Electing president, VP together may work, or it may not

TO THE QUICK - Jerry S. Tundag - The Freeman

The editorial of this paper yesterday took off from where a columnist, also of this paper, left off. Both suggested that the Philippines copy the US system of electing together the president and vice president, meaning a vote for the president is also a vote for his running mate. This is to avoid a contentious and often acrimonious relationship between a country's two top leaders if they were to come from different parties.

The well-meaning suggestions obviously sprung from the ongoing spectacle of President Rodrigo Duterte and Vice President Leni Robredo locked in a seemingly perpetual state of political quarrel. It does not help that Duterte is onion-skinned and cannot see that, legally barred from reelection, Robredo is of no threat to him. Neither does it help that Robredo is so utterly dense she cannot see that it is Duterte's mandated time, not hers.

Be that as it may, would it really help if the president and vice president get elected in one package to ensure that there is harmonious leadership at the top? To a certain extent, maybe. And maybe, only to the extent of wanting to preserve power within the party in power. No rocking the boat, no tripping of the wrong switches.

But to do so is to make one the absolute ruler and render the other the absolute follower, string-along, yes man. If it does not work out that way, and it is virtually humanly impossible to make it work that way, then you will still have a relationship at the top that, to say the least, is not healthy for either party. Electing a president and his running mate is never a guarantee for harmony.

I can cite one very clear example, even if this is a footnote in our history that many would rather ignore and bury under. When Cory Aquino ran for president in the 1986 snap election called by the dictator Ferdinand Marcos to prove democracy was alive in the Philippines, she picked senator Doy Laurel, a close friend of her husband Ninoy.

Laurel did not serve out the six-year vice presidential term to which he was elected. He resigned after only two years, a sad, broken, disappointed, neglected, and betrayed loyal lieutenant. And while the Cory-Doy tandem did not see the same contentious acrimony that characterizes Rody-Leni, it was only because Doy was a gentleman, a decent, honorable, respectful, and principled person who kept the national interest above his own.

 For two years Doy endured the Cory brand of leadership until he could take it no more and resignation became the only option. I will not badmouth Cory here the way her family and followers continue to badmouth Marcos even if, like her, he is no longer around to defend himself. But you can google Doy's letter to Cory outlining all the hurts that forced him to resign.

Cory and Doy were not only running mates, they were family friends. But politics drove them apart. That they did not descend into a Rody-Leni-like spectacle was not because they were elected together. Doy had enough hurts that would have compelled lesser individuals to lash out and fight back. But again Doy was a decent and principled man. So okay, electing leaders together may work. But then again it might not.


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