Road to 2016 Philippine Elections: The Presidentiables (Part 1)

Donald Borja Sevilla Bohol Tribune

The Presidentiables

This early presidential hopefuls are busy parrying blows from political opponents eager to strip them bare. Beneath their beautiful facade and deceiving appearances, one can see the trappings of ill-gotten wealth and smell the rotten odor of corruption.

While many of them belong to political clans in which running affairs of state becomes a family matter, some are political newbies. Others have held positions of power for as long as we could remember and yet continue to do so through their wives and children.

VP JEJOMAR BINAY

Leading the pack is no less than the Vice President of the land, embroiled in the thick of controversy as his political life has been subjected to scrutiny. His many years as mayor of Makati City that hosts the country’s equivalent to Wall Street have resulted in allegations of corruption and anomalies in the use of public funds.

The current senate investigation is a testament that politics is dirty business and contending parties are out to hang each other dry. But regardless of their motives, these sometimes senseless exercises ferret out the truth to the people’s benefit. Had not a defeated Makati mayoralty candidate filed charges of plunder against the popular Vice President, none of these allegations would have taken center stage in the national consciousness.

By making no qualms about setting sights on the highest political office, it has put the Vice President in the hot seat. His consistent, high survey ratings make him an attractive target to destroy that opponents are leaving no stone unturned. He can cry foul and protest that all these allegations are politically motivated, baseless and unfounded but it cannot hide the ugly truth.

It does not take an engineering genius to figure out that an 11-storey building with just six floors dedicated to offices and another five floors for parking should rival the cost of several storeys of a high rise luxury condominium. No matter how you stretch the imagination, it still falls short in figures and numbers. The glaring comparison circulating in social media of a “world-class” structure as the London City Hall Office building and the Makati City Hall structure as claimed is a no brainer. Built at almost similar costs, Makati’s version of a world class building is a shame.

How one justifies the cost of building such a structure despite the quantitative survey estimates done by respected professionals debunking it is quite interesting. No amount of pencil pushing and “magic” can make the cloud of reasonable doubt looming over it disappear. The lame excuses and weak alibis in an attempt to rationalize the building’s gargantuan cost fail to convince when confronted with hard data and the evidence on hand.

Without even digging deeper, it is clear that the project was bloated. As to who benefited from it is subject to argument. But connecting the dots after the incriminating testimonies by former wards and trusted underlings becomes an easy task. This may just be the tip of the iceberg as more buildings and issues will be scrutinized in the days ahead. Definitely, the VP’s Pandora’s Box has been opened.

DILG SEC. MAR ROXAS II

On the other end of the political spectrum, we have a less popular Cabinet Secretary groomed to continue the herculean task of the Presidency, that is struggling with an image problem. Born to wealth and aristocratic roots, he has not succeeded in shedding off the elitist stigma to his disadvantage. He may have the full resources of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) at his disposal and the backing of the sitting President. Despite trying hard to fit in with the grassroots, he remains an aloof and distant government bureaucrat. His attempts at endearing himself to the masses through his political ads in the past of a down-to-earth political leader ended in severe criticism as a farcical, far-from-real rendition.

Widely circulated incidents of tongue lashing at subordinates reported by media have done him no good. From a not so stellar handling of affairs in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda and other issues of importance, he has consistently shown his true colors, that of a scion of a rich landed clan of oligarchs. His investment banking background that required working with the elite has further eroded his approachability and reach by the ordinary folk. Although no allegations of corruption and wrongdoing were hurled against him, he has shown poor ratings in the surveys of presidential aspirants.

Foreign educated, well bred and of good stock with impressive career credentials, yet Roxas falls wanting of strong public support. Definitely not the man to beat in the upcoming presidential polls, but Roxas can put up a good fight as the standard bearer of the administration party.

SEN. ALAN PETER CAYETANO

An heir to a political clan where members of his family hold key government positions, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano is perceived as a young man in a hurry to give the Presidency a shot. Riding on a platform of corruption-free governance he has been an impressive senate performer having filed several significant bills to his credit. Projecting an image of honest public service is foremost in his agenda, yet the vestiges of traditional politics run prominently in his veins. His sister is a fellow senator and a brother, a congressman in his district while his wife is mayor of the city of Taguig, which was brought to prominence by the Fort Bonifacio development otherwise known as Bonifacio Global City. It is Makati’s literal and bitter rival as the two cities fought in court for control of this prime piece of world-class real estate development.

The Cayetano brand of politics is everywhere in Taguig. It is seen in the acronyms of several city programs and slogans that bear the name of the senator’s wife, plastered all over the city’s fleet of cars and police vehicles. It is an E-pal city and the seat of another political dynasty just like Makati. The Senator may not be directly involved nor implicated in anomalous dealings and controversies in the upper chamber but his wife’s city is not spared from allegations of graft either. Cases have been filed against them at the Ombudsman but as a common excuse by politicians they shrug it off as politically motivated and the handiwork of their opponents. A fluent and articulate speaker and interpellator in the Senate, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano has shown political savvy and intellectual capability in senate deliberations. A good contender for the presidency too.

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