Changing Tack: Politicians realize the need for a new approach, for better or for worse

The recent weeks in Philippine politics have been notable as political personalities shifted to new ways of handling things. Apparently, after realizing how they may not get the results they want with the ways they earlier decided to pursue, they are employing new strategies to salvage their political predicaments, change the public’s not so flattering perception on them, or better handle political dynamics.

VP’s road to redemption


The serious accusations against VP Binay were certainly difficult to simply address with a mere “politika lang yan” response but the Vice-President seems to have thought otherwise that he did not prepare more reliable solutions. Eventually, after getting cornered and becoming desperate to defend himself in whatever way he thought viable, he challenged one of his staunchest critics, Senator Trillanes, to a debate. Unfortunately for him, the coup-plotter-turned-senator readily accepted the challenge. Days or weeks later, a date for the debate was set.

But then, only a few days after the November 27 date was agreed upon, Binay decided to withdraw.

It appears the 2016 presidential aspirant has finally realized how his tricks will likely fail on the debate floor, even with the lack of debating skills and experience of his accuser Senator Trillanes. It’s understandable – it’s difficult to make the subliminal “Ganito kami sa Makati” campaign work without a script, as viewed by a live audience and monitored by the advanced equipment of a multitude of TV and radio stations. It’s difficult to influence audiences with text blasts when they are busy witnessing the real action on their TV screens.

Many say the move was not unexpected. It was bound to happen, especially with her senator daughter openly advising him to withdraw from the highly risky debate gamble. The Vice-President’s road to redemption, as it can be inferred from his actions in recent days or weeks, is unlikely to be a straightforward and relentless one. He has never been known to be a devout follower of President Aquino’s “Tuwid na Daan” drama so it’s only to be expected that he will forge his own ways to try to mitigate his political problems. He can’t be blamed for his recent actions although he arguably deserves to be taunted for the withdrawal alone. Who would ever want to put himself in an uncomfortable and dangerous situation without a compelling prize involved? Even if he successfully embarrasses Senator Trillanes in a debate, such a victory won’t mean anything much to him as Trillanes can easily go back to the Senate and attack him with more accusations. A one-time debate is very unlikely to create advantageous outcomes for someone who is being heavily and frequently criticized on all forms of media.

As analysts would point it out, VP Binay declared his intention to run for the Presidency earlier to avoid the kind of fate suffered by Senator Manuel Villar. Back then, the highly popular Villar was almost sure of victory if the surveys were to be believed. However, accusations emerged near the start of the campaign period, just in time to ruin his supposedly smooth sailing journey into the presidency. Binay’s camp wants to make sure that all possible hurdles are encountered and addressed before the official campaign season starts. It’s a good strategy although maybe Binay’s team just didn’t expect the hurdles to be too steep and extremely challenging.

Now, instead of engaging his opponents, VP Binay is resorting to safer solutions. Have you seen his sentimental but poorly staged “infomercial” on TV? Did you happen to receive one of those Binay-defending or advocating text messages apparently sent en masse? Do you wonder why VP Binay needs to use spokespersons when he can easily do the talking for his own defense? Gone is the brave and bold Binay who criticized the Aquino government last month. It’s a quick retreat for Team Binay – a logical move while trying to figure out ways to restore lost public confidence.

Intriguing Aquino and Congress tack changing

rp_phl_congress_zps0f86e823.jpgIn a curious turn of events, President Aquino urged the Senate to wrap up the probe on VP Binay. The noise against Binay is arguably very favorable for Aquino’s falling popularity so it’s intriguing that he is trying to stop something that will inure to his benefit. Even some congressmen known to be allies of the president are supporting Aquino’s call to stop the investigations. House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales said that there are too many probes in the Senate or in the Lower House that the crafting of laws seems to have been neglected.

What could be the reason for this? Did VP Binay strike a deal with the President or does he have something he could use to threaten the President in case nothing is done to stop the investigations on Binay’s alleged misdeeds? Fortunately, the Senate refused to yield to President Aquino’s urging. Senator Koko Pimentel, for instance, said in an interview that the President should keep his hands off the Senate’s affairs, especially in the functions of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee. Senate President Franklin Drilon, likewise, said that he wouldn’t stop the investigations into the alleged anomalies of the Vice-President.

While it may appear that the President is helping his vice president in getting out of the mess involving the Senate investigations, it is difficult to believe that it is indeed the case and that his allies in the Senate are really trying to demonstrate their independence. It could be just an effort to keep the status quo in the Aquino-Binay ties to avoid bigger problems. After all, even when Binay’s public satisfaction ratings reached record lows, he still has the highest overall rating compared to other top ranking national officials. Aquino’s team could still be in the process of assessing how effective the Binay propaganda machine is before going to full battle mode. It could also be a ploy to discourage new Senate investigations that could target more Aquino allies.

A more reasonable and objective Miriam

#miriamfightMeanwhile, somewhere in the quirky side of the Philippine political scene, feisty Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago demonstrated a rather infrequent sense of objectivity. Instead of downplaying the disappointing testimony of Senator Drilon’s accuser on the ICC overpricing issue, she called the spade a spade. She called former Iloilo Administrator Manuel Mejorada a “big dud” after failing to present anything convincing in connection to the allegation of overpricing in the Iloilo Convention Center (ICC). Nevertheless, she opined that it’s not yet time to stop the investigations on ICC

It can be recalled that in the past, the unapologetically acerbic senator did not hesitate to attack or lend assistance in attacking personalities she did not like, even at the expense of clinging to infirm arguments and allegations. For instance, at the height of the Corona impeachment, she did not mind looking less than honorable and reasonable in defending the former Chief Justice from accusers in the Senate she implied to be hypocritical. Now, the good senator is showing greater objectivity and a relatively calm approach in handling issues.

Senator Santiago must really be serious with her intention to vie for the president’s seat again. She’s showing subtle changes in her political attitude – favorable subtle changes. Of course, this can only be considered as something good. A more circumspect Miriam is doubtlessly more preferable.

It’s interesting to see how politicians slightly or drastically shifted to new approaches in their political actions in recent weeks or months. It makes you realize that something really important is fast approaching that politicians are already carefully calibrating their publicly witnessed actions and reactions. Hopefully, Filipinos have matured enough to learn how to see through all of these measured political maneuvers.

Stock photos from Blog Watch. Some rights reserved.

Originally posted on Blog Watch, Philippine Online Chronicles