What President Aquino will report to the nation come the 27th of July is of little moment compared to the suspense of whom he will endorse for 2016.
It was not like this when his mother, President Cory, was about to deliver her last State of the Nation Address. Then, the public wanted to hear how she would bid them farewell, after a reign that brought the institutional forms of democracy back despite several coup attempts.
Back then, elections were manual, and candidates for the presidency had until the first week of February 1992 to sign up with the Commission on Elections. Now, because candidates have to file between October 12 and 16 this year, political fever has eclipsed the significance of the last Sona.
It’s no longer a question of what he did, or what he will yet do in the next eleven months, but whom PNoy would endorse to succeed him as president.
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Senators Chiz Escudero and Grace Poe went to Malacanang and saw PNoy last Thursday afternoon. For four hours and a half, they did not discuss anything specific, Grace avers, just “continuity of tuwid na daan”.
The more voluble Chiz gave clues though. He asked the President whether he had made up his mind on whom to endorse, and was told “none yet.”
Which brings me back to Tita Cory. In July of 1991, there were two presidential contenders actively seeking her endorsement: her Speaker of the House, Ramon Villarosa Mitra Jr. and her Defense Secretary, Fidel Valdez Ramos.
Both were members of the humongous party that comprised her traditional political support, the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino, or Laban, of which her brother, Rep. Peping Cojuangco of Tarlac, was the secretary-general.
Meanwhile, a draft started by Sen. Orly Mercado for Chief Justice Marcelo B. Fernan to run for president was gaining ground, particularly in his native Visayan region. But Fernan could not make up his mind, yet kept his options open. The very political Cardinal Sin was already whispering to his acolytes that Fernan was his favorite, and many thought that would carry much weight with the Presidentita.
The opposition was itself divided between Vice-President Doy Laurel of the Nacionalista Party, and a break-away faction headed by Ambassador Danding Cojuangco, quickly labeled the Nationalist People’s Coalition. Difficult to classify as to whether pro-administration or opposition was the Liberal Party. Its leader, Senate President Jovito Salonga, was definitely “outside the kulambo” of the president.
Meanwhile too, youth groups found a new champion in Immigration Commissioner Miriam Defensor-Santiago, whose fiery crusade against corruption matched with colorful language heretofore atypical of traditional politicians, was gaining much traction.
By November, the LDP, which controlled 90 percent of all elective officials, went into a region-based “convention”, and the runaway winner was predictably Ramon Mitra. But Ramos refused to give up, and forthwith marched to the Comelec to register a new party, Lakas ng Tao (People Power) with a mere six or seven congressmen in tow. Later, he was to get the support of Raul Manglapus’ Christian Democrats, after their putative champion, Marcelo Fernan, still hemmed and hawed. Thus was born the merged Lakas-NUCD.
It wasn’t until after her January 25, 1992 birthday that Tita Cory decided, and it was in favor of FVR and his puny band of loyalists, against Mitra and his humongous LDP. The rest is history.
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Will history repeat itself? Grace and Chiz probably hope so. But would PNoy ditch Mar and their fathers’ Liberal Party? Trade old gold for new “silver”? Discard the man who “owned” the LP brand in 2009, yet surrendered it to him after Tita Cory’s death, and remained ever-loyal, ever-true throughout his presidency?
Abangan. We are told the president would announce his choice right after his Sona. Some in the Palace are saying it might even be the last paragraph of his Sona.
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Meanwhile, expect the usual pre-election noise. There will be more mud and brickbats hurled against each other, using spokesmen. More media spins about practically anything and everything. “Private” dinners will be publicized to create political intrigue; floats will be made about presidentiables sliding down to numero dos; and wannabes will be traipsing all over the islands, with a plethora of gimmicks.
The circus has rolled into town.
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Mercifully, from South America, come tidings that warm the heart. Departing from his prepared speech, Pope Francis apologized in Bolivia, the country named after the great liberator, Simon Bolivar, for the “colonial sins” of the Roman Catholic Church.
“Many grave sins were committed against the native people of America in the name of God. I humbly ask forgiveness…” said Francis, who once headed the Church in Argentina.
He could have said the same in the Philippines last February, where the colonial sword conquered in the name of the cross. But his mensaje del corazon of compassion, delivered especially in Yolanda-ravished Tacloban, was what touched every Filipino’s heart.
Thank God for this messenger of the faith.