POSTSCRIPT / August 18, 2015 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Opinion Columnist

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Public now irrelevant to nomination process

WE THE PEOPLE have grown irrelevant to the process of choosing a political party’s standard bearer in national elections.

See how President Noynoy Aquino simply anointed the Liberal Party’s presidential candidate for the 2016 elections and announced his chosen one to a small gathering of LP members at Club Filipino who dutifully clapped in response.

Not that we want political leaders to consult us first, but there used to be from-the-ground-up consultations all the way to the national convention where the contending aspirants vie publicly for the nomination.

The confabs were often just a sham, but the convention selecting the party’s presidential nominee gives the chosen one the semblance of being the product of visible multi-level consultations – adding bounce to his takeoff as official candidate.

As it happened in the LP, since DILG Secretary Mar Roxas was the personal pick of President Aquino, it was the latter’s burden now to build up Roxas to presidential proportions and make him win.

That looks like a tiresome task. The administration party will have to campaign for both Messrs Aquino and Roxas, because the President himself needs some boost for his own acceptability before he can pass value-added points to his ward.

It is the same with Roxas’ opponent in the opposition, Vice President Jojo Binay, who simply materialized from the black smoke of the Senate inquisition as the presidential candidate of the United Nationalist Alliance.

Who said so and by what process was Binay acclaimed as the UNA’s candidate for president? Who were the captive politicians – never mind the non-existent grassroots participants — who proclaimed him?

Grace-Chiz tandem an exclusive pact

THEN we have presidential wannabe Sen. Grace Poe Llamanzares, whose intention to run for president in 2016 appears to have arisen from a mere compact of two persons – i.e. Poe and Sen. Chiz Escudero whose end of the bargain is for him to be her vice presidential partner.

The mass-based party nomination process was also completely missing. In fact, it is only now that Poe is scouting around for a party to carry her.

The end result of this departure from the known participatory process is that we the people will vote on May 9, 2016, only from among the candidates that the political bosses will present to us.

This is one of the reasons why we agree with the suggestion that the Commission on Elections add a bottom option of NOTA (None Of The Above) in the ballots’ listing of candidates to choose from.

But even NOTA will not work — unless we amend the electoral process to provide that if nobody gets, say, more than 33 percent of the votes in a contest of at least three candidates, there will be a quick Stage-2 election between the two contenders getting the biggest number of votes.

This two-part process will at least assure us that we have a president chosen by the majority. (To do this we will have to revise the electoral calendar, among many other amendments, but if this is too much alteration, forget it.)

Is Poe’s running bad or good for Mar?

AT THIS point several weeks before the October deadline for the filing of certificates of candidacy and with just two presidential candidates in the open, anything can happen.

Weighing their chances are at least five more presidential wannabes. The long waiting list indicates how “weak” are the declared unofficial candidates and how tempting the water still is.

The main focus of speculation is Poe, the conceded strongest candidate at this point — if the usual surveys are to be believed.

If Poe decides to run AND IS NOT DISQUALIFIED and if elections were to be held next Monday, she would run away with the presidency – likely carrying in her winning wake Escudero as her vice president.

But if she decides not to run for president muna while the operators clean up her citizenship and residency records – Roxas will win over Binay provided the administration can keep the corruption-related “daang matuwid”issue alive.

That is why the deal being whispered by Roxas to Poe when Escudero is not within earshot is for her to run as his (Roxas’) running mate — or not to run for president at all. And, psst, the administration can help her with her citizenship and related problems.

Can corruption issue be sustained?

BUT if the Aquino administration persists on its selective prosecution of perceived enemies and the coddling of its own corrupt allies, it may falter in keeping corruption as a top gut issue in 2016. That will not help Roxas.

What could catch on are economic concerns. The tantalizing statistics about a booming economy and foreign investors banging at the door to plunk in billions do not amount to anything to a family head who is earning peanuts and whose children are missing the better things in life.

The Filipino has been conditioned to be forever hopeful, but there is a limit to optimism especially when one sees that the bulk of the food and the good things are being cornered by the wealthy few and those with political connections.

Binay may just squeeze in if he is able to play well the poverty and injustice cards.

And by early next year when the campaign crescendo starts, if the camp of Davao Mayor Rody Duterte is able to catch the nation’s attention to the worsening peace and order situation, the Mindanao-based hardball player might bite a sizeable chunk of the votes.

Or if he is just using his presidential pitch for a quick slide to a vice presidential bid, Duterte could be a contributing partner for any of the presidential candidates.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 18, 2015)

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