The vice presidency: Looking back
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - May 29, 2016 - 12:00am

It’s now final – Leni Robredo is the next vice president of the Philippines. The next question now is what role will she play during the next six years,  not just in the Duterte administration but also in the national life of the country. A look at the history of the vice-presidency may give some clues.

Leni Robredo is the 15th vice president of the Republic of the Philippines. This list includes Mariano Trias who was the vice president under Emilio Aguinaldo; and, excludes Arturo Tolentino, who was proclaimed vice president under Marcos in a disputed election which led to People Power.

Out of the 15 vice presidents, six won while running under a different political party than the winning presidential candidate. The six were Diosdado Macapagal, Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Noli de Castro, Jejomar Binay and Leni Robredo. Although De Castro ran as an independent, he aligned himself with Lakas, the political party of the winning presidential candidate – Gloria M. Arroyo.

The election of a president and vice president coming from different parties is a relatively new phenomenon in Philippine politics. But this has happened in the last five presidential elections (1992, 1998, 2004, 2010, 2016). In fact, in four of these elections, the president and vice president came from opposing political parties.

The nine previous vice presidents who were running mates of the winning president were automatically appointed to a Cabinet position. Four vice presidents became president due to a vacancy in the presidential position. Three vice presidents became president due to the death of the president – Sergio Osmena (1944) succeeded Manuel Quezon; Elpidio Quirino (1948) succeeded Manuel Roxas; and Carlos Garcia (1957) succeeded Ramon Magsaysay.

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo officially became president after the Supreme Court declared that President Joseph Estrada resigned from his office.

Diosdado Macapagal, the father of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, was the first Philippine vice president to be elected from an opposing political party as the winning president. He ran as a Liberal Party member and was the running mate of Jose Yulo who lost to Carlos Garcia of the Nacionalista Party.  

Actually Macapagal was offered a position in the Cabinet on the condition that he would switch his allegiance to the ruling Nacionalista party which he refused.  Eight months after his election, Macapagal was chosen as President of the Liberal Party and became the official leader of the opposition. He was limited to performing only ceremonial duties. But he spent his time making frequent trips to the countryside to promote the image of the Liberal Party.

Diosdado Macapagal ran for president in 1961 and defeated Carlos Garcia. His Liberal Party running mate – Emmanuel Pelaez – also won and became Secretary of Foreign Affairs. The irony is that Pelaez resigned two years later after a dispute with the Macapagal administration,

Joseph Estrada initially ran for president in 1992 with Vicente Rivera as his running mate. However, he eventually withdrew his candidacy and ran for vice president as the running mate of Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. under the Nationalist People’s Coalition ( NPC). Cojuangco lost to Ramos, but Estrada won the vice presidency with Marcelo Fernan as his closest rival.

As Vice president, Estrada accepted the position offered by Ramos as chair of the Presidential Anti-Crime commission. He was not a major participant in the Ramos administration. But in 1997, he resigned his post as PACC Chair and joined other leaders, like corazon Aquino and Cardinal Sin, in an anti-Charter change rally in Rizal Park against Charter change moves by supporters of Fidel Ramos. In 1998, he ran for president and won.

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ran as the vice presidential candidate, in 1998, of Speaker Jose de Venecia. Although De Venecia lost to Estrada, Arroyo defeated Estrada’s running mate, Senator Edgardo Angara. She became the first female vice president in the Philippines.

Estrada appointed Arroyo as Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development. She resigned her Cabinet position in October 2000, after the start of the movement asking for the removal of Estrada as President. Initially, she resisted political pressure to speak out against Estrada but eventually she joined the calls for Estrada’s resignation. The protest movement initially were demanding that Estrada and Arroyo should both resign. There were coup rumors and talks of a junta. But these talks disappeared when Corazon Aquino refused to join any formation of a junta. Arroyo then became the President. But eventually she became the target of a protest movement demanding her resignation.

In 2004, Noli de Castro won by a narrow margin over Senator Loren Legarda. He was appointed by Arroyo as chair of the Housing and Urban Development Council ( HUDCC). He was also designated as presidential adviser on overseas Filipino workers. In 2010, he decided to retire from politics.

Jejomar Binay is the current vice president until Leni Robredo officially takes over the position. In the 2010 elections, he was the running mate of Joseph Estrada. He won against Loren Legarda and Mar Roxas but his running mate lost. The winner – President Aquino – appointed him to the same position held by the previous vice president as chair, Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) and presidential adviser on overseas Filipino workers. He ran and lost as a presidential candidate in the 2016 elections.

In terms of her future role in the Duterte administration, Robredo has already made two important statements. The first is that she has already vowed “100% support” to Duterte. The second is that her preferred area has to do with anti-poverty programs.

It is, of course, the President-elect who will have to decide what position he will offer the vice president. It would be to the country’s benefit if the two are able to find a way to work together because Duterte and Robredo actually complement each other.

I believe we have reasons for optimism because the two may have policy differences but they both have a love of country, a sincere desire to help the poor and the energy needed to lead the Filipino people.

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