POSTSCRIPT / July 19, 2015 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Opinion Columnist

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Poe willing to shield Aquino if she wins?

IMAGINE the cost to taxpayers when the President of the Republic engaged three top officials – one of them his likely successor in 11 months — in a six-hour exchange that ended at past midnight without an agreement except to talk again soon.

President Noynoy Aquino need not beat around. He should just ask Sen. Grace Poe straight two questions nagging him: (1) If she could run as Liberal Party vice presidential candidate or, if not, (2) Be willing to protect Mr. Aquino if she runs for president next May and wins.

Those two points are central to the courtship dance that the President has been performing before the senadora who, incidentally, is not even a Liberal party member.

Mr. Aquino needs a successor willing to cover his tracks after he leaves Malacañang on June 30 next year. His detractors are expected to hound him with criminal charges after he loses the immunity normally accorded a sitting president.

As for Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and Sen. Chiz Escudero, they had to be asked to join the power dinner at the Bahay Pangarap last Wednesday to assure the gentlemen that no secret deals were being cooked in-between servings of Japanese dishes.

And Budget Secretary Butch Abad’s abiding presence was to send the subliminal that whatever was to be agreed upon, money was no problem. Btw, Abad also sat in when the President met congressmen last May to solicit support for the expensive Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Noy wants successor to protect him

IT IS not true, as Palace scriptwriters would have us believe, that Mr. Aquino is still looking for that one Filipino in this nation of some 100 million who could be his worthy successor to take the helm and stay the course.

See Postscript “More of the same? Or something better?” http://manilamail.com/archive/2015jul/15jul14/

That search has long been concluded. President Aquino and the Liberal Party that he chairs have more or less chosen Secretary Roxas as the administration standard bearer in the 2016 national elections.

They are just attending to the other detail of Roxas’ vice presidential partner who, preferably, has extra pulling power to pluck him from the survey ratings cellar.

The Liberals seem to believe that Poe as running mate could pump life to the faltering run of Roxas. They are dreaming of a Roxas-Poe tandem, an unbeatable combination because of Poe.

A few loose ends, however, are sticking out:

• If Poe agrees to run as VP partner of Roxas, what will she do with Escudero, who has succeeded in selling himself in a buy one-take one package with her? As we write this, the duo is already out campaigning together.

• Encouraged by advisers, Poe might just decide to run for president herself instead of being the administration VP partner being used to pull up Roxas to the presidency.

How to solve a problem like Escudero?

WHAT to do with Escudero? In exchange for letting go Poe to team up with Roxas, President Aquino can offer him a deal he cannot refuse, but Mr. Aquino will not be around to deliver political concessions after he leaves Malacañang in 2016.

The only immediately deliverable quid pro quo is a pile of money, but we don’t want to think about that.

Actually Escudero is not that crucial to victory, some LP bigwigs say, except that Poe – their real object — is insisting that she and the Bicol senator go together. In politics, however, it should not be too difficult for Poe to find a reason to keep him at arm’s length if she wants.

If Poe is convinced that she could win as an independent, and she does run for president, that could result in a multi-corner fight: (1) LP with Mar as standard bearer; (2) Poe as independent; (3) Jojo Binay for the United Nationalist Alliance; and (4) Rody Duterte of PDP-Laban.

While Poe is likely to keep Escudero, the others have to find a vice presidential partner. Roxas will have to choose from such LP stalwarts as Speaker Sonny Belmonte and Senate President Franklin Drilon. Or even Duterte if Mar is desperate for a partner.

Binay may ask Manila Mayor Erap Estrada. But the former president may want it the other way around with Binay as his VP partner as in 2010 when Estrada nearly trounced Aquino and Binay beat Roxas.

Give US forces access to Subic Bay

MY ONE vote will not matter, but I agree with a proposal to allow the US Navy enhanced access and use of the deepwater port of Subic Bay, some 80 air kilometers from Manila.

Once a jewel of a base of the US Seventh Fleet, Subic is just 198 kilometers from Panatag (Scarborough) shoal off Zambales that is the nearest flash point in the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China.

The old US base in Subic was closed after the expiration of the PH-US bases agreement in 1991. Opening Subic now to the US Navy can fall under the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the two allies.

The Constitution bans the establishment of permanent foreign bases except under a treaty ratified or concurred in by the Senates of both countries. But revolving access of US forces is not permanent basing. Subic will remain a Philippine, not a US, facility.

Defense department spokesman Peter Galvez said the Philippines would station aircraft and naval vessels at Subic Bay. “Its location is very strategic,” he added.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 19, 2015)

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