President George Bush senior was often described as "impeachment proof." The reason? His vice president, Dan Quayle, was a nincompoop. In 1989, during one pre-inauguration briefing, a British journalist actually asked: "is it true that should anything happen to the president, the Secret Service have strict orders to immediately shoot Dan Quayle?"
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo would understand. One big factor that has let her hang on to power this long is that she's got her own sub-caliber human shield - his name is Noli de Castro.
For more than two months now, without doing anything more than be himself, Vice President De Castro has been instrumental in thwarting attempts to unseat President Arroyo. Each time outrage over Mrs. Arroyo's chicaneries boils over, every time efforts to oust her work up a head of steam, the whole enterprise screeches to an abrupt halt when everyone realizes yet again who it is who'll take over.
The Vice President is not Satan's spawn, nor does he have a record of serial child molestation. By most accounts, De Castro is charmingly personable. And if sartorial splendor were the only requisite of leadership, the natty, elegant and expensively-dressed vice president would surely be on the top of everybody's "go for" list.
No, the problem is that nobody knows what's underneath all that elegant packaging. De Castro has been vice president for more than a year now and was a senator for three years before that. Yet the public still hasn't a clue what it is he stands for.
He claims to have the interests of the media, the poor and the overseas workers close to his heart, and can point to a stack of bills and resolutions he filed as a senator. But these are all standard, generic statements and deeds. Sponsorship of a bill entitled "An inquiry in aid of legislation into the causes of the mass evacuation of Filipino residents in Sabah" doesn't quite cut it as the stuff of great accomplishments.
It's difficult seeing any fire, passion, depth or perceptiveness in this man. For someone who used to be in broadcasting, De Castro has been singularly nonchalant and unruffled over the fact that the Philippines is now the world's second most lethal country (after Iraq) for journalists. And on the great issues convulsing the nation - massive corruption, abuse of power, accountability, political reform - the vice president has no position to offer.