With one and a half years to go before the next presidential elections, the race is heating up among several wannabes including recycled presidential candidates and newbies who have nothing else but optimism – and ambition – to reach the pinnacle of power. And by the looks of it, it’s going to be a very expensive run to the top.
Right now, there are two declared candidates and a third – President Benigno “P-Noy”Aquino III – who is exploring for a way to amend the Constitution to allow a sitting president to run for re-election.
Let’s set P-Noy aside for a moment and look at Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay and Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago who had made known of their plans to run for the country’s top job. Binay and Santiago are considered giants in a political landscape dominated by a menagerie of political dwarves with mediocre leadership talents and humongous ambitions.
Binay was a former mayor of Makati, arguably the richest city government in terms of revenue, who had made a name for himself in the more than two decades. But he is not Mr. Clean by any standard, having been accused of massive corruption in a city, which he and his immediate family controlled since the EDSA People Power Revolution more than quarter of a century ago. Called the “Lord of Makati,” Vice President Jojo and his wife, former Makati Mayor Elenita had allegedly amassed a multitude of prime real estate properties. And with their son, Makati Mayor Junjun, and two daughters – Senator Nancy, and Congresswoman Abigail, keeping the Binay political dynasty unshakably entrenched in positions of power, influence, and wealth, the Binays are on top of the world.
Jojo sees himself as the president-in-waiting with approval ratings in the high 70s. And no amount of demolition job, as he calls it, including plunder charges against him, could derail his presidential bandwagon. But if he falls from his lofty position, it would be head down with a crashing, deadly thud, which would result in his political death.
The immediate danger would be if the Ombudsman gathered enough evidence to support the plunder and graft charges against Binay, his son Makati Mayor Junjun Binay, and 23 others in relation to the alleged overpricing in the construction of an 11-story parking building that the city allegedly built for P1.56 billion. The complaint claimed that in 2007 then-Mayor Jojo Binay had “proposed and approved” a city ordinance for the construction of the parking building with an initial budget of P400 million; thus, making it “the most expensive parking building in the entire country.”
The question is: Should the Binays be indicted for plunder, would the graft court, Sandiganbayan, issue arrest warrants against them? If so, it could be the end of Binay’s presidential run. Unless, he will continue to run from behind bars just like when Sen. Sonny Trillanes run for senator in 2007 from his detention cell. And if he won the race, he would be released to assume the presidency, which would give him immunity from prosecution, including plunder.
Meanwhile, while Binay is now pictured as corrupt and evil by his political enemies, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, the feisty past presidential candidate who had gained a solid reputation of incorruptibility as hard as the granite Rock of Gibraltar had indicated her plan to run. But she has health problems that could stop her cold in her second quest for the presidency. A few months ago, she announced that she was diagnosed with lung cancer. However, she said that she is taking a daily dose of a “wonder pill” that has removed about 80% of the cancer tumor. She indicated that she would pursue her run if she had fully recovered from the disease.
And true to her prominence as a graft-buster, it came as no surprise when she indicated her preference for a running mate: Davao City Mayor Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte. She said that Digong, as his constituents call him, would make an excellent vice-president since the two problems in the country are corruption and peace and order.
Next on Miriam’s short list is former Defense Secretary Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro, P-Noy’s second cousin. However, Gibo showed no interest in the job. And unless he changes his mind, he is out of the race.
The third person Miriam is considering is Sen. Grace Poe. Although Grace is a political neophyte who won a Senate seat in 2012, she projects an untainted image. Being the daughter of the late presidential candidate and action actor Fernando Poe Jr., Grace was being groomed from the day she was sworn into office, not for vice president but for president. She had made it known that she was not against running for president in spite of her inexperience. But who says that experience makes a good president?
Grace might just be lucky to have two traditional politicians – trapos – as opponents: Jojo who is just a few legal steps away from jail and Miriam who may be pre-empted to seek the presidency by health issues. And if Grace plays the game right, she just might ride a crest of public outcry against a corruption-ridden government including the pork barrel scams that had blown in the faces of lawmakers for allegedly stealing the people’s money.
But regardless of the white-pure innocent persona of Grace, the question of P-Noy gunning for a constitutional amendment to remove the ban on the president from seeking a second term is gaining momentum. And this begs the question: Can the Supreme Court stop the tinkering of the Constitution to allow P-Noy to run for re-election?
With two Supreme Court unanimous rulings declaring the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) illegal and unconstitutional, the high court might deal P-Noy with another reversal, which would effectively reduce him to a lame duck entity for the rest of his term.
But can the Supreme Court stop P-Noy from subverting the spirit of the 1987 Constitution, which his mother, the late president Cory Aquino had worked so hard to embody in the Constitution to prevent gross abuses of presidential powers in the future?
Sad to say, the irony of her own son debasing her legacy bodes ill for what lays ahead. But there is always a bright side beyond the looming gloom. Like they say, “Every cloud has a silver lining.”