President Aquino’s endorsement of Mar Roxas as his political heir and the Liberal Party’s candidate for the 2016 elections would be his biggest gift to the nation, his lasting legacy. He could even package it as his Christmas gift to the nation good not only for this year but also the next, and we certainly won’t complain.
There are five reasons why.
First, for the first time in our post-war period, the presidential elections will not be based on personalities but on notions of government.
Roxas is all for Aquino’s “tuwid-na-daan, walang-mahirap-kung-walang-corrupt” “ideology”, for lack of a better word. The gist of their notion of government is as follows.
The Arroyo government was a totally corrupt one, the reincarnation of the Marcos regime, and just as Cory toppled the dictator, her son “toppled” the economist-president. Just as Cory was Marcos’ nemesis, Aquino is Arroyo’s. His governance’s be-and-end-all, the entire fight against corruption so there won’t be poverty is to put the former president and everyone involved in the corruption during her watch in jail.
The massive probe on pork-barrel corruption and the arrest and jailing of three prominent senators has been the essence of the tuwid-na-daan program. The bureaucracy will automatically become corrupt-free because henceforth there will fear of retribution, this tuwid thinking tells us.
Some other details of such a notion of government are as follows:
A Philippine president does not accept cash bribes and he does not involve himself in shady deals. He can however accept a Porsche as a congratulatory gift, or favor a conglomerate that has helped him bag a contract, even to the extent of nullifying a previous contract. He won’t interfere also with his officials who favor a particular group in winning a major contract, such as servicing a key utility such as the MRT-3.
Filipinos therefore, if Roxas is Aquino’s standard bearer, will be asked to decide if they want another such tuwid-na-daan government, and its narrow, weird view of governance.
They will decide if governance solely involves an anti-corruption tack , or if it should involve developing a strong and efficient state.
And coincidentally, even if one argues that the scale is so different, the current front-runner for 2016, Vice President Jejomar Binay is in effect saying that his government will be a strong and efficient state —just as he claims he made Makati as such for more than a decade.
Binay—whether he likes it not, and partly because of the intense campaign to portray him as corrupt—has projected himself as the antithesis of Aquino and his tuwid na daan mumbo-jumbo. Never mind if there is corruption, more important is the state’s efficiency.
Second, Roxas is Aquino’s clone, and nobody else is like this President. They are both scions of hacendero-based clans that have ruled this country for at least two centuries. Elites such as the Ayalas would be as comfortable with Roxas as they have been close to Aquino, but certainly not with Binay.
Both have been the favorites of two powerful media institutions, ABS-CBN, and the Philippine Daily Inquirer, although the latter seems to have given up hope and appears to be positioning Grace Poe as its chosen one.
If Aquino anoints Roxas as his candidate therefore, Filipinos would be given a clear choice to make: an executive of the elite or a product of the middle-classes. Marcos vs. Cojuangco-Aquino in 1985; Ramos vs. Santiago in 1992, Estrada vs. de Venecia in 1998; Arroyo vs FPJ in 2004—these contests didn’t present Filipinos with such a clear choices for a leader in terms of class origins as the names “Roxas” and “Binay” do.
Both the Spanish Roxas and Basque Araneta clans enriched themselves partly through the Spaniards’ galleon trade between Manila and Acapulco that started in the 16th century which was really the raison d’être for our colonization by Spain. That’s how far back in our history Mar’s elite lineage has been. The only information on “Binay” I could find was that it was an Irish clan, but it’s pretty obvious from the vice president’s skin color and height that his isn’t an Irish lineage.
Third, based on voter-preference polls, Binay’s victory in a one-to-one fight against Roxas would be a landslide, with the vice president possibly getting the biggest percentage of votes ever in the post-war era.
Thus, there will be near-unanimity in the nation’s choice of president. Thus our nation will be united, as it has never really been.
Fourth, Binay’ victory against Roxas would be a tectonic movement in class-consciousness, giving the working classes hope of power. Binay is of middle-class origins, and his rise to the political firmament has been a fluke (What if Cory’s political henchman, Aquilino Pimentel in 1986 had changed his mind and withdrew his offer for the human-rights lawyer Binay to be Makati officer-in-charge? ).
Call him a traditional, even a corrupt, local politician, but he is portraying himself as the working-class champion. On the other hand, despite all his hilarious gimmicks (“Mr. Palengke”), Roxas has projected himself as the elite’s CEO that would right the nation, the good-hearted hacendero who would take care of his serfs.
The 2016 election would thus be a celebration of democracy, with elections affirmed as the broad masses’ only venue, because of its sheer numbers, to tell the ruling class, “We do matter!”
Binay’s win would even demolish that class marker, skin color. Filipinos would no longer think being dark is ugly and means ‘poor.’ No longer would Filipinas spend hundreds of millions in skin whiteners, and black—and if you see Binay in person, he is more black than dark brown— would be beautiful, as that old cliché goes.
Fifth, Roxas’ extremely low ratings in voter-preference polls—6 percent in the most recent Pulse Asia survey—means his campaign financing will be drying up, with even the elite giving him only token contributions, especially with the type of Makati tycoons who would support Roxas as the Ayalas and the Concepcions who are known for their stinginess in political contributions.
Most of our opportunistic elite will throw their money at Binay, who would therefore owe nothing to any particular group. He could even turn down contributions from the usual suspects with one-syllable names known to ask for really big favors after the elections.
Binay therefore really wouldn’t owe anything to his financiers. That would mean that we’ll have a president, for the first time in our history, who is independent from the ruling class.
That therefore would be Aquino’s biggest, enduring gift to the nation.