The muddled 2016 scenario

April 10, 2015 at 13:47

DEMAND AND SUPPLY By Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 8, 2015 – 12:00am

By this time, six months before the October deadline for candidates to file their certificates of candidacy, we should have a good idea who are running for president. Unfortunately, the situation is as muddled as ever.

This is not good for business decision makers who must now provide for a higher political risk factor to their medium-term plans. That this is happening at a time when our economy seems to be in a take off stage is the sad part of the story. Investors want more certainty. In the meantime, they may put things on hold.

Only Pulse Asia, one of the two most reliable surveys, has released survey results indicating that Vice President Jojo Binay has about a third of potential voters. The weird thing about our democracy is the absence of a strong party system. As a result, we have to depend on SWS and Pulse Asia to screen the candidates instead of a party convention.

The latest Pulse Asia survey taken from March 1-7 also shows Sen Grace Poe at 14 per cent, Erap at 12 percent and Mayor Duterte of Davao at 12 percent of the voters. Sen. Miriam has nine percent; Bongbong Marcos has six per cent and Mar Roxas has four percent.

Sen. Grace Poe has yet to make up her mind if she wants to run for president this early in her career. I told her that she could be like President Obama who successfully won the presidency halfway through his freshman term as a Senator. But she has to figure out if the timing is right. If it is, she should go for it because it may not come again.

Erap said his party, Partido ng Masang Pilipino is teaming up with Jojo Binay. This puts together 41 percent of the votes (Binay at 29 percent plus Erap’s 12 percent).

Davao’s Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is starting to make waves, but he told ABS-CBN News he is too old at 70 to run for president (Binay is 73). He said it would be unfair to Filipinos who need a more energetic person for the job. But he is the only one with a television ad, which he promptly disowned and called it corny. But Erap also said that if Grace runs, he is obligated to support the child of his bosom friend Fernando Poe Jr. There was, however, a time when Erap felt Binay was not giving him enough respect. So he reportedly told his friends that he may just run for the presidency again to piss off Binay.

Miriam is unpredictable. But if she decides to run, she would get more than the nine percent registered now by Pulse Asia. Indeed, she could be among the top contenders and even score another surprise like she almost did the first time she tried to be president in 1992. She is the ideal protest vote candidate.

Bongbong Marcos is trying hard to project himself as ready for the job, clumsily so far. There are those who say the young generation of post- EDSA voters have no idea of martial law and could consider him if he presents himself as worthy enough. Then again too, Imelda Marcos is 85 and if anything happens to her, we could see a repeat of what brought P-Noy to Malacañang.

Then there is Mar Roxas… poor Mar Roxas. He is a decent man who would certainly get the nod of foreign business and financial analysts as an honest man worthy of succeeding the honest P-Noy. But he has shown himself devoid of leadership and incapable of making decisions to quickly move the country forward. His performance as DOTC and DILG Secretary has done him in.

There was a time when the folks running Mar’s campaign were telling me that a P-Noy endorsement is strong enough to win the 2016 election for Mar. But that was before Yolanda and Mamasapano. A tragedy at the dangerously decrepit MRT 3 will also be somehow placed on his table.

Both the SWS and Pulse Asia surveys showed a precipitous drop in the ratings of P-Noy. Unless he recovers quickly, his lame duck status will also make his 2016 endorsement negative to useless.

With the drastic decline in Mar’s voter acceptance now at four percent, even lower than Bongbong’s, it would be suicidal for the Liberal Party to pin their hopes on him as their standard bearer.

Even P-Noy, worried about facing all those charges after he leaves office, will want to support a sure winner who can protect him. P-Noy dreads the thought he may have to serve time at Veterans Hospital, next door to his economics teacher.

That makes Binay the logical choice for P-Noy’s endorsement. Supporting Binay is not too difficult a thing for P-Noy to do because they have been close since the EDSA days. There were rumors that P-Noy’s family secretly supported Binay over Mar in 2010.

If that happens, the election would be over as all three major “parties” (Binay, Erap, P-Noy) will be behind him. Whoever else the Liberals will field will be more of a token candidate.

The Nationalistas can field Allan Peter Cayetano, but I doubt if he can make much headway. A better bet for the Nationalistas is Manny Villar making a second try.

A Binay vs Villar contest is fantastic in the sense that it will be the first time two candidates from the masa will contest the presidency. Both have made enough money to finance their own campaigns so that the influence of billionaires like Lucio Tan or the old oligarchies may not be that significant.

I asked Manny a month ago about a second run for the presidency. He said it would be better if we just focused on our lunch. He refused to talk about it, but significantly he didn’t say no either. Manny is president of the Nationalista Party.

So far, it is only Binay who has definitely said he is seeking the presidency. But that does not make his run a certainty. Everything depends on the Ombudsman.

If the Ombudsman moves fast on the corruption charges against Mayor Junjun Binay and files a case before the Sandiganbayan, that could be a problem for the VP. It should be easy to get a reliable expert to calculate the cost of that parking building and compare it against what Makati paid the contractor. The numbers would be so black and white the lawyers can only obfuscate the case so much.

Junjun’s mother, former Mayor Elenita already has an outstanding Sandiganbayan case. Additionally, the Ombudsman could also decide quickly on charges brought by a former Makati vice mayor against VP Binay himself.

What Binay has going for him is the slow grind of the country’s judicial system. Until then, everyone, the Binays included, must be presumed innocent under our laws. “Until then” translates to beyond June 2016.

But how much will corruption charges weigh with our voters in their decision on who to vote as the next president? As the Pulse Asia survey already shows, not much.

The Senate hearing that brought out “proofs” of Binay’s corruption got widespread media coverage. But when Pulse Asia did its survey, voters apparently side stepped corruption as an issue.

Whoever thought of that Binay ad campaign, “Ganito kami sa Makati, Sana sa buong Pilipinas” is a genius. An educated middle class voter will easily see that’s almost impossible to do in the national context. On the other hand, that’s a promise that resonates among a large group of voters who have nothing more to lose but their poverty and there are a lot more of them.

As a recent commentary by Joel Ruiz Butuyan on Inquirer puts it, “When the nonpoor vote, they do so with permanent jobs behind them, three meals a day guaranteed, all kids on board the diploma train to college. And they are sheltered in their own homes…

“When the poor vote, they do so while struggling with abject survival from day to day. They are constantly striving to achieve three meals a day. Their jobs are seasonal or ‘contractual.’ Their dream for their children is a high school diploma. They are slum dwellers or landless farmers…

“For voters who constantly live under fear of hunger, joblessness, sickness and eviction, issues of corruption have less resonance compared to the primal issue of survival…”

Thus far, that’s how it looks. Not too promising in the sense that nothing is certain right now. Indeed, P-Noy said he is no longer averse to the idea of a second term, if only to put the Supreme Court in its place. That means charter change and once the table is open for charter amendments, anything can happen.

How do we sum things up? Simply, it is more fun in the Philippines!

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