Shortlisting the Presidentiables

We have watched the “Halalan” presidentiables’ forum aired over ABS-CBN last night and here are my top three choices, my reasons for choosing them, and why the others did not even pass my ‘shortlisting.’ :)

Let me first discuss my top three choices and why I think they deserve my vote.

1. Mr. Nick Perlas. He is my favorite because he has a strong platform anchored on a clear vision how to address corruption, environmental problems (such as climate change), and poverty (i.e. promoting domestic industries and agriculture). Among all the candidates, he seems to be the only one who understands structural problems and how to address them vis-a-vis poverty and inequity. More importantly, since he is not a “trapo”, I would assume that he will not be indebted to anyone nor be pushed into a situation when he would allow the growth (and even presence!) of private armies just so he can have the needed votes come election day. (Bato-bato sa langit, ang tamaan ay huwag magagalit.)

However, I also think that Mr. Nick Perlas’ main weakness is on communicating his views well. I am pretty sure he has great ideas (and track record to support the ideas) but he doesn’t seem to have the so-called “gift of gab” of say, Mr. Eddie Villanueva, or even, Sen. Dick Gordon. He has the tendency to go in circles or say too many ideas all at once instead of focusing on key ideas. He probably needs to learn how to speak more in “bullet points” particularly in public forums like that.

He also says “Po” or “Opo” too much to the detriment of the message he is trying to put forward. In situations like that, a clear delivery of message is more important particularly that he is running an alternative campaign. Lesser “Po” or “Opo” will not harm his candidacy. He needs those precious hours of media exposure in order for people to know him more. His lack in machinery may be compensated by adequate media coverage but in order to be an effective communicator, he should be clear and concise in his delivery.

One may say that a President does not need to be a good public speaker and that the most important part is to have the intelligence and the heart to govern with fairness and wisdom. True. But I also believe that communications make or break any campaign. You may be the best candidate but if you fail to deliver the reasons why people should vote you, then there lies the unfortunate irony. Sadly, we still live in a world that heavily relies on advertising, marketing campaigns, surveys and public opinion. Show the people the same products with the same price and they would likely buy the one whose endorser was clearer or wittier with his message (or maybe, cuter?).

Albeit the said ‘weaknesses’, Mr. Perlas is still the guy who tops my shortlist (at least, for now). I know he will not even win against an “Aquino” surname (unless a divine intervention happens between now and May 2010). That is another unfortunate side story. Nothing personal against Senator Aquino but I think even he himself will admit that his popularity is mainly because of his parents. He does not have the brilliance and solid platforms of Mr. Perlas or Mr. Villanueva. He does not have the political will and guts of Bayani Fernando. He does not have the solid track record of his father. Admittedly, he seems to be a nice and honest guy. But honesty is not the main requirement for sound leadership. Clearly, Mr. Perlas has the right mind and heart to enable him to lead this country towards genuine recovery but, unfortunately, he does not have the machinery, money and popularity to win an election that is mostly fueled by ‘mainstream’ ingredients: showbiz endorsements, TV ads, popular surnames, and of course, it does not hurt to have a sister /close kin who is seen on national TV every day. My unsolicited advice to Mr. Perlas? Run for a lower office such as a local executive (Mayor or Governor), or even as a Congressman, immerse himself in the ‘real’ world of Philippine politics, and then when the time is right and when the voters are really ‘awakened’ enough to understand the difference between a trapo and non-trapo, run for President.

My fearless prediction is that he will not win. I will definitely vote for him but sadly, the majority of the Filipinos will vote for Senators Aquino and Villar, and former President Estrada. But then again, miracles still happen, right? :)

2. Mr. Eddie Villanueva. Among all the participants, I think that he is the best communicator. His ideas are clear and he can deliver his messages in a very organized manner. Like Mr. Perlas, he also has a strong platform and more importantly, it is based on the importance of spirituality and faith in God. I can only agree with him. I think that we need spiritual renewal and a leader who can motivate us towards this path is probably what this country needs right now. However, and perhaps, ironically, his being a Church leader also gives me some hesitation and this is probably my main reason why he is just No. 2 in my list. I cannot put the exact words to it but I would have some hesitation voting for a parish priest, pastor or evangelist to become a President. Nothing personal against them. It is just that I think that it is better if they remain in their main vocation and do their public service through the vows that they already made. I know that people should have the right to change their minds but then again, I would also be quite uncomfortable with the idea of a religious leader who suddenly craves for political power.

But then again, our state of the nation may already need some kind of ‘divine intervention’ so that we can truly prosper? Can a religious leader be the answer?

3. Senator Dick Gordon. I have no direct knowledge of the Senator so my thoughts here will be mostly based on the few things that I know about him and how he performed in the Halalan Forum. I liked his thoughts on ‘enabling the Filipinos to believe in themselves.’ Like him, I also do not believe in “dole-out” mentality. I kind of get uncomfortable when candidates say things like, “Para sa mahihirap” or something like that. Please don’t get me wrong. I am not anti-poor. But you see, we should stop this culture that when people are poor, they must have more rights or more leeway. No, I don’t think so. We give equal rights  to all–whether rich or poor. (Please do visit my old post, “Circumstantial Culture” if you want to read more about this.)

