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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Vice presidents

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“NFA has nothing to do with rice production from the time of its inception. That is and was the mandate of the Department of Agriculture with its many agencies”

A reader who signed as Pabs Quiba commented on our April 25 article “No quick fixes” — “You had your chance, did you do anything? If not, shut up.”

Very briefly: In the 27 months that I helmed the NFA during the PNoy presidency, there was no shortage or sudden upsurge in rice prices, despite a strong typhoon that hit Central Luzon in 2011.

I inherited a P178 billion debt from the previous administration; I cut that down to P143 billion, even as I reduced government importation from 2.25 million metric tons in 2009 to a mere 200,000 in 2010 and then 160,000 the following year.

Farmers did not lose their shirts when we were buying at P17 per kilo, while maintaining NFA retail prices at P27, and the commercial (private) sector was selling at between P32 and 36 per kilo.

As assigned leader of the negotiating team with the WTO, we were able to delay the lifting of quantitative restrictions on rice importation which actually expired in 2012, but took effect only when the Rice Tarrification Law was passed in 2018.

By the way, NFA has nothing to do with rice production from the time of its inception. That is and was the mandate of the Department of Agriculture with its many agencies.

***

The recent brouhaha over the First Lady’s statements of dislike for the vice president, followed by the latter’s cool but pointed response, and then the president’s balancing act thereafter, brings to mind memories of previous vice presidencies of our country.

The popular Ramon Magsaysay of Luzon died in a plane crash, and was succeeded by vice president Carlos P. Garcia of Bohol.

Both belonged to the Nacionalista Party. During the Commonwealth, it was Quezon and Osmena, both NP’s, then Manuel A. Roxas and Elpidio Quirino, both LPs, with the latter succeeding to the presidency after Roxas died of a stroke.

Incumbent Garcia won his first election as president in 1957, but the vice-president came from another party – Diosdado P. Macapagal.

Garcia did not give his vice president any Cabinet position, so Macapagal spent his four-year term visiting every inhabited island of the country.

He won over Garcia in 1961, along with his vice president, Emmanuel Pelaez, also from the Liberal Party at the time.

But Macapagal and Pelaez had a parting of ways in less than two years, so Pelaez of Mindanao switched to the Nacionalista side. Later, Ferdinand Marcos Sr. broke away from the LP when Macapagal decided to go for a second term.

In the Nacionalista convention of 1965, he defeated Pelaez, Fernando Lopez, Gil Puyat and Dominador Aytona, and prevailed upon the Ilonggo Lopez to run as his team mate. They both won.

Marcos was re-elected in 1969, defeating Sergio Osmena Jr., but in September 1972, he placed the country under martial law, and ruled as dictator from then until the EDSA uprising forced him out in February 1986.

(Editor’s Note: Martial law, imposed in September 1972, was lifted in January 1981. In June that year, Marcos of the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan defeated World War II veteran Alejo Santos of the Nacionalista Party.

(Although Marcos’ term was for six years from June 1981, he called for a snap election in February 1986 against Corazon Aquino.)

Cory Aquino rose to the presidency in February 1986, along with Salvador H. Laurel under the UNIDO banner, but after a series of political and personal conflicts, the latter, who was concurrently Foreign Affairs secretary, broke off in less than two years.

Laurel ran but lost against Cory’s chosen successor, Fidel V. Ramos in 1992 in a field of seven candidates that included Ramon Mitra, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Jovito Salonga, Danding Cojuangco and Imelda R. Marcos.

Ramos won by a hairline margin over Miriam, while Danding’s teammate, Joseph Estrada, won the vice presidency, and in 1998, captured the presidency overwhelmingly.

Yet Estrada was the victim of a veritable coup through EDSA Dos, after being impeached by the House and while pending trial in the Senate.

His vice president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, succeeded him on Jan. 23, 2001 and won a controversial election in 2004 where charges of manipulation through Hello Garci almost overthrew her.

She reigned until June 30, 2010, the second longest presidency in our history after Marcos Sr.

Benigno S. Aquino III won another overwhelming victory though still a plurality in 2010, but was unable to carry his teammate, while then Mayor Jojo Binay of Makati won as vice-president.

PNoy finished his six-year term, handling over the presidency in 2016 to the first president from Mindanao, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, while a vice president from an opposing party, Leni Robredo, won by a thin margin over Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

But in 2022, Marcos Jr. won with a huge majority over Robredo and several others.

His chosen vice president, Inday Sara Duterte, daughter of the then incumbent president, won even more overwhelmingly, in a UniTeam where the “solid” North and the “solid” South were forged.

It was a political marriage of convenience, with no principles or ideology discussed, only the arithmetic of victory.

In the antecedent case of Cory and Doy in 1986, defeating an entrenched dictatorship and ushering in democratic rule prevailed over personal considerations.

After the UniTeam’s historic win, everybody hoped that, at last, the over-arching message of unity for progress would finally be achieved in the long-benighted land. (To be continued)

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