By now, it is obvious Malacanang has been hurting from the steep drop in the popularity ratings of President Benigno Aquino III.
It is not easy to bounce back, especially in less than a thousand days to go before the President and his Cabinet leave the Palace.
Judging from the frantic handling of the unconstitutional DAP and the posturing over Charter change, and the rising prices of commodities, the Palace spokespersons seem at a loss how to tie loose ends. And going by the rising number of critics, history may not be that kind to the man whose rise to the presidency seemed as phenomenal as his mother's. How time flies!
Wasn't it only yesterday when the world was at the President's feet? When he could get away with so many things, like talking too much about why Renato Corona should be booted out of the Supreme Court, when the impeachment court was already trying the case, the embarrassing handling of the Luneta hostage crisis, and the Yolanda aftermath, thanks to a “slavish media,” as his mother’s former legal counsel Teddy Locsin Jr. put it, or “managed press,” as her executive secretary, Joker Arroyo, put it?
What went wrong? Indeed, there’s nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come, as political pundits used to say. Conversely, there is nothing as powerless as an idea whose time has gone.
The honeymoon is over, and many people are shouting exeunt! It is so painful, especially at this time when they make the President feel that he has abused their hospitality, supposedly after he has successfully deodorized the country’s international image. Time is up?
Blame it on the President himself. When he delivered his fifth SONA (the last one next year), the President came sober, in near tears at times, talking about leaving the Palace and who should be his successor, hinting of the time he almost died at the height of the December 1989 putsch, and of the legacy of his parents.
Wittingly or unwittingly, the President has laid out this early his own endgame, revealing the vulnerabilities of a lame duck presidency.
How is the public supposed to deal with it? Over the last few weeks, we encountered talks of impeachment (there are four cases filed against the President as of last Monday); coup plot (thanks to a Rasputin in the Senate); assassination plot (thanks to an overstretched analysis of the last portion of the President’s SONA), 2016 posturing (thanks to the warring factions at his Cabinet) that zeroes in on who can guarantee that Noynoy Aquino and all the President’s men, particularly Butch Abad and Procy Alcala, would not go the way of the Marcoses, Estradas, and the Arroyos and their cronies—behind bars, that is! But must things end this way?
One Saturday afternoon, a group of labor of leaders contemplated their own scenario, of where organized labor should position itself in this endgame! Impeachment? Coup? Assassination? 2016?
What about another EDSA revolution, one street protest veteran suggested. Veteran labor lawyer Ernesto Arellano, of the National Confederation of Labor, a KMU-breakaway group, shot back: “Is there a basis for an Edsa 4?” How come people are not smashing windows? “Shouldn’t we take the lead?” Have we become reckless rebels? Or whining fools?
How about Charter change? “It should be systems change,” Arellano replied. “We want charter change, if only because it would pave the way for a system change. We want a society where wealth is equally distributed and political power is not concentrated and limited to some families.” And the talk went on and on, and they agreed to meet again sometime soon to talk about it some more. It wasn’t supposed to be the last.
It is not easy to believe that the man—Interior Secretary Mar Roxas—who gave rise to all these talks about Charter change was thinking of not just allowing the President to extend or seek another term, but also of himself, refusing to accept what a post-Aquino presidency would leave him, like a genie that refuses to return to the bottle.
Way back 2008, when he started planning to become president, and up until this time, when he seems now an all-around presidential factotum, Roxas has never swung the popularity surveys to his side. Ratings have always been so unkind--so sad for a Wharton alumnus with a squeaky clean image and scion of a buena familia.
It is difficult to fault two of the President’s sisters taking the side of Roxas’s rival, Vice President Jojo Binay, who stood by their mother in her most turbulent years at the Palace. A close aide of Mrs. Aquino told this story a number of times (while we were doing a story on her for the Inquirer) when the former President was asked sometime in 2008 who among the 2010 presidential aspirants she would like to endorse. She didn’t reply at once. But when somebody suggested that Mar seemed the only one bearing the Edsa 1986 spirit among the wannabes, she quickly replied: “What? Like father, like son!” The aide would tell us this story long after Ms Aquino was laid to rest.
And it is not difficult to believe that Roxas never liked Binay and all other 2016 presidential aspirants. The feeling is mutual. They have all accused him and his party of having a hand at one point or another behind all the media campaign against them.
But it is not likewise difficult to believe that Roxas wanted to be liked for he has vision--and a mission--for this country, starting out in this world dangling from the strings once held by his great father and great grandfather.
The President and Roxas almost had the same political beginnings, their families having been long-time friends, except that at this time the two are standing at different crossroads and probably have different endings in mind. And one man’s ending does not necessarily mean the other man’s beginnings.
Exeunt. The political limelight burns.