A year ago, everyone and his mother assumed Jojo Binay, the “poor” man from Culi-Culi in the area where Makati kisses the “sin city” of Pasay, was fated to be the next president of the Philippines.
A year ago as well, everyone had assumed Mar Roxas would be PNoy’s anointed, the “crown prince” who would succeed when the “king” abdicates on June 30, 2016. Yet their party-mates in the Liberal Party worried about Mar’s numbers in a country hooked on, and spooked by, poll surveys.
After all, Mar gave way to PNoy in 2009, when President Cory’s death illumined the path to another Aquino presidency. And after all, their fathers, Benigno Jr. and Gerardo Sr., were both leaders of the Partido Liberal which Mar’s grandfather founded out of the ribs of Quezon and Osmena’s Nacionalista Party.
My, how things have changed in a year’s time.
Binay’s survey numbers have tumbled by almost a hundred percent, while Mar’s have remained virtually static. And then came Grace.
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In the past six days, after Poe and Chiz saw PNoy at the palace, all sorts of speculation started hounding Mar’s political fate come 16 October this year.
First, Chiz said, his compadre PNoy had not made up his mind on whom to endorse as his successor.
Second, a broadsheet bannered a strange ménage a trios scenario, where allegedly PNoy suggested to Grace that she and Mar spend “quality time” together, “bonding” in the hustings. The story gave the reader the impression that PNoy told Grace this strange advice in last Thursday’s meeting. And that Grace insisted “it should be with Chiz as well”. OMG!
(On Sunday last, over lunch with a giant mover and shaker of Philippine politics, “Mar does not deserve this kind of treatment” was the comment of my luncheon host. I agreed with Mar and our former boss.)
Third, on Monday, the same broadsheet published Senadora GP’s clarification: that was suggested in her meeting with PNoy last May, not Thursday. And nothing came out of it.
But how could it? Mar would certainly not agree to such an arrangement. Not only because of the participation of Chiz, but who would want to be seen beside the survey-popular Grace and be ignored by the screaming “masa”? So Mar apparently decided to go his own way, distributing Mahindra jeeps to local police units all over the country instead.
Fourth, in what can best be described as “the unkindest cut of all”, the Speaker of the House, Sonny Belmonte harrumphs: “PNoy has no choice but to endorse the unstoppable Grace Poe”. Another OMG. Repeat, OMG!
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What happened? Surely it’s not just about Mar’s numbers remaining low as against Grace’s amazing rise, as Belmonte explained.
In a year’s time, Binay’s world has been discombobulated. Why should the Speaker and the President not give their party-mate Mar (old gold), the chance to improve his numbers within another year, instead of being dumped by newly-minted Liberals (new silver)? After all, elections are about a year away. Anything could still happen.
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Which brings me to another “strange” (but not so strange in the Byzantine halls of the palace) phenomenon.
Last Friday, on the acknowledged recommendation of Secretary of National Defense Volts Gazmin, Hernando Iriberri (congratulations to our fellow Caraganon!) was appointed Chief of Staff of the AFP.
Which Chief PNP has been thus far appointed by the President on the strength of the SILG’s recommendation? It’s been eight months since the police forces have been led by an OIC, and although properly and admirably steered by retiring Gen. Leonardo Espina, an OIC is still an OIC. Recall Mamasapano.
Does the SILG’s recommendation hold little water in the President’s palm? As of this writing, no one has yet been named Chief PNP.
And the man whom everybody in the Palace was betting on, Gen. Raul Petrasanta, has been “outed” by the Ombudsman.
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What does one read in all these?
To re-write a song popular in the 1960s, “Killing Me Softly With His Song,” Mar is being “killed”, slowly, by the siren song that is Grace, and it seems PNoy is humming the tune.
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Sometime towards the end of March, in the Queen City of Cebu, in a reunion of the huge Veloso clan, the guest of honor was one whose father, Vicente Duterte, was a relation of the Velosos (of Cebu, Leyte, Zamboanga, Negros Oriental and other parts).
Right after giving a lecture on the merits of federalism, Rodrigo Duterte was “waylaid” by young Cebuano social media geniuses, Ato Ni Vines, and asked a few questions.
“Short, 6-second answers please”, said the young boys.
One of the questions popped was, “What can you say about Zayn Malik leaving One Direction?”
What the hell, I thought, fidgety at how a 70-year old Duterte would answer.
Duterte first replied, “Well, it happens. Just like when Paul McCartney left the highly popular group, the Beatles”. (De nuestro tiempo).
“Mayor, taas kaayo imong tubag. 6 seconds please”, said the interviewer.
Duterte thought a while, and then blurted, “Nothing is forever”.
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Congratulations to fellow Caraganon, Gen. Hernando Iriberri of Surigao del Sur, on his recent appointment as Chief of Staff, Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Even Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte described Irriberi as a “warrior”, and recalled the days when the officer was assigned in Davao and performed very well.
Which brings me to ask: Iriberri was appointed right on the day his predecessor, Gen. Pio Catapang ended his tour of duty. And Iriberri was proud to admit, with profuse gratitude at that, his being recommended by the Secretary of National Defense, Volts Gazmin.
But in the case of the Philippine National Police, which has been leaderless for the last seven months and more, although effectively steered by its officer-in-charge, Gen. Leonardo Espina, no replacement has been named.
Practically everybody and his mother had appealed to the President to name a Director-General for the national police, especially after the tragic Mamasapano carnage that saw the death of 44 SAF men and officers. Even his allies, former Senator and Sec. Panfilo Lacson and Sen. Francis Escudero have openly asked PNoy to name a replacement for his friend Alan Purisima, but no dice.
Has DILG Secretary Mar Roxas not recommended anybody? Has the Board of Promotions (or whatever they call it in the PNP) not gone through a long list and pared it down to a short list for the President’s decision?
Gen. Espina will forcibly retire on July 19, and has in fact, bade farewell to his troops last Monday. As we go to press, still no word from Malacanang of the Ombudsman-dismissed Purisima, and OIC Espina’s replacement.
Hasn’t Mar realized the implications of this? Is his word not as good as Volts’ with the President? In the armed forces, everybody knows that major promotions among their ranks which require Malacanang appointment come with the recommendation of their SND, himself a retired Army commander.
And to think he is the nino bonito of the Liberal Party, the dauphin to succeed when the current king abdicates on June 30, 2016.
Something does not seem to connect.
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So the President asked Senadora Grace as early as May this year to move around the country with Secretary Mar in their version of Digong Duterte’s “listening tour”? And the senadora asked that she be accompanied by a “chaperon”, the one she is “comfortable with”, Senador Chiz Escudero?
Did the President really suggest that? Or assuming so, did he suggest the same political ménage a trois to his ever loyal, ever true Mar?
Parenthetically, how did Mar feel if indeed it was suggested?
Clearly, he must have rejected the idea, because he has instead moved all by himself from province to province, distributing Mahindra jeeps to local police units, making it a point to always drop by his friend Digong when he is in Davao.
Just to say hi and hello to each other, both Mar and Digong say.
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Now connect the dots.
(Oh and by the way, someone who has been a “natural-born” Liberal, as his father was a co-founder of the Liberal Party together with the late President Manuel Acuna Roxas, Mar’s lolo whose face adorns the hundred-peso bill, called me up after reading our Monday article. There we asked whether PNoy would “trade old gold for new silver,” referring to…)