Q and A: What Binay’s party move means

Ayee Macaraig
Analysts say Binay's announcement of a new party signals the political reconfigurations ahead of 2016

POLITICAL RECONFIGURATIONS. Analysts say Vice President Jejomar Binay's announcement of a new party signals the political reconfigurations as candidates prepare their 2016 machineries. File OVP photo

MANILA, Philippines – Two years before the presidential polls, Vice President Jejomar Binay heated up the political climate when he announced the formation of his new political party.

The man touted to be the leading contender for the presidency caught his former partymates by surprise and beat his rivals to the punch in openly preparing a new machinery for 2016.

In an interview with the Philippine Star last week, Binay announced that he is leaving the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), which he led with the Pimentels for 30 years. He is forming a new party with his allies in the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).

Binay’s move sparked anew talks about the 2016 elections, and the uncertainty surrounding the future of Philippine politics. What does his announcement mean and what is the lay of the political land for now?

We talked to Edmund Tayao, University of Santo Tomas (UST) political science professor, and Prospero de Vera, University of the Philippines (UP) Vice President for Public Affairs, to get their sense of the latest political maneuvers.

Q: What does VP Binay’s decision to form a new party mean?

Tayao: It’s not like it’s something new. You expect that in our political system. When you talk about political parties, it’s hardly anything that resembles political parties as they are known in working democracies. So political parties are more like formalities. It’s mainly a vehicle for election but it’s not a vehicle for policy making.

As you noticed, in all my discussions, politics is not only about elections or winning elections. You win elections as a means to supposedly push for policies and programs. Precisely, that is not the case in this country.

De Vera: In terms of message, not much, because the Vice President has always been vocal about his presidential ambitions and he has been moving around the country in the past couple of years. Through the candidacy of his daughter [Senator Nancy Binay], he expanded his political network by using the senatorial race as a testing ground for a national campaign. It’s not surprising in that sense.

It is actually expected he would now try to marshal his supporters and forces for 2016. The only thing that is a waste there is that Koko Pimentel and his own followers in PDP-Laban are supportive of the vice president. That support is wasted because Senator Koko is a person of national stature, a strong political leader. Senator Koko has not openly supported any other potential candidate anyway so it stands to reason he would have been open to supporting the vice president.

Q: How do you view the deepening rift between the Binays and the Pimentels?

Tayao: I can’t avoid to be biased. I know the Pimentels. I’ve been working with them. About Binay’s move, the fact that the young Pimentel did not run under Binay’s group last elections already tells you that they had problems even before. Definitely, it says something about the friendship between the Pimentels and the Binays.

De Vera: The thing is, there’s ruffled feathers. Their separation does not seem to be very amicable. It could have been handled better. It looks like they did not talk well. That could have been handled better. The Pimentels and the Binays have been politically allied for 30 years now and those relationships are very personal. It would be a tragedy if relationships are cut because of politics.

Q: Isn’t forming a party now too early for 2016?

Tayao: Since 2010, 2016 already started. The 2010 election is probably the most divisive. The positioning, the organizing, the demonstrating have started as early as after the 2010 elections or even before the counting was finished.

If that is your reference point, this announcement of a new political party is no longer early. It can be anchored in the same vein as that of Alan Peter Cayetano’s move. This is reorganizing the political machinery, the one they are going to use in 2016.

Rappler’s article about Alan was rightly hitting it on the nail. Local elections will always play into national politics. Whatever happens in local elections reflects what will be at the national level. Politics is always local.

De Vera: There’s an upside and downside to declaring early. The upside is, of course, you can test whether your candidacy will survive because all the other groups will start swinging and hitting you with everything. If you survive, you can become a very strong candidate. The downside is what if the issues being raised against you gain traction? You can survive it or go down with it. That’s the problem.

Q: How would you assess the current political climate? How is the pork barrel scam shaping 2016?

Tayao: My first piece for Rappler is about uncertainty in 2014. All bets are off. So you can’t really tell who is leading, who has the upper hand. Right after 2010, everyone is gravitating towards Mar [Roxas] or VP Binay. It’s no longer the two names which could dominate the 2016 elections. There are so many other names: Alan Peter [Cayetano], etc. There are other names which they have systemically destroyed so there’s no chance to have them into political fray in 2016 because of the pork barrel scam.

2016 is still very much fluid with respects to all these side theater wars or jockeying. Many things can still happen. I’m hoping more things happen. With the list of choices we have, my goodness. It’s like saying let’s just migrate.

De Vera: There’s a new element. Other presidential candidates are starting to hit the other potential presidential candidates. What was previously believed to be a rematch of the last election has now expanded to cover additional candidates. Alan has not been shy in his political posturing lately so I suppose he is testing the waters to see and find out if his candidacy will gain traction but it’s still too early.

I think the way the PDAF scam and the DAP will be resolved will still have a bearing on the presidential configuration. You also can’t rule out people who are assumed to be weakened like [Senator] Bong Revilla because Cavite is a big voting province. He doesn’t have to run but if he aggressively swings the province towards one candidate, that’s a big thing.

Cebu, Cavite, Pangasinan, that’s the top 3 vote-rich provinces and the Revillas have tremendous political support in Cavite. Even if you’re saying it tarnished him that he’s not a candidate, nothing stops him from swinging that support. So Bong Revilla is not a complete lame duck. 

Q: Binay is seen as the leading contender. What are the issues affecting his candidacy? 

Tayao: He has the capacity. Even if we take away the political machinery or what we call this capital or money, the guy really has it. We’ve seen Makati. Precisely, this guy managed to capitalize on it. It’s not just in Makati where he has clout. When it comes to organizing, he knows his stuff. If you look at the background, this guy never stopped studying.

But there are also so many accusations of indiscretion, things that he should not have done as a local chief executive. This is definitely hounding him and his family: the cases. If the Binays are able to prove they are honest to goodness servants of the people and deserve to be first family, there’s a good chance they’ll make it. 

Corruption is their biggest issue. Interestingly, none of the accusations has been proven in court.

De Vera: None of the issues are sticking to him. The good thing about VP Binay is he is not involved in major scams: PDAF and DAP. So the trauma that is confronting the nation, at least he’s not dragged repeatedly and he doesn’t have to do any explaining.

Q: But aren’t Binay’s allies respondents in the pork barrel scam case?

De Vera: The voters don’t attach allies to a candidate. They judge a person and the things he does. The deeds of the allies are not attached to you. Unless these are high crimes like killing people, they are not significantly affected.

Remember that Binay is the first vice president since martial law who openly supported a separate senatorial slate than those of the president. All the others even [former President Joseph Estrada] did not support a senatorial slate in 1995. That means all the allies of the president will really go after him. “He went against us.”

It will be a good testing ground if VP Binay can buck the odds and buck history. History also tells us those who declared early, none of them became president. He has the chance to go against history, disprove the odds of declaring early if he pulls it off. – Rappler.com

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