First Spouse 2016: Neil Llamanzares, Elenita Binay, Korina Sanchez Roxas or Sara Duterte?
WILL SOON FLOURISH - Wilson Lee Flores (The Philippine Star) - October 10, 2015 - 10:00am

Ibelieve the character and personality of a First Spouse is crucial not only for ceremonial or socio-civic reasons. More than even the vice president of the republic, he or she will be closest to the most powerful person in the Philippines. She or he can act as daily confidant, sounding board and adviser to the next national leader, for better or for worse.

Today is the 131st birth anniversary of Eleanor Roosevelt, who I believe was the greatest First Lady in the history of the United States. Despite a troubled marriage, Eleanor overcame her turbulent personal life to excel as an energetic politician who was a big help to President Franklin D. Roosevelt; she was also a diplomat and an activist.

What about here in the Philippines, after Noynoy C. Aquino’s presidency which lacked a First Lady? Who will be the First Spouse in Malacañang Palace from 2016 to 2022 and what can we expect from him or her?

Neil Llamanzares the I.T. guy as Denis Thatcher?

On all the occasions I’ve had the chance to meet or chat with Senator Grace Poe and her husband, information technology (IT) consultant Teodoro Misael “Neil” Llamanzares, I’ve had this gut feeling that I was meeting the Philippines’ equivalent of Britain’s iron-willed Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her quiet husband, businessman Denis Thatcher.

It is my intuitive sense that many pundits and traditional politicos are underestimating Senator Grace Poe. She is a strong and independent-minded person. more than prepared, I believe, for the rough-and-tumble world of politics. On the other hand, her equally smart husband Neil is self-effacing, a person I cannot imagine entering the political fray, a guy who’d prefer to remain behind the scenes as a pillar of support for Grace and their family. 

Neil and Grace were high school sweethearts and they married after she graduated from Boston College. They have raised three children very well.

Dr. Elenita Binay the ex-mayor as the next Dr. Loi Ejercito?

On the few occasions I’ve encountered Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay’s wife Dr. Elenita Sombillo-Binay of Angat, Bulacan province, she has reminded me of former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada’s wife, former Senator Dr. Luisa “Loi” Pimentel Ejercito.

Both Elenita and Loi are coincidentally medical doctors; both possess the  patience as well as the political and social skills needed to help their husbands. Both have won elections as political leaders. Dr. Binay is the mother of six children.

If Jojo Binay wins as president, I foresee Dr. Elenita Binay immersing herself more into socio-civic, medical and cultural endeavors rather than into active politics or diplomacy.

Korina Sanchez Roxas the TV host as Rosalynn Carter?

Award-winning TV and radio broadcast journalist Korina Sanchez Roxas of ABS-CBN 2 is DILG Secretary Mar Roxas’ connection to the masses.

I also had the opportunity to travel with Korina and other journalists to Johannesberg, South Africa a couple of years ago, and I could see the reasons for her success include her meticulous attention to detail, her high exacting standards, her work ethic and no-nonsense professionalism.

Based on her track record and her energetic personality, I think Korina would be a very active First Lady not so much for social functions like state dinner receptions or ribbon-cutting events, but more in socio-civic causes and maybe as special envoy of her husband, much like former US President Jimmy Carter’s First Lady Rosalynn Smith Carter.



The punching lady Sara Duterte as feisty First Lady?

In September 2014, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte publicly “declared” he would run for president in 2016 on one condition — that he gets Agusan del Norte Governor Ma. Angelica Rosedell Amante-Matba as his First Lady. He delivered this well-received joke in front of 700 Agusan del Norte provincial officials and staff led by Governor Amante-Matba at the Waterfront Insular Hotel in Davao City.

I don’t foresee a possibe Duterte presidency becoming like that of the bachelor President Noynoy Aquino, despite the mayor having been legally seperated from his ex-wife and the mother of his three children Elizabeth Abellana Zimmerman.

Although Duterte now lives with his domestic partner, ex-nurse Honeylet, I think a more likely stand-in to act as his potential First Lady is his daughter, the lawyer and former mayor of Davao City Sara Zimmerman Duterte-Carpio (also known as “Inday Sara” to Davao people).

Most of us remember Sara as being as feisty as her dad. I foresee her as a potential First Lady with lots of advocacies in philanthropy, politics and sports. In 2011, then Mayor Sara Duterte grabbed headlines for punching a court sheriff four times due to his insistence on demolishing houses inside a contested property in Barangay Soliman of Davao City. Wow, watch out, Pacquiao!

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