In the event of the incumbent is no longer be able to govern for whatever reason, the Constitution mandates that the Vice President will take charge as the next-in-line President. This may not be a welcome possibility to the followers of the widely popular President Rodrigo Duterte but we can never discount the fact that Vice President may one day become the head of state. And, of course, in the next election, no matter how Leni would deny she has no plan to run, the fact that she accepted to run for vice presidency, that’s tantamount to the consideration she’s willing to take the highest leadership of the land any minute and insofar as the political landscape in the Philippines has been, changes in plans happen even in the last minute.
So we ask this question, how would Leni fare as the president of the republic? The usual answer given by her supporters is that even though she’s largely untested she will do good being a good person herself.
Others, supporters of the incumbent president may shudder at the thought of the resurgence of the Yellow army, largely responsible for turning the country into a virtual narco-state and where criminals feasted inside the national penitentiary not to mention the systemic corruption that had bled and dried the government’s coffers.
Her sober supporters may also seriously reconsider if it would be worth for the whole country and to the next generation to continue the call for the resignation of the president for one reason or another in much the same way as many dissatisfied citizens withholding the call for then-President Noynoy Aquino to resign for fear the second in command, then allegedly corrupt Vice President Jejomar Binay, was no better than the sitting president.
Her positions on issues and programs for the past few months may be instructive of how she would govern hypothetically as a president.
- She assumes a conjectural fact is a fact. Barely over a month Robredo raised concerns over the spate of killings and she shared the same position with the human rights voices who are the most vocal against it unmindful of a couple of errors in her call. One, the Senate Hearings on EJK put the distinction of extra-judicial killings not even covering most of the so-called kills the media is piling up. Two, she demanded an end to it without due regard to the fact that if the criminals were the ones doing it, there’s is nothing the government can do for the dark work, who knows well of their victims, to stop eliminating their subjects who can point them to proper authorities. Had she resorted to seriously call for a proper investigation before issuing her statement, she might not have issued statements that insinuated the administration might have a hand of it.
- She majored the minor. In some of her pronouncements, her sensing the good intentions of the administration is overshadowed by the fact that she only captures the vestiges of good governance by the way she launches her own concerns or downright criticisms. For example, she failed to grapple the deeper issues in the tension of US-Philippine relations when she protested the labeling of mendicants the Philippine-International aid relations. If Leni studied the historical ties between the US-Philippines alone — even her own province mate in Senator Raul Roco who voiced against VFA passage, she might have a firm grasp of the issues the Philippine President is standing on. Now, this is very critical to the positive relation between GRP and CPP-NPA/NDF negotiations going on. The rebels positions wanted to review all the unfair agreements the international powers have been doing to the country for ages and if Leni is not going deeper to study and recalculate her position on the disadvantageous relations, she may be dousing cold water to the thawing relations between the government and the rebels, a huge loss to the chance of ending the decades-old rebellion once and for all.
- She overlooked on the failure of his party-mates and blamed the administration instead. Her criticisms for Duterte for being unprepared for the rehabilitation is stabbing on realism by putting the blame of her predecessor, most of them identified with her, on the president. As a government official, she should know better that the budget for this year is already decided during the incumbency of the previous president and there’s no way Duterte can re-aligned the budget — without drug-related contingencies — for drug victims and pushers let alone made pronouncement on the scale of the trouble President Duterte has to face. She has shown no bravery to point the fingers on her campaign principals as the reason on the scale of the problem the present administration is facing.
- Her identity is still with the enemies of the people. The Robredo’s under the headship of the late Jessie were able to shrug off being part of the traditional politicians by dissing out their benefactors who helped them to take off as local politicians. But Leni could not duplicate their fate in Naga – she still largely part of the Liberal Party composed of people who are not only inept, lack of urgency but embroidered in graft and corrupt practices so endemic in the systemic corruption going on for ages in the country. We can only expect that every Tom, Dick and Harry will jump at first sight if ever she gets the top position of the land. Leni seems to see no problem rubbing elbows with people are never known to deal the most pressing problem in the country. There’s is no indication she would severe ties with those responsible for creating the wide gap between the people who hold the power for a very long time and the people they are sworn to serve. At this point, a Leni is bleak with no signs she has the strong political will comparable to the incumbent president. So those who have feared the removal of Duterte will just reinstate those responsible for the lack of order in their community have a very strong argument to back their concerns.
- Her campaign benefactors will be all around her. There’s no denying she had heaps of campaign donors during the last May 2016 election and more often than not this is the perennial cause of political accommodation. How Leni would handle remains to be seen but the fact that she has not distanced herself from her own party responsible for leap-frogging her political career, it would be safe to argue she can’t easily turn back against the very people who bankrolled where she is now. Those campaign funds normally equate to sinecures unless she would show she’s not beholden to her principals but chances are she is leaning to that direction after accepting to be the standard VP candidate to run under Roxas.
- The sense of urgency is not visible in her. Leni’s spending most of her time abroad without the clear purpose what it does to her vice presidency to address the urgent needs of the people may spell bad notions on the way he picks her spots of policy and governance. President Rodrigo Duterte has demonstrated well how he conducted himself and succeeded in addressing problems that really matter most in the shortest possible time. We may not expect the same thing from a President Leni or we can safely assume every successful campaign the new president has started will just lose steam or will be discontinued due to the lack of a strong figurehead.
- She doesn’t have the luxury to be with highly effective government leaders who also can deliver on their own. President Duterte’s long duration as a local executive in Davao well-oriented him to many would-be subordinates who can really deliver. Does Leni have a ‘Bato’ or a Faeldon or a Piñol , highly-effective cabinets and yet untainted? We doubt she can have array of subordinates who can really mount the same way as Duterte even working under the auspices of legal system and still managed to launch an attack on crime, corruption, ineptness and poverty.
- She doesn’t have the proper aura of fear. Duterte exceptionally tapped his intense aura of fear to achieve his purpose. In fact, the number of surrenderees or the local officials cleaning their turf after heading his message is a testament that fear, when properly leverage, can effect good change. Softie image seems to achieve very little like the one shown by former President Aquino. A President Leni would just repeat an amiable image that is taken advantage already by officials who like to feast on the weak arms of the law and the presidency.
In view of the above, the fight to remove Duterte seems to have a very diminishing returns. Up to this point, there’s no one among those in-line in power has the capacity to take over the fairly high standard of governance Duterte introduced into the Philippine political scene. True, the expletives will surely disappear, but at what costs? The future of the country at stake?