Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Nowadays we’re witnessing a hitherto unseen phenomenon in our elections---VP candidates running without presidential candidates, and vice versa. Our multi-party system is chaotic and symptomatic of crisis nation is going through in so many aspects---the breakdown of age-old institutions. Partner-less candidates could be disastrous as there could be further deterioration of party principles and governance--- only more of politics of convenience and turn-coatism.

Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. who would have run without a VP

I have been covering the Philippine political scene since September 1983, after the death of Ninoy Aquino, when Eggie Duran-Apostol, who was then publishing an innocuous women’s magazine called “Mr.and Ms.", converted it into a “mosquito” publication that covered the emerging political opposition to Ferdinand Marcos. Three years later Eggie smartly transitioned "Mr. and Ms" into a weekly and then a daily newspaper where I wrote a political column over the next 25 years.

Since "Inquirer" and I parted ways in June 2010,  I have continued writing, up to now, on politics in a blog (polbits.com), but I must confess that never before have I seen such politics as we are now witnessing. Someone termed it “turbulent,” but it’s more like utter chaos, with thinly adhered political concepts such as loyalty to party, platform, blah blah blah completely dissipated, with the circus of the multi-party system.

It’s devastating.


To me the most incredible phenomenon of our current political period presaging the 2016 elections involves candidates running for national office by themselves, sans partners. I’m talking of presidential candidates without their VPs and VP candidates without their presidential partners.

One can liken them to guys going to a local dance in the plaza by themselves, and to borrow local lingo, nangangahoy.  That’s okay in a dance, but in politics this is disastrous, as these solo dancers appear to be without a philosophy to adhere to. Citizens have the right to ask whether ultimately their loyalty would be only to themselves and their financiers. 


This has been due to the multi-party system unleashed in the giddy exuberance of the post-martial law years, when the country recovered from one-man rule. This system caused the blurring of political parties and therefore of political adherence over the years. 

Naturally politicos tend to flock to the administration party because of the goodies being distributed, such as fat lump sums in the 2016 “election budget,” as the opposition has accused the LP of maneuvering in Congress. But it may be just a question of the shoe being in the other foot.


Thus we have Bongbong Marcos, Alan Peter Cayetano, and Antonio Trillanes, all indicating they’re running for VP without presidential candidates (a fourth, Gregorio Honasan, showed up this morning at VP Jejomar Binay’s filing of candidacy after a no-show at his Cebu launch).

LP presidential candidate Mar Roxas almost had to run sans a VP, so that all manner of pressure was said to have been applied on Lennie Robredo to agree to being his VP.  Miriam Defensor Santiago has hinted about wanting to run again, without a VP. Panfilo Lacson also entertained this thought for a while until his sail ran out of wind. 

The declared VP candidate ahead of the pack was Chiz Escudero, but in the strong likelihood of Grace Poe’s disqualification on the natural-born citizenship issue, Chiz would also end up partner-less; would he then pack up his tent, or would he capitalize on the popularity of Grace Poe to continue his solo flight?  

In Makati posters sprang up everywhere about a Duterte-Cayetano team-up, but with Duterte declaring today that he's better cut out for taking care of Davao only, where does that leave the ambitious Cayetano? 


Bongbong Marcos appears to have made a smart decision to concentrate on the VP race. With the Bicol region split up among four declared VP candidates (Escudero, Robredo, Honasan and Trillanes) and Cayetano's wife, Taguig city mayor Lani, a Bicolana, BBM seems to have the edge with the Solid North---not to mention the still-intact Marcos fortune and his popular stand vs. the BBL. With the passing of Sen. Joker Arroyo, BBM is recalled among the three who stood their ground against 20 other senators who convicted Chief Justice Renato Corona with the persuasion power of the DAP.

Thus, the way things now look, it’s entirely possible that any one of presidential candidates Roxas, Binay or Duterte (should he still go ahead as fervent followers hope), could end up with VP Bongbong.  


If some ambitions don’t die along the way, 2016 would be a frightfully expensive exercise, and donors could be fleeced hard and dry. But more than worrying about fleeced donors, what should worry us is the fact that partner-less candidates are also less likely to adhere to some kind of political platform of governance.  The candidate who wins without a partner would have no loyalty to whoever would eventually end up as his tandem, and the nation would be the poorer as a result.

In our past history we saw many political tandems split up eventually, because our politics have always been personality and not issue-oriented. But how much easier splitting up would be if the ruling duo BEGINS AS AN ACCIDENT OF HISTORY---they just got elected separately and therefore would have no loyalty to each other.

What suffers in such cases is the welfare of the people and the nation, as the victory of politically disparate elements only heightens the quarrelsome and disputative nature of Filipinos, and our tendency to trifle with deeper issues.


Recall how Benigno Aquino III had ran with Mar Roxas as his VP in 2010 (after Mar “gave way” to Noynoy after the passing of the latter’s mother roused such sympathy among the people); but along the way, some Aquino relatives and supporters eventually junked Mar and worked for Jejomar Binay to win as VP in the 2010 elections---the so-called “Noy-Bi” tandem. Look what came to pass.   

Our political history is replete with what seems inevitable---the two top officials in discord: Diosdado Macapagal and Emmanuel Pelaez (on the issue of the latter’s “borrowed honor”), Marcos and Fernando Lopez, Cory Aquino and Doy Laurel (whom she fired soon after they were elected, accusing Laurel of espousing a parliamentary system so he could be PM, and ultimately of trying to foment a coup against her).


In the United States, candidates for the two top offices always run as a bloc and are elected as such;  thus you don’t see the destructive in-fighting, as they are constrained to defend their sworn platform. Political parties, moreover, are defined along very set lines, such that the Republicans and the Democrats are distinguished from each other through their platforms. Once in a while one sees a Republican or Democrat jump ship, but that politico's career suffers greatly.

More so are the lines defined in the parliamentary system such as in the UK, where a shadow government exists alongside the ruling government, ready to take over if the latter falls.

Voting the two top leaders by bloc should have been the case in our country as it is more harmonious, more economical as they would campaign as a team and sink or swim together. But unfortunately the framers of our Constitution didn’t see it fit to enshrine this feature.  Hence we see the chaotic scene that we have today, in our deteriorating free-for-all, chaotic multi-party system.

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