Almost President


    ‘You can imagine a Philippine version; maybe the title would be “Muntikan Na.” I can imagine the lead chapter being on the late Miriam Defensor-Santiago.’

    THERE’S a book by that title that is an interesting read. It details the “near misses” stories of about 12 men who didn’t win the top prize – the Presidency of the United States – but helped change the nation because of their candidacy. The book covers the stories of the likes of Democrat Stephen Douglas (who was beaten by Republican Abraham Lincoln), Republican Thomas Dewey (who was upset by Democrat and incumbent President Harry Truman) as well as the more recent failed candidacies of Al Gore (whose fate was decided by “hanging chads” and the US Supreme Court) and also John McCain.

    I can imagine an updated book will carry a long chapter on the first female candidate for President of the United States and her “near miss.” It’s a story Hillary Clinton has told herself in her book “What Happened,” but it becomes even more meaningful when juxtaposed against the stories of the menfolk who had come before her.

    You can imagine a Philippine version; maybe the title would be “Muntikan Na.” I can imagine the lead chapter being on the late Miriam Defensor-Santiago. The feisty Ilongga senadora went to her grave, I am almost certain, fully certain that she was robbed of victory in 1992. Her certainty is one shared by many of those who cheered for her; and while I am not so sure myself I sometimes get to wonder how the trajectory of our lives would have changed had she been President of the Philippines from 1992 to 1998.

    In the 1992 elections I was more fascinated with the genius behind Imelda Marcos’ entry into the race, which effectively torpedoed the chances of Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, who I was campaigning for. In “Muntikan Na,” a full chapter could also be devoted to Danding and that 1998 campaign.

    For the 2004 elections both Fernando Poe Jr. and Sen. Panfilo Lacson would merit a chapter each. I seem to remember stories about Ping being the favorite candidate of the grassroots of a powerful religious bloc; the bloc, however, came out in support of GMA during the homestretch of the campaign. That endorsement ended the chances of Ping – and made it a tight race with FPJ. Come to think of it maybe a small sidebar could be devoted to Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, who seemed instrumental in determining the outcome of that election.

    Another chapter of the Philippine version could be devoted to Manuel B. Villar, who everyone conceded to be the front-runner runner in 2010 up to the time when former President Corazon Aquino breathed her last. But everything changed when Cory died and Noynoy decided to throw his hat into the ring: now it was everyone running against the ghost of Cory (and Ninoy’s too, to some extent).

    In that atmosphere, who else but Noynoy could win?

    Even the Liberal Party knew it, which explains their indecent junking of Mar Roxas – for whom another chapter of the book could also be devoted. The chapter on Mar could be back-to-back with the chapter on Senadora Grace Poe – herself also a leader in opinion polls leading up to the filing of the candidacy by 2016’s reluctant candidate, Rodrigo Duterte. But maybe it is too early to include Grace Poe in the Philippine version, since she is once again topping the surveys of voters who are asked who they would vote for as President in 2022. Second time lucky?

    Now that I think about it, I campaigned for Danding in 1992, Erap in 1998, FPJ in 2004, Manny Villar in 2010 and Grace Poe in 2016. What a track record: only one of them won, and then he was ousted!

    Maybe that’s why my older brother has been dissuading me from flying to the US in time for the elections. I was in Washington DC on election eve in 2016, ready with “Hillary is President” shirts; of course I never got to wear them. “Don’t jinx this one,” my brother told me. Hmmph. So for the first time since 2004 I am not going to be in the US to witness a Presidential election.

    Anyway, as of this writing, Joseph R. Biden is almost President. Let’s see if the counting gets him the 270 electoral votes he needs!


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