The problem on poverty is not going to be solved by “taking care of the poor as if they are helpless babies.” Let us draw the line there. We should create jobs, we should make hospitalization more affordable, we should give free education up to high school (or even college if we can afford it), etc. but it is not the same as condoning squatting, allowing sidewalk vendors, and giving dole-out money (subsidies?) when electricity or rice prices go up. Let us stop acting as if we are the savior of the poor. We are not. We should address the root of the problems and not the symptoms. Let us empower the poor and not forever treat them as ‘helpless’ people who so badly needs our charity. Our upbringing definitely requires us to lend a helping hand to those in need but we should remember the old adage, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

And so, I saw this kind of thinking in Sen. Gordon and yes, his running mate, MMDA Chair Bayani Fernando. They believe in hard labor. They believe in instilling discipline. They believe in decency and the rule of law. I think our country needs those things and much much more.

My only problem with Sen. Gordon is that he is not strong-willed enough. Sometimes I have doubts about his political will. To me, he is still a trapo. Well, maybe a better trapo, but still, he sometimes chooses to be quiet when going otherwise will inconvenience him or his party.

Oh, if only we can combine the strengths of these presidentiables and emerge with a candidate who has the wisdom and strong platform of Mr. Perlas, the spiritual grounding of Mr. Villanueva, the discipline and love for labor of Senator Gordon, and yes, the popularity of Senator Aquino. Ahhh, if only we can!

Now that I have given you my Top Three choices, I would give you the one who ended up last in my shortlist. He is no other than -

Secretary Gilbert Teodoro. It is obvious that he is intelligent and a savvy communicator (he deserves some cheers here). However, I will definitely not vote for him for the following reasons:

1. He always says he values “loyalty” and that is why he is sticking it out with Lakas-Kampi. Can someone ask him this question, please, “Is loyalty greater and more important than integrity?” If your boss and his family are obviously associated with a lot of issues such as on corruption, over-spending, over-traveling, vote-rigging, allowing of private armies (which led to a horrible massacre of innocent lives), and so on and so forth, would you still be proud that you are “loyal” to him? When should loyalty end? Must we draw a line somewhere?

2. He is clearly a trapo. It does not mean he is terribly nightmarish-bad but it is sad that he cannot even leave the party because of another thing (I may be wrong here, of course) – the machinery it offers. There lies the brutal fact that despite the endless issues hurled against his ‘masters’, he dare not leave them…and maybe because of the ease and comfort of having a nationwide machinery for his presidential aspirations? We can only guess. To a traditional politician, a party support is still a party support. However, Mr. Teodoro should also remember that a good party is not the same as a bad party. No more debate.

3. He is  a product of political dynasty, the very same thing that eventually becomes the ‘fertility bed’ for abuses. I remember his interview with Ms. Cheche Lazaro (in “Profiles”) when he said that he went back to the Philippines after staying in the US because he was convinced by his politico-relative (if I remember correctly, Mr. Danding Cojuangco) to run for public office. As if running for public office is a DNA thing. As if having relatives in politics gives one the ‘moral’ reason to also run for public office. Why do we have this penchant for husbands and wives, fathers (and mothers!) and sons, sisters and brothers, running for public office? Can we finally put a stop to these weird habit of believing that public service runs in the blood? Sure, it’s probably ok to have two politicos in the family (although I still think that a husband-and-wife team of politicos leaves a bad after-taste) but having 3, 4, 5 and even more politicians within the same surname or lineage is definitely a sign of lack of ‘delicadeza’ or shall we say, a familial addiction to power? Again, I may be wrong but let us look at things squarely; there is no need for complicated analysis.

4. His platform does  not seem anchored on a genuine understanding of the structural problems inherent in our national woes. For example, he actually believes that we need more military and police personnel! That was how he replied when he was asked something about the huge presence of CVOs in Mindanao. Oh dear, it is as if our problems are military in nature and that the solutions also require a militaristic framework. He must talk to his former subordinates in the AFP/DND and find out more about how many of the Generals now think that our society does not need more guns but more participation in nationwide building and environmental protection. Yes, Mr. Teodoro, I have personally met Generals and Lieutenant Colonels in the AFP who are now talking about social transformation that is anchored on building communities and not on creating more private armies. Does he really think that we need more militia men to cover our 7,100++ islands instead of jobs, food security, and environmental integrity?

I still have No. 5 as a reason but this has become a very long post already so I must stop now. I hope this shortlist will help you as you ponder about our future as a nation. Let us vote wisely and not give up on this country.

Saludo pa rin ako sa Pinoy! Kaya natin ito!

Vote wisely. The future is in our hands.






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