That is another term we owe to our national proclivity for titles. One has to have a title to fit into an orderly scheme of things and to count. A candidate for president is a “presidentiable,” no matter what Merriam-Webster may say, and no matter that the computer underscores the word with a dotted, angry red. One who loses the presidential race is not an “ex-presidentiable.” He is simply a “natalo” or “talunan” and no matter what a giant of a person he may be, she has no title. (The deliberate mix of pronouns is a concession to political correctness!)
I have asked the permission of the Rector-President of San Beda College to organize in the Graduate School of Law at Mendiola a debate for presidential candidates. At the moment, that means three persons: Vice President Jejomar Binay, former DILG Secretary Mar Roxas and Senator Grace Poe. I have sent feelers to the candidates through persons known to me and known to them. I will soon send them formal invitations. I am minded to invite such persons as retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno, former National Treasurer Leonor Briones, former Secretary Benjamin Diokno, Archbishop Soc Villegas, my father, Justice Hilarion Aquino and the Rector-President of San Beda College, Fr. Aloy Maranan, OSB as members of the Panel of Interpellators. The candidates will in fact answer questions put to all three by the members of the panel. At this stage, beyond intimations sent the candidates through friends and the permission of the Rector-President this event, that I hope will be exciting to all, is still very much on my mental drawing-board! But this, I hope, will be the contribution of San Beda’s Graduate School of Law to the needful task of sifting grain from chaff, the real from the spurious.
Things tend to get muddled as candidates rev up their respective machineries for the elections. The slur campaign against Vice President Jejomar Binay started a long time ago, because he was an obvious candidate who had, early on, made clear his intention to make a dash for Malacañang. When it was suspected that Senator Bongbong Marcos had his sights set on the presidency as well, there were early attempts at slurring him. But then again, of course, one must distinguish between real issues and counterfeit claims. Just as it is wrong to indulge in gossip and to ventilate the idle talk of wags, it is as wrong—and pernicious to the cause of an enlightened electorate—to sweep real issues beneath a blanket of praise and adulation spun by well-placed and noisy supporters.
Jojo Binay has to deal with the issue of trustworthiness, because that seems to be the single biggest hurdle in his way. There is no way, however, that you can convince anyone who does not wish to be convinced and who has decided, even before he has heard you, that you deserve consignment to the farthest reaches of the underworld. That is how it is with many Binay detractors. But a good number of citizens are rational, and can be convinced. Whether he fleeced Makati or the national coffers for his personal profit is a real issue. But since these matters are now before the courts of law (or so I have been informed), then it is an issue that must now be resolved according to the standards and requirements of proof in judicial proceedings. Still he has to face the electorate and take up the gauntlet hurled by his detractors. For now, I do not consider dynasties a real issue against him because Congress has refused, despite the clear policy of the Constitution, to define what a dynasty is.
What Grace Poe felt towards the United States at some time in her life is a non-issue. That she may have entertained the idea of residing there
for good, even as a naturalized American is, as I see it, also a non-issue. Whether or not she fulfills the constitutional requirements for the office of president is, however, a real issue, no matter the popularity of FPJ. So it is that it must be determined whether or not she is natural-born, and whether or not she lost her natural-born status. Likewise, it has to be settled whether or not she meets the residency requirements set forth by the Constitution. These are real issues, because they are constitutional requirements for the office of President. Once more however, it seems that these are matters already pending before a relevant tribunal. Provided that the SET does not dismiss the action on one procedural ground or other (locus standi, for example, or the personality of the petitioner to file a petition for quo warranto), we should have an answer when the tribunal renders its decision. And whether an adverse holding would be prejudicial to many OFWs or not is likewise a non-issue. If we want the legal regime to be different, let us first amend our Constitution and our laws.
What Mar Roxas had to do with the bungling that has hounded the present administration is a real issue for him, because it has to do with his capacity to lead, to direct and to execute. He has to explain exactly what he did in the wake of Yolanda, and why it is that so much that came from generous hearts and hands was left to rot in warehouses due to official ineptitude. Mamasapano is likewise an issue for him, because as DILG secretary, he was very nearly at the top and surely well within the chain of authority (I will avoid the controversial “chain of command”). Whatever people might feel about Korina Sanchez is a non-issue, and so too is it a non-issue that he did not tell on the President’s mishandling of the Mamasapano affair. I would have had less regard for him had he back-stabbed the person on whose cabinet he served. And then, it is also a non-issue that he lost in local elections and for other offices that he had eyed. He is entitled to change his mind; so is the public.
The real from the dross—that is what rationality is all about. And that is why we need the crucible of debate and national discourse. Should our plans the Graduate School of Law of San Beda College come to fruition, this will be one contribution to a necessary national exercise!