The Next President

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

Yes, the next president. That is the hot issue of today—from the ranks of politicians beginning with presidential wannabes. What makes it more hot is that Vice-President Jojo Binay has been leading the pack of presidentiables but he does not belong to the party in power.

I remember 1996 and 1997. Then Vice-President Joseph Estrada was also leading the pack, and he was not from the party in power with elections a year or two away. The party of President Fidel V. Ramos (FVR) and Jose de Venecia also went through a mild panic as there was no party member considered competitive to a popular Estrada. And, coincidences of coincidences, there was also a party leader who wanted to be president and managed to convince FVR to anoint him despite his non-winnability. As though the Ramon Mitra experience just the previous presidential election was not enough.

Time flies, and thank goodness that memories do not all disappear despite senior age. How we can so easily forget that only one President got re-elected ever since 1946 or 60 years by 2016. The lesson here is not about just the winners but most especially about the losers, too. All the losers were sitting Presidents with power and resources behind them, but the influence of incumbent politicians beholden to them. From 1992 onwards since no re-election of Presidents had been constitutionally banned, it were the parties in power who took the place of sitting presidents in pushing the candidacy of their chosen ones.

Marcos in 1969 won re-election, the first of all sitting Presidents. Fidel V. Ramos won in 1992, the chosen one of a sitting president, Corazon Aquino, who belonged to no party and, in fact, disagreed with the party and choice of Ramon Mitra, Jr. In the exceptions are lessons to be learned.

The Marcos experience, though, has less relevance than the Cory-FVR experience because the rules under the new Constitution prohibit a second term for Presidents. The year 2016 can be a re-make of the Cory-FVR experience, but that would be bad news for the Liberal Party.

By breaking ranks with the choice of the party that identified itself with her during her whole term, Cory did not turn her back on loyal friends. She did turn her back on a presidential candidate that did not fit her view of what the next presidency should look like. She turned her back on party politics that do not reflect people’s aspirations through their chosen candidate.

PNoy is a different President because he ascended to the office as a member of a party unlike his mother. Even though many know that his victory in 2010 was not because he was the Liberal Party candidate, that, in fact, it was on the shoulders of party-less volunteers who carried him to Malacanang, PNoy paid homage to the party with disproportionate gratitude from the beginning of his term.

All the more at this time, when Congress is led by the Liberal Party and its allies, PNoy will find greater difficulty in not playing along with the party’s choice.

Playing along, though, can also mean playing along with the pattern of mistakes committed by others before him, by Presidents who backed their party’s choice despite the clear inability of their candidate to win the people’s hearts and minds.

The mistake was not in being loyal, the mistake was being loyal to the party beyond their greater obligation to present a candidate that could better inspire the people in the next administration.

Many have said that power blinds even the greedy who lust for more. The party in power always thinks it is more influential than it really is come election time.

In a period of great change, where we are now, life favors those who have sought something new, something better, than the hardship they had been experiencing for so long. Sometimes, change accommodates the young and their aspirations.

Sometimes, too, change looks to easing the plight of the poor. After all, it is the young and it is the poor who seek change most passionately. And between the young and the poor in the Philippines, they have the overwhelming votes.

The year 2016 should not be any different in the present journey of change. The poor will be the biggest source of votes for the next president. Then the young, in that order.

The growing influence of social media does affect the way the whole population thinks and feels. The majority poor, however, are less wired to the major dailies, or FaceBook and Twitter. The choice of mainstream and social media need not be the choice of the poor and the young as the last senatorial elections show.

The exciting thing about change that is stepping up its pace is that it makes things more unpredictable.

The year 2016 is so near, yet so far away, Rapid change can dramatically alter a political scenario because of just one hot issue at a critical moment. Cory’s death in August 1, 2009, changed the whole political landscape and set a trajectory that elevated a non-ambitious senator to a presidency he never sought. One event revealed destiny’s choice and nothing else really mattered except for enough Filipinos to agree.

It is not fate that elects a President. It may be destiny that gives the clear edge to its anointed, but destiny does not remove the choice of man. And to the observant, fate or destiny actually consider most importantly what people want, and what people need. Free will is paramount, even if exercised wrongly.

So we do not even have to fasten our seat belts yet. The wild roller coaster ride has not begun. We will know when it does. And when it happens, it will not be fueled by traditional or social media, but the other way around.

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