Sunday, October 26, 2014

Who can beat Binay in 2016?

By Val G. Abelgas
Jojo and Grace
Jojo and Grace
With the damning allegations hurled against Vice President Jejomar Binay in the past few weeks, one would think, as one columnist said, the former human rights lawyer and Makati mayor “can kiss his presidential bid goodbye.”
I wish it were that simple because the country badly needs a president who is beyond reproach, but recent history tells us that such is not the case. One clear example is former President Joseph Estrada who was exposed, convicted and jailed for plunder and yet was nearly elected back to Malacanang in 2010 if not for the sudden emergence of the son of two democratic icons, one of whom had just passed away.
Estrada got about 25% of the votes, only about 15% less than eventual winner and now President Benigno Aquino III and 10% more than former Senate President Manny Villar, who was the frontrunner until Aquino came along. Although one can argue that the corruption allegations against Villar affected his candidacy despite consistent high pre-poll ratings, we must also take into consideration that the two candidates who beat him were definitely more popular than him.
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, disgraced during her nine-year presidency, was accused of plunder and graft in so many cases, but easily won a seat in Congress as representative of her home district in Pampanga, and got reelected easily even while under detention. Just like the name Marcos is iconic in Ilocos Norte, the Macapagal name is unbeatable in Pampanga.
We need not mention other instances; suffice it to say that a big majority of the voters don’t seem to care anymore about the integrity or qualifications of candidates nor of their leaders. Whether we like or not, popularity remains the biggest criteria for many voters in electing their leaders.
It’s a tragedy that honesty and integrity don’t seem to matter anymore to the people. They seem to have accepted as fact that public service and corruption are like, in the words of Frank Sinatra, “love and marriage, they go together like horse and carriage.”
Aquino, having been reared by a traditional political clan, apparently knows this, that’s why the first instance that Binay showed he is ready to cut his ties with him by making indirect attacks on his actions, the President immediately met with the Vice President obviously to reassure him that he remains a friend of the family.
Until he and the Liberal Party find a viable candidate who can beat Binay, Aquino would be “mamangka sa dalawang ilog” to protect him from possible prosecution after his term ends. At this time, despite the “Operation: Nognog” as Binay’s allies call the demolition job against him, the Vice President keeps an overwhelming lead in trust and performance ratings and in presidential surveys, and Aquino knows this.
Nearly every senior LP members are tainted by the corruption scandals involving the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which have both been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, except perhaps for a few like Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., Presidential Adviser on Agriculture Francis Pangilinan, and Local Governments Secretary Mar Roxas, but none of them pose a threat to Binay.
Those who don’t want Binay to be president, and that could include Aquino, would have to look elsewhere for a viable candidate.
A cursory look at the September Pulse Asia survey of possible presidential candidates showed Binay way ahead with 31%, although this is down 10% from his 41% in June. Roxas has 13%, Sen. Miriam Santiago, 11%; Sen. Grace Poe, 10%; Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, 10%; Senators Chiz Escudero and Bongbong, each with 5%.
In the vice presidential derby, Poe is also way ahead, also with 31%. The others are Escudero, 19%; Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, 9%; Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, 7%; and Marcos and Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos, with 6% each.
Based on these two surveys, it would appear that Poe is the only one who can give Binay a good fight. Although Poe got only 10% in the presidential survey, this is only because she has not declared any intention to run for president. But note that among possible vice presidential candidates, for which post she has not denied nor declared any intention to run, Poe has the same number as Binay (31%).
The moment Poe is finally convinced to run and declares so, I would not be surprised if her figures near or exceed that of Binay in a presidential survey, considering, too, that the Binay demolition job is almost certain to intensify as elections get closer.
If the rumored team-up with Escudero becomes a reality, the chances of Poe beating Binay and becoming the next president after only three years as an elective official would increase significantly. Escudero is only sixth in the presidential surveys, but is the top choice outside of Poe in the vice presidential race, 10% more than the third runner, Cayetano, who will most probably opt to run for president under the Nacionalista Party; and 12% more than Trillanes, who will most probably settle for a vice presidential run.
Why is Poe so popular despite having served only for a little more than a year as senator? We can’t argue the fact that she has held her own against the veterans in the Senate, and has remained untainted by corruption scandals. She has strongly pushed for the passage of the Freedom of Information Act, which many politicians detest, and has made independent stand in various issues. After all, she does not belong to any party having run as an independent guest candidate under the Team P-Noy ticket in 2013.
But Grace Poe’s popularity, needless to say, primarily stems from her being a daughter of defeated 2004 presidential candidate and popular actor Fernando Poe Jr., who many believe was cheated in the 2004 elections. The people’s sympathy over the cheating and the subsequent death of her father was the biggest factor in her strong showing in the senatorial polls, and many believe she can carry this underdog tag again to advantage in 2016.
But the political landscape will still change in the next few months and Poe may become just another forgotten possibility unless she decides to join a political party. The administration coalition is almost certain to break apart in the coming months with the LP, the ruling party, left with just a few discredited members.
The parties will most probably field their own candidates, but will have to confront a crucial question: Who can beat Binay in 2016?

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