The countdown begins for 2016 Philippine vote

Coffee shops are abuzz about 2016, the year when Filipinos will once again choose its next president. Unlike previous administrations, the ruling party of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III (or PNoy as referred to by the people) has yet to visibly and aggressively flex its muscle, organize and revitalize its base, and make a dent in the public consciousness as the political party to beat. Perhaps its leaders think that now is not the time for political organizing, given the enormity of national problems.

Barred to run by the constitution, President Aquino would soon have to choose his successor. Will it be former vice-presidential running-mate and current Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas?

Secretary Roxas is a known confidante and close adviser of the president. He has invested a great deal in the Liberal Party (LP) as party president, and Aquino, quite unprepared for the presidential race in 2010, benefitted a great deal from Mar’s meticulous preparations.

I remember being part of a hushed crowd that gathered to listen to candidate Mar Roxas’s speech to announce his decision to give way to Aquino as their party’s presidential candidate. It was obviously an extremely difficult decision to make, but the right one given the circumstances. For now, Mar is the obvious LP choice unless a tsunami of events conspire for a sudden political detour.
Will there be a return bout between Roxas and Binay in 2016? This is the inevitable conclusion unless the political gods decree that they share the same stage. Stranger things have happened in Philippine politics. So far, among the present crop of politicians, Mar remains a serious contender given the president’s support and his pivotal role as DILG secretary.

Nevertheless, he has to make up for adverse public reactions caused by his argument with Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez, made viral viaYouTube.

Vice-President Jejomar Binay has always been candid about his intention to run for president in 2016. His reverence for and loyalty to the late President Corazon C. Aquino are of public record. He maintains high visibility as presidential adviser on OFW affairs and on housing programs.

Political dynasty is an issue attached to the Binay name, and his critics especially in social media are adamant and vigorous in pointing out his shortcomings. Nevertheless, the vice-president has the edge based on the latest surveys. On the sidelines are the younger bets: Senator Alan Cayetano of the Nacionalista Party (NP), Senator Chiz Escudero, an independent but closely aligned with the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), and neophyte senator Grace Poe, daughter of the well-loved actor and former presidential candidate, Fernando Poe Jr. No longer hibernating and thus now a contender, is former senator Ping Lacson, recently appointed as rehabilitation czar for Eastern Visayas.

Just as visible and in a fighting mood is Senator Antonio Trillanes, who appears to be casting a moist eye on 2016.
My father once said that happy accidents are bound to occur to those most prepared for it. The list cited above may become longer or shorter as 2016 nears.

Destiny has a way of making its presence felt, just as it did in the most unexpected way, in 2010. A friend of mine recently chided me for saying that 2016 is still far away.

He reminded me that three years under the current administration have gone by, in a flash, without us even realizing it. Indeed, the first month of the year is nearly over and I have yet to jot down anything on my new Starbucks planner. For those aiming for the presidency in 2016, the challenge is on how to project one’s self without appearing over-eager, fake, and selfish. To thyself be true, as a wise man once said.


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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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