Filipinos will support Koko's principled stand
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2012-06-17
In this current row between UNA (United Nationalist Alliance) senatorial candidates Koko Pimentel and Migz Zubiri, Vice President (VP) Jojo Binay may have to step in and negotiate a publicly acceptable solution. VP Binay should not underestimate the political backlash that this row can spawn and how it could negatively affect his 2016 presidential aspirations.

During the Renato Corona impeachment trial, my friend and favorite resource person for legal issues, Dean Amado Valdez, correctly observed that the emergence of Sister Flory Basa and her damning public disclosure swept the moral high ground from under the feet of the ousted Chief Justice. Without intending to, the legitimate protest of Koko Pimentel and his principled stand has the potential of removing any semblance of a moral high ground in UNA.

To most Filipinos, Koko Pimentel is perceived as the cheated winner in the 2007 senate race who is right in refusing to stand on the same political stage with the person he blamed for delaying his senate tenure — Migz Zubiri. To most Filipinos, Koko Pimentel is seen as the son of a former elected public official known also for taking principled stands — Nene Pimentel. There have been no scandal issues against Nene Pimentel and Koko while his association with the unlamented Gloria Macapagal Arroyo hobbles Migz Zubiri. Most Filipinos will see Migz as the black knight and Koko as the white knight.

VP Jojo may have been an unwitting victim of bad political moves made by his Pwersa ng Masa (Power of the masses) ally, Joseph “Erap” Estrada, who reportedly opened the doors for controversial candidates to join the UNA ticket. UNA was forged as an initial partnership (open to others however) between the PDP-Laban Party of Binay and the Pwersa ng Masa party of Erap.

Unfortunately for VP Binay, he cannot simply wash his hands from the controversies created by the inclusion of Zambales Representative Mitos Magsaysay and Zubiri in the UNA senate ticket. Many administration supporters questioned Binay’s right to remain in the cabinet of President Noynoy Aquino (P-Noy) after drafting Rep. Magsaysay, one of the loudest critics of the administration and a mega supporter of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA). Binay’s critics assert that he cannot coddle P-Noy’s enemies and remain in P-Noy’s cabinet.

It’s clear that all these current preparations for the 2013 elections are a build up for the real big political battle — the 2016 presidential election, where Binay is seen as the current frontrunner. If Binay is to protect his flanks for the 2016 fight, then he must take a direct hand in shaping the party dynamics of UNA - otherwise, he might end up the victim of compromises that were not of his making. Binay, not Erap, should be calling the shots. Owing to the previous relationship of Binay and Erap, the former a mayor and the latter a president, that’s easier said than done for Binay to upstage Erap - but it’s something that Binay must do if he’s to protect his political interest.

At this early stage of UNA’s political life, political baggage has already been collected in the persons of Zubiri and Magsaysay. Public sentiment against GMA has not improved just as the recent drop of P-Noy’s approval and trust ratings didn’t indicate a mega erosion of public support. Taken in perspective, the recent polls showed the effects of uncontrolled rise of prices, which were mainly caused by the rise of oil prices in the world market. In proper perspective, P-Noy remains as the most approved and trusted president since 1992 after a second year in office.

To offset the recent ratings dip of P-Noy are the many positive developments that will make life better for most Filipinos. We’ve never before been as highly regarded in the international scene as an investors haven than now. P-Noy’s DAANG MATUWID (STRAIGHT PATH) has started to pay dividends. P-Noy’s vision for inclusive growth through the CCT (Conditional Cash Transfer) and K + 12 Education Program gives the poorest of the poor a real shot at ending their generational cycle of poverty. At the rate that we’re improving, presidential wannabes should thank the 1987 Constitution for allowing only one term for president. Otherwise, P-Noy can run again and he will beat all comers.

What is now going to weigh heavily against the presidential candidacy of Jojo Binay in 2016 is the growing perception that he belongs to a political party that’s not founded on principles but on mutual convenience, that his political coalition represents the very downside of traditional politics this country has been trying to end for decades. Binay may be the frontrunner today but four years from now these deadweights that he collected, albeit unwittingly, could end up eroding his ratings. Four years in politics is akin to eternity. Political trends can be reversed overnight by a single event that’ll usher the victory of a dark horse. Look at what the death of President Cory did to the 2010 presidential elections.

Frankly, the recent actuations of Erap are mystifying, to say the least. He criticized GMA for running for district representative after 2010, considered a demeaning move for a former president to make. Now, Erap is posturing to run for mayor of the City of Manila. He would then be violating his own stand against what GMA did. Running again for president in 2010 was easy to understand. Erap wanted vindication from being ousted as president in 2001. Running this time for Manila mayor makes him look no different from power hungry traditional politicians.

VP Binay mustn’t underestimate the power of the idea whose time has come. The public distrust for traditional politicians is an idea whose time has come. VP Binay is committing political seppuku by wrapping around him some of the most repugnant features of traditional politics. The choices of UNA reflected the spoils sharing nature of traditional politics. “Get politicians with local muscle and promise to share power and the loot with them” — that just about sums up the mindset of a traditional politician.  

Binay mustn’t overlook that Filipinos in 2016 aren’t looking for power brokers but genuine messiahs to bring them to the Promised Land.

* * *

Shakespeare: “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”

  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

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Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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