Interesting times ahead

Published — Tuesday 7 July 2015

Things are heating up on the political front in the Philippines as political parties start preparing for the filing of candidacies in October of this year. Vice-President Jejomar Binay had finally cut ties with the Aquino administration, thus claiming by his lonesome the mantle of the opposition. In his speeches, the vice-president continues to criticize the government for its ineptitude and callous attitude towards the poor. Of course, the Liberal Party to whom President Aquino belongs was quick to pounce on Binay’s sudden turnaround from ally to critic as well as on his continued silence over corruption raps.

Meanwhile, Binay’s perceived main opponent next year, Interior and Local Governments Secretary Mar Roxas has been going around the country delivering patrol jeeps to local governments. For Secretary Roxas, continuity is at stake when the Filipino people cast their ballots next year particularly in the context of President Aquino’s anti-corruption drive. Already, one can detect the emerging themes that both the administration and opposition parties would be using in the run-up to the presidential elections: Continuity in the fight against corruption versus compassion for the poor.

What needs to be confirmed is whether the increasingly popular Senator Grace Poe and her best friend, Sen. Chiz Escudero would serve as a third force, banking on those tired of the squabbling between the Liberal party and UNA, the Vice-President’s own political party. Escudero is known to be one of the closest and most loyal friends of President Aquino. Sen. Poe has shown her independence by questioning the exclusion of the president’s party-mate and Transportation Secretary, Emilio “Jun” Abaya in an ongoing corruption case filed by the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with questionable contracts entered into by the management of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT).

While Vice-President Binay has become the punching bag of social media, it seems Secretary Roxas is not faring that well either. This is quite unfortunate because the latter is quite adept at using Twitter and Facebook, and can outwit the best of them with his play on words. What is to Mar’s advantage is that he stands as his own spokesperson, unlike his chief opponent who has at least four people speaking for him before the media.

The mystical clouds on who the real candidates are will part between now and August when President Aquino announces his personal choice as successor. The game is now on because this month’s survey results would undoubtedly help influence this critical decision. Though a party-man through and through, the President is also known to be a loyal and grateful friend. In this regard, would his personal ties with Chiz (and by extension, Grace Poe) matter more than his professional and personal ties with Mar Roxas? What if Mar’s numbers don’t improve as much as that of Grace Poe’s? Whom to choose — a sure winner or a loyal party-mate? The Liberal Party is hoping that both characteristics can be found in their man.

Meanwhile, Filipinos from all walks of life need only to sit and enjoy the show. And what a show it promises to be! Communications and political experts are having the time of their lives trying to decipher the moves of the perceived 2016 candidates. Also keenly watching are the funders, several of whom are also the target of political courtship. Interesting times ahead for the Philippines.


Author: Susan Ople

Susan "Toots" Ople is the President of the Blas F. Ople Policy and Training Institute. She's an OFW and labor advocate based in the Philippines.

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