Monday, August 31, 2009

The Problem with A Noynoy Presidential Run

by Dr. Prospero E. de Vera

The biggest story that has come out of the untimely death of former President Corazon Aquino is the sudden transformation of Noynoy Aquino into a presidentiable.

What initially appeared to be a nostalgic trip back to the post-Marcos political Camelot is now slowly turning out to be a real and serious attempt by respected media personalities (like Conrad de Quiros), formerly dormant cause oriented groups (like ATOM), and excited facebook members to push Noynoy to declare that he is ready to lead this nation.

Unconfirmed reports from media and political sources that Mar Roxas was getting ready to slide down as Noynoy's vice president has further fueled public speculation.

While a Noynoy presidential run has tremendous potential to fire up the LP and its associated support groups base, it can also cause nightmares for many personalities in the LP camp.

First, and the most obvious effect is that it creates a problem with Mar Roxas (and his allies like Butch Abad and Frank Drilon) because he will have to agree, and his power block will now have to put a system to select the official LP candidate. This will derail or slow down networking activities being done by Roxas with various political and civic groups. In short, until the resolution of the Mar-Noynoy rivalry, Mar Roxas will have to slow down on his political ads and re-assess his efforts in going around the country to gain political or financial support.

Second, Noynoy's entry will resurrect the ghosts of the Drilon-Atienza power struggle as attention will now be focused on the selection process to be used by the LP in deciding its official candidates. The public clamor for a Noynoy presidential run, aided now by the offer of Aksyon Democratiko to field him as their official candidate, will require transparency, maybe even the participation of Mar and Noynoy support groups, in the LP selection process.

It would be interesting how party leaders - Drilon, Abad, Nerius Acosta, etc. - will respond to these pressures given the fact that the party still has to reclaim, or bring back to its fold many LP members who have been marginalized after the LP Drilon - LP Atienza split.

With Mar Roxas as the only declared presidentiable, Drilon and company can easily brush-off Atienza's questions. Those pushing for a Noynoy option, including Kiko Pangilinan, are obviously not part of the Roxas-Drilon-Abad power block. A Noynoy presidential run, in this regard, will clearly cause serious realignments within LP.

Third, the current moves to get 1 million signatures for Noynoy throws a monkey wrench on the Mar-Korina political wedding scheduled in October because the collection of signatures (and Noynoy's own request that people put yellow ribbons everywhere) will most likely culminate in the same month. In all likelihood, the signature campaign will get at least equal, if not more media attention than the Mar-Korina wedding. The romantic telenovela may, in the end, be overshadowed by the political telenovela.

Finally, the longer this whole thing drags on the more difficult it would be for the LP to consolidate support at the local level and launch an effective campaign. Many LP leaders at the local level, including those I talked to recently in Pampanga, are in a quandary on how to move given the mixed signals from party leaders and apparent standstill at the national level. Meanwhile, Senator Villar and the NP are consolidating support among civic, religious and NGO groups all over the country and entering into agreements with local politicians who will swing support to the NP in case of a LAKAS-Kampi coalition collapse.

The Liberal Party has to decide on this issue now. Otherwise, the continuing Mar-Noynoy leadership rivalry can produce clear losers - Mar, Korina, Drilon and Abad - and winners - Noynoy, Lito Atienza (because he can keep on talking about the LP leadership and selection process), Kiko Pangilinan (because he can align with Noynoy against Mar), and the other presidentiables who are all praying that the LP remains in limbo until election time.

Will it be Noynoy Aquino for President?