Jojo Binay, these days, is a happy camper.
He is seemingly healthy, his children are taking care of business in Makati, and the nation loves him.
In a survey 83% of Filipinos approved of his performance, up from 78%; making him the most trusted and likeable Government official.
By contrast, the President saw his net satisfaction rating drop from +64 in November to +51 in early March.
Presidential spokesperson Lacierda: “ We are happy for Binay because he is part of the Administration. It is not unnatural for the President to fare worse than his VP because the former is at the forefront of issues.”
I would go even further.
I would say the VP’s numbers are to an extent a reflection of the President’s. The public compares the President to the Vice-President: Any dissatisfaction with the former is sub-consciously expressed as an affirmation of the latter. The worse the President performs, the better the VP looks.
One way then to interpret the polls is not just to look at the absolute approval rating of the President and the VP, but the difference between the two. If the spread widens, the President is not faring well. That spread has been widening.
Jojo’s strong numbers are possibly a combination of a positive vote on his performance and a fading assessment of the President’s. Specifically, the VP is viewed well because:
1. He did not buy a Porsche.
2. He does not, publicly at least, date women almost half his age. Rightly or wrongly, the latter is culturally seen as indelicate in a leader.
3. He is not surrounded by people whose only credentials are past affinity.
4. He knows where his bread is buttered.
5. He understands the public. As with the Marcos and RH issues, he knows when to kick the can down the road.
6. He works hard and is good at what he does.
7. He takes his job seriously, he takes care of business.
8. He has a Plan.
The VP’s poll numbers confirm what looks increasingly prescient, that barring a stroke of nature or some faux pas borne of impatience or overreach, Jojo Binay will be the next president of the Philippines. The 2016 election is his to lose with age, 72 then, possibly being a factor.
His popularity could continue to grow. In fact there could well be a clamor for P-Noy to expand Binay’s mandate from being simply housing czar and OFW troubleshooter to something broader where Jojo can display his wares; and Jojo has wares.
The President might also be happy to delegate more of his duties to his subaltern, leaving him free to pursue his other interests. This would further consolidate Binay’s powers.
Possible presidential aspirants in 2016 are Mar Roxas and Jinggoy Estrada but they have a chasm to cover, one that will arguably widen with time.
Mar needs to seriously redefine himself if he has any chance of contending. To start, he needs a platform where he can show his worth. That vehicle, it is said, will be known by May when the ban on his taking an official post expires.
Another option is for Mar to run for the Senate in 2013 but he has been there, done that. The Senate Presidency could be his platform.
The third option, one with the greater promise and not exclusive to his other alternatives, is for Mar to build the Liberal Party in the next 5 years to become the powerful political machine that it can be. This requires defining a vision, reaching out to the country and harnessing its youth into a cohesive force. The demographics are there. It just needs leadership, acumen, organization, money and hard work. Not easy.
Much of Mar’s future is tied to P-Noy’s, whether the latter 5 years from now will retain his popularity. Unless P-Noy ups his game, his endorsement may not count for much in 2016. Hopefully the President’s declining numbers are a wake up call.
The other possible presidential contender is the young Estrada but that is a long shot. He requires money and an organization, resources not naturally available if not with the incumbent. A more reachable goal is VP ( a Mar-Jinggoy ticket?) where he will have to contend with Chiz Escudero.
In short, if I were a betting person, my money and the mortgage I would take on my home would be on Binay in ’16, if not earlier.
P-Noy, wittingly or not, is the single most important determinant of this outcome.
What this means for the country is something for us to ponder.