By Perry Diaz
Last February 12, the Senate race began between President Benigno “PNoy” Aquino III’s handpicked candidates and the opposition Three Kings’ handpicked candidates. PNoy’s Liberal Party-led coalition of candidates from five different political parties were proclaimed at Plaza Miranda in Manila while the Three Kings’ United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) candidates were proclaimed in Cebu City. Each slate has 12 candidates. At stake are 12 Senate seats. And by the looks of it, it’s just like any other mid-term senatorial election. There is nothing unusual about it, right? Wrong!
Although, the senatorial line-ups seem to appear “normal” by Philippine election standards, there is something – or should I say, several things – odd or strange about some of the candidates. And underneath the seemingly placid political waters, there is a great deal of crosscurrents going on that could pull a candidate down.
But first, let’s look at the leaders of the two opposing slates. PNoy is using his popularity to sway the voters to support his “Team PNoy,” hoping that branding them under his own moniker would attract a lot of votes. And as the team’s campaign manager, Sen. Franklin Drilon, hammered it in at the Plaza Miranda rally, “It’s time to show support to President Noy!” Yep, a vote for Team PNoy is a vote for PNoy.
PNoy told the cheering crowd about his administration’s accomplishments. He said that he needs the Team PNoy candidates to win so he could continue his reforms. Then he criticized the opposition candidates whom he claimed are running only to promote their personal interests and that of the previous administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, reminding them of the anomalies during her presidency.
It is interesting to note how PNoy associated the UNA candidates with Gloria. Other than Mitos Magsaysay and Migz Zubiri, who were once members of Gloria’s political party, Lakas-CMD, the other 10 candidates have no political association with Gloria.
PNoy is treading on dangerous waters when he tries to link the UNA to Gloria, who has yet to be convicted of any crime. As a matter of fact, for lack of evidence the courts threw out most of the corruption and plunder cases filed against her. But PNoy said that more cases would be filed against her. All of these could boomerang against PNoy and hurt the Team PNoy candidates at the polls in the May election.
On the other hand, the Three Kings -- Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay, former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada, and Senate President-- are carrying a lot of excess baggage. Binay, who made his presidential aspirations known long time ago, has to explain a lot of things that happened when he was mayor of Makati City from 1986 to 1998 and 2001 to 2010 -- a total of 19 years!
An article, “The Lord of Makati,” was published on March 28, 2001, when he was running for another term as Makati mayor. The article says, “Can Binay explain his wealth? In less than a decade, Jejomar ‘Jojo’ Binay, former chair of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and former mayor of Makati, accumulated at least P80 million worth of real estate properties in Makati and Batangas, which he kept undeclared…” To date, Binay has yet to explain his wealth.
Erap carries the stigma of having been convicted of plunder while Enrile was haunted by his long association with the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. He was one of the “Rolex 12” who assisted Marcos in planning the martial law in 1972.
Although Erap and Enrile aren’t running for national office, they have an agenda in this year’s election. Erap’s son, Sen.is positioned to become Binay’s vice presidential running mate in 2016.
Enrile, who will be termed out in 2016 would like to see his son, Juan Ponce “Jack” Enrile Jr., elected senator this year. But Jack is getting a lot of flak because of several incidents in his past that involved people getting killed. Although he came out clean in those cases, there are a lot of people who are not totally convinced of his innocence.
But what is most noticeable in this year’s election is the presence of dynastic candidates. There are five dynastic candidates in Team PNoy, namely: Alan Peter Cayetano (brother of incumbent Sen. Pia Cayetano); Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV (nephew of PNoy); Cynthia Villar (wife of termed out Sen. Manny Villar); Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara (son of termed out Sen. Edgardo Angara); and Ramon “Jun” Magsaysay Jr.
In the opposition UNA, there are five dynastic candidates: Jack Enrile; Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito (son of Erap and half-brother of Jinggoy); Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco (aunt-in-law of President Aquino); Nancy Binay-Angeles (daughter of Binay); and Milagros “Mitos” Habana-Magsaysay.
In my article, “Should the Philippine Senate be abolished?” (February 6, 2013), I wrote: “If all 10 dynastic candidates win in the May elections and you add the three incumbent dynastic senators (Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Pia Cayetano), there would be a total of 13 dynastic senators in the new Senate. That’s more than 50% of the entire Upper House of the new Congress! That’s not ‘representative’ of the people. That makes the eight family dynasties collectively in control of the majority of the Senate. That’s called dynasticracy.”
So what’s at stake in the 2013 election?
Recently, Drilon alleged that the UNA is out to make PNoy a “lame duck” president. Binay denied the allegation, saying, “UNA remains supportive of Aquino’s ‘Daang Matuwid’ and reform agenda but would not hesitate to expose to the public any wrongdoing it will see.” However, he said, “We are the new opposition, an opposition who will be supportive of matters which the President is undertaking.” He claimed that some quarters are just trying to create a “wedge” between them. Really?
Last January 31, Drilon announced that the Liberal Party is going to field Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas as its standard bearer in 2016. With Binay running for president, would the entry of Roxas in the presidential derby bring out the old rivalry between the Samar (Noy-Bi) and Balay (Noy-Mar) factions?
It would be interesting to know how PNoy would deal with a Roxas-Binay presidential contest? Would he remain loyal to the Liberal Party and support Roxas or would he support Binay, a long-time family friend whom the Noy-Bi people say would take a bullet for PNoy?
In addition to Roxas and Binay, two other dynasts are expected to run for president in 2016 – Senators Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., the new chairman of the Lakas-CMD Party.
The 2016 presidential election might turn out to be a battle royale among the country’s powerful dynasties. Makes one wonder what did we gain in 30 years after the EDSA People Power revolution? It looks like we’re going back to square one.