Buencamino writes political commentary for Action for Economic Reforms. This article was published in Business Mirror January 9,2008 edition, p. A10.

In December 2003 Gloria Arroyo asked Noli de Castro to become her vice president. She imposed him on Lakas, her adopted party, despite the fact that there were two loyal and eager Lakas men, Cong. Robert Barbers and Mayor Bayani Fernando, who wanted to be her running mate.

Gloria had nothing but praises for Noli,

“Noli’s entry into the team enriches it tremendously in terms of professional competence and political weight.

“He draws his broad constituency from the millions of Filipinos who track his sharp investigative journalism and commentary.

“He is a media educator and communicator without par, in search of truth and justice for the poor and downtrodden.

“He has touched much more lives than anyone of us, myself included, by advocating social and criminal justice through the broadcast media.

“My administration has the proven clout and experience to run the economy.

“Noli will give it an indispensable boost in terms of broadening popular appreciation and understanding.

“We respect him as a Senator and leader, and we know he will be a good Vice President.”

She promised him the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) portfolio prior to the start of the campaign and then she reneged on it right after the election. Noli did not protest. He acquiesced.

He said, “After consulting with the President, I have decided to politely decline her offer…[U]nity and cooperation is what our government needs. It will take a measure of self-sacrifice from everyone to achieve our national goals. This is what our people deserve.”

A year later, when the clamor for Mrs. Arroyo to resign was at its loudest and despite pleadings from the opposition and a Pulse Asia survey that showed 30 percent of Filipinos believed him the best alternative to Mrs. Arroyo, Noli remained a loyal vice president. His only comment regarding calls for him to take over the presidency was, “I am pleased that the people have reaffirmed their trust and confidence in (my) competence as a national leader.”

Noli has stood by Mrs. Arroyo through thick and thin, through broken promises and the most insulting propaganda line ever devised against a vice president: “Who’s your alternative to Gloria?”

Noli has been waiting patiently for his turn and it will come if he picks the right party, the one that can convert his popularity into votes. Consequently, he’s made himself available to all suitors.

“I am not closing my doors… I have not joined any party as of the moment. I am still an independent. I will make an assessment and study carefully the vision and mission of the party that I will join,” he said.

It’s the right move. Unfortunately, I think it’s the wrong thing for a presidential aspirant to say. In this country, the presidential candidate is the party. It will follow his “vision and mission” and not the other way around.  Noli needs to assert himself if he wants to sit at the head of the table. But that’s just my opinion.

There’s also Pinoy Big Brother, a reality TV show very popular with the masa and where the contestant who exhibits the best “go-along-get-along” qualities wins.

Maybe Noli is on to something.  Remember the answer of the masa in 1998 whenever the illustrados would raise the issue of Erap not being educated or intelligent enough? They said, “We’re tired of being outsmarted.”

Maybe this time around the masa would rather lead than be led. Maybe, after living under Ate Glo’s thumb for so long, the masa want to become Kuya.