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Why Jejomar Binay is going to be our next president

In almost every get-together or meeting with friends and colleagues, the same question never fails to come up: who will be our next President in 2016 when President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III (PNoy) finally steps down from power?

Many of my friends are anxious about this because they all believe that we need another good, and morally-upright President, to succeed PNoy and build on the good governance reforms that he initiated during his term in office.

Almost all of them also agree that if the elections were held today, the run away winner would be Vice-President Jejomar Binay. Here’s why.

Less talk, mistakes, and enemies

In case you hadn’t noticed, Binay has been uncomfortably quiet when it comes to divisive political issues in the past. While he is known to be a supporter of PNoy, he hasn’t been very vocal about supporting the president's recent actions.

If you recall, Binay didn’t categorically say outright whether or not he was supporting the impeachment of former ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez and former Supreme Court chief justice Renato Corona. In fact, there were even unsettling rumors that he was opposed to the impeachment of Corona, which is why, up until the end, Malacanang wasn’t sure if they could count on his allies in the Senate; allies led by Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada, both of whom are now embroiled in the on-going Pork Barrel Scam.

During the height of the Reproductive Health (RH) Law debates, Binay was also neither confirming nor denying if he was for this piece of landmark legislation. As we know, many of those who supported the passage of the RH Law were condemned by the leaders of the Catholic Church, even subject to a Team Patay campaign during the 2013 elections.

As a wily and veteran politician, Binay knows that in very divisive issues, the best course of action would be for him to keep quiet lest he incur the ire of one group or the other. He and his handlers know that he is popular now as evidenced by the recent surveys so why even take the risk of taking strong stands on these important national issues.

While this may be good for him politically, this leads me to ask, is this the leader we want our country to have? These actions show indecisiveness as a leader, and also shows the lack of strong political will to push much needed reforms. Will that change, if and when he becomes the president? Your guess is as good as mine.  
Less action, responsibility, and criticism 

One of my colleagues at Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership often tells me that working in government can be, most of the time, a thankless job. This is regardless of how much effort and action you do. There will always be people who won’t be happy with what you do and will criticize you endlessly.

Just ask the late Jesse Robredo who was heavily criticized during the height of the August 2010 Luneta Hostage Crisis, only to be praised to high heavens as an icon of good governance when he passed away in August 2012.

Binay also knows this. That is why he would rather stay in the background during critical events in the country rather than be someone who takes the lead. He probably learned his lesson during the Zamboanga Crisis when he tried to serve as a mediator between the government and a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front, only to be criticized because he didn’t even ask permission from PNoy, ignoring the chain of command before he tried to assume this role.

Fortunately, for Binay, one of his presumptive main rivals for 2016 — current DILG Sec. Mar Roxas — was given much responsibility by PNoy, especially during the Zamboanga hostage crisis and the recent calamities that hit our country.

At the height of Typhoon Yolanda, Roxas, together with DSWD Sec. Dinky Soliman and Defense Sec. Voltaire Gazmin, were in Tacloban City to make sure that necessary preparations were made. They were victims themselves during the onslaught of Yolanda and, despite their good effort, all they received was flak from the general public. By not taking on major responsibilities and the lead role in important national events, Binay has successfully kept his high popularity since less action would mean less criticism, unlike Roxas who, because of PNoy’s continued trust and confidence, has been at the forefront of many of the recent tragedies.

Binay’s dilemma: The P10-Billion Pork Barrel Scam

It's still more than two years before the May 2016 Presidential elections, but is Binay going to be unbeatable? Not yet. One of the biggest roadblocks in his march towards Malacanang is the on-going Pork Barrel Scam investigation, where two of his closest allies at the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) — Senators Estrada and Enrile — are the main protagonists.

Given the enormity of the evidence that the whistleblowers (led by Benhur Luy, the Commission on Audit, and now Ruby Tuason) has presented, the big dilemma facing Binay is whether or not to continue to stick it out with his allies, or to slowly but surely distance himself from them.

On one end, if he drops them like a hot potato, he may incur the ire of the supporters of Estrada and Enrile, but if he continues to stick it out with them and defend them in public, like what he recently did, a big majority of Filipinos may inevitably conclude that he is just like them and this may drag his popularity down.

It would be interesting to see how he'll be able to balance this important issue that has hogged our headlines for more than six months now.

Unfortunately, for supporters of Binay, the elections won’t be held tomorrow, when is he more than likely to win given his current popularity. Fortunately, for those who don’t want to see him in Malacañang, there is still time to act and prepare a strong candidate that can give the vice-president a run for his money in 2016.

Who is that candidate? That is another story altogether. — OMG/KDM/JDS, GMA News

Comments are welcome at / Follow Harvey at Twitter: @harveykeh

Harvey S. Keh is Director for Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship at the Ateneo de Manila University-School of Government and is also the Lead Convenor of the Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership.

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