“Apres moi le déluge (After me the floods)” – Ex-French President Charles De Gaulle.
President Aquino’s supporters are in a sweat. With only 3 years left in his term they worry there is no line of succession, that six years of reform and a fattened economy will have been for naught. The barbarians are at the gate.
Here are some scenarios that could save the day, ranked not necessarily by desirability, ease or absurdness:
A. Charter Change- Cha-Cha is an old recording that is receiving renewed playtime for the same reason it was junked under GMA i.e. to extend the term of the President. The shift to a Parliamentary system would allow P-Noy to run for Prime Minister, a post he would surely win given his popularity, incumbency and relative cohesion of the Liberal Party.
The public would likely support such an initiative if it meant keeping P-Noy in power. However Cha-Cha is a challenge given the short window and looming political landscape post-May.
B. The Russian Switch (also known as the Putin Gambit)- When Russian President Vladimir Putin ran into his term limit in 2003, he switched places with his then Prime Minister Medvedev until he could again run for President in 2011 (which he successfully did). In this formula, P-Noy would run for VP in 2016 while anointing a protégé for President. This ticket would be seen as a continuation of his Administration.
C. The Argentine Switch- This is the family version of the Russian Switch where the spouse seeks the Presidency as an extension of her husband. In 2007, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner successfully ran for President of Argentina at the end of her husband Nestor’s term. In the Philippines, there is the small matter of P-Noy’s non-existent wife but more on this later. Option B would be for his next of kin to run in her (absent) stead.
The Argentine Switch is, in fact, a tried and tested Filipino practice albeit never (until possibly 2022) for the top position. It is called the Family Dynasty and has been successfully applied in Makati and elsewhere.
D. The Endorsement- In this scenario P-Noy anoints his successor for 2016. The model is Brazil where the popular President Lula successfully worked for the election of Dilma Rousseff, his Chief of Staff, to replace him. Rousseff had never run for public office but still overcame Jose Serra, a political heavyweight.
What is the likelihood on any of the above scenarios happening?
Cha-Cha was kicked around last year to amend certain economic provisions of the Constitution. This could be the Trojan horse to change its political stipulations as well. As with the Impeachment, Malacanang could get the House to pass Cha-Cha without reading the fine print; but the Senate is another matter. The Opposition would oppose any such move which is why control of the Senate in the 2013 elections is crucial.
The Putin Gambit is legally the easier path as it would not require a change in the Constitution. But even if P-Noy agrees to drop to the VP slot, would he be able to carry his Presidential partner? To succeed his choice must (a) be winnable (b) be seen as his true alter ego and (c) be trusted not to fly solo once in power. Such a person does not exist today.
The Argentine Switch worked in that country because, despite her hair choice, Cristina was no bimbo (She was re-elected in 2011). P-Noy would have to marry a woman of substance over 40 years old (the Constitutional minimum for President) to pull this off. On his recent dating record, we are not there yet, certainly not on the age thing.
The alternative is for P-Noy to endorse a close relative for President. Assuming he could be brought up to speed, Bam Aquino (Kris?) is possibly the closest to this. However he has to first win a Senate seat in 2013 to show proof of life.
This leaves the Endorsement Model. This worked when Cory backed FVR’s candidacy in 1992 as it has with Lula in Brazil. It would help if P-Noy’s candidate could carry his own weight against what will be a formidable opponent in 2016.
To conclude, the problem of P-Noy’s succession woud be simplified if a worthy and winnable candidate could emerge in the next two years. Barring this, P-Noy would have to put serious thought to running for VP under the Putin/Medvedev formula; or to fall on his sword, give up bachelorhood and do the Argentine Switch. Ladies, the nation is calling. Here is your one-time chance to go from zero to hero. This could be bigger than Jessica Sanchez. So if you are of presidential age and can read and write (another Constitutional requirement), send your resume and recent, full-body, non-photoshopped picture to Malacanang and wait for the call.