Aquino for Binay for president in 2016?

By Ellen Tordesillas

There's a compelling reason for President Aquino to make sure that that he would be able to influence the people’s choice of his successor otherwise he would suffer the same fate that befell the two presidents before him.

His predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, is in jail – hospital arrest, actually- facing plunder and electoral sabotage charges.

Arroyo’s predecessor, Joseph Estrada, spent six years in detention- much of it under house arrest - for plunder. Convicted, he was later pardoned. He nearly made a comeback as president in 2010, placing second to Aquino. He is now mayor of the city of Manila.

Surely, Aquino knows that in his position, it’s not a matter of good intentions as his “Tuwid na Daan” slogan trumpets. As president, he makes decisions, sometimes resorting to legal brinkmanship. Example is the Disbursement Acceleration Program, the legality of which is being questioned in the Supreme Court.

During his incumbency, a president is immune from suits and can only be removed by impeachment which is initiated by the House of Representatives. Aquino can sleep well that no impeachment against him would succeed because the speaker of the House, Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte, and Jr is a loyal ally.

The ties that bind Aquino and Belmonte are solid. Belmonte’s city administrator when he was Quezon City mayor is Aquino’s executive secretary - Paquito Ochoa, Jr.

Aquino’s concern, and for that matter all presidents', is their vulnerability from suits once they are out of Malacañang.

Aquino’s mother, Corazon Aquino, was amply protected because her successor, Fidel Ramos, was her anointed.

Ramos did not have Cory’s advantage because the candidate he endorsed , Lakas-NUCD’s Jose de Venecia, lost to Estrada.

Ramos was investigated by the Estrada administration of involvement in the P7.3-billion Centennial Expo project in Angeles City, Pampanga . ( Ombudsman Aniano Desierto, his appointee, later on dropped him from the list of those being investigated.)

Estrada’s did not have the chance to influence the choice of his successor as he was ousted barely halfway through his six-year term.

Arroyo, who replaced Estrada,acknowledged the support of Ramos and several military generals in the ouster of the actor- turned- president- now- mayor.Estrada believed that Ramos did so because of the Centennial Expo Scam.

Arroyo, who was so unpopular by the end of her nine-years in Malacañang, was of no help to the presidential bid of her candidate, Gilbert Teodoro.

It remains to be seen if Aquino’s popularity, undented by his immature leadership especially in times of crisis, would be good enough to make his endorsement valuable by 2016.

It also depends on who he would be endorsing.

Since Aquino is chairman of the Liberal Party, it is expected that he would be supporting the LP candidate for president. Right now, the one being touted as LP bet is Interior Secretary Mar Roxas.

If Roxas runs for president in 2016, Aquino would look ungrateful if he does not endorse him for president considering that Roxas gave up his well-laid out 2010 presidential bid and slid down to be Aquino’s running mate.

But then, will Aquino’s endorsement of Roxas get the latter the presidency? Informed sources said in post-Yolanda surveys, which showed satisfaction rating for Aquino steady despite his bunglings, Roxas’ score dropped substantially.

Aside from Roxas, other LP names being mentioned as possible 2016 standard bearers are Senate President Franklin Drilon and Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio “Jun” Abaya. Both are considered lightweights as presidential contenders.

Outside the Liberal Party, there is someone angling for an Aquino endorsement: Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano. That is if he gets past Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos as Nacionalista Party standard bearer.

At the opposite side of the administration party is the United Nationalist Alliance, whose head, Vice President Jejomar Binay, Sr, has not been shy about his 2016 presidential plans.

Binay’s national campaign machinery is formidable, it was able to make his daughter Nancy, a political unknown, win as senator in last year’s election. In many provinces, posters just carried the Binay name without pictures which made people think that they were voting for the vice president for senator.

Would it be possible for Aquino to support Binay for president? Why not? Not openly endorse perhaps but it’s not unthinkable.

After all, there’s a Noy-Bi faction in Malacañang, who includes no less than the immediate members of the President’s family. And Aquino tolerated that in the 2010 elections.

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