino 3rd , who was just a senator and just half-way through his term when he ran for president and won in 2010. But I personally rate this happening as still a consequence of the Cory presidency which in the first place I damn as bogus, hence any effect of which must likewise be bogus. The Benigno C. Aquino presidency simply highlights the utter corruption of the people’s consciousness of democracy, and if it sets at all another pattern for sitting a president, then that pattern should be no less condemnable than the barefaced power grab executed by Cory by which she frustrated the people’s will in the 1986 snap presidential poll.
Now, we take a close look at the current presidential contenders. Who among them conforms to the above-cited criteria?
We start from the bottom in the latest poll survey. Miriam Defensor Santiago is a senator, all right, but is not a Senate President. Besides, she bears the stigma of having lost not once but twice already in attempts at the presidency, and history bears out one outstanding characteristic of winning presidential candidates: virgin runners. It must be a truism, Miriam is no virgin – presidential candidate, that is.
Next is Manuel Roxas 2nd, who has been consistent in placing fourth in poll surveys. No cabinet member has ever won in a run for president except the Secretary of National Defense; he has headed the DPWH, DOTC and the DILG but never the DND. He will lose.
Then comes Grace Llamanzares, who for a time appeared headed for the fate that had proven true of Benigno C. Aquino 3rd (not a Senate President and just a senator half-way into his term but capitalizing on the death of his parent, Cory; Grace, too, just a senator, half-way into her term and capitalizing solely on the death of her parent, FPJ) until she ran into disqualification blues. She will lose early on.
Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is the penultimate presidential aspirant in the reckoning. Will he win? He is neither a vice president, a senate president nor a secretary of national defense. No mayor has become president of the country overnight. History bares to us the fact that there has been just one case in which a mayor has risen to become President of the Republic of the Philippines – President Joseph Ejercito Estrada, formerly a mayor of San Juan. But Erap had to be vice president first.
That gives us the ultimate criterion for the last man standing – Vice President Jejomar C. Binay. Not only is he a Vice President, traditional heir to the presidency, but is also historically-destined to sit in that post. No vice president who ran for president ever lost – even against a sitting President. Vice President Diosdado Macapagal beat the incumbent President Carlos P. Garcia in 1961. In regard to Erap, Vice President Binay perfectly fits into the pattern of a mayor becoming vice president onward to winning the presidency.
And yet this ultimate criterion is what precisely makes winning the presidency not really just a question of historical pattern. Having spent long years at local governance, Vice President Binay has had a good grasp of the problems of his constituencies, has learned how to solve those problems, and he only needs to sit as president to make life good, as is his obsession now, for those constituencies no longer just on a local basis, as in Makati, but on national scale as well. This fact is well known to the Filipino people. They will make Vice President Jejomar C. Binay win.