This is my column today.
It’s been quite some time since I last heard Senator Richard Gordon deliver a formal speech. Like most everyone else, I’ve only been catching snippets of the Atenista senator in television coverage of some Senate hearings, which unfortunately, often shows the senator in various stages of agitation and exasperation. Needless to say the images are often unflattering because quite frankly, very few people look good—or for that matter, dignified- when they are about to commit the equivalent of verbal homicide.
If it is any consolation, at least Senator Gordon has not been caught throwing a monstrous tantrum, flailing around like a spoiled child, and striking blindly at anyone within reach. Or, okay, at least not yet.
I have forgotten just how eloquent and engaging he is or can be as a public speaker. Or how infinitely more intelligent—at least sensible—he is compared to the other people who walk the corridors of power in this country, including his colleagues in the Senate who swagger around with their giant egos but often mouth gibberish. Or for that matter, just how inspiring it is to listen to a public figure who actually knows how to work a crowd, not through some cheap song-and-dance routines and through dubious smoke-and-mirror tricks, but through sheer logic, sincerity, and passion.
I had the privilege of being at a gathering of human resource professionals last week, which featured Senator Gordon as keynote speaker. The Richard Gordon that I witnessed last week had a wider girth and was, well, older, compared to the man that was the toast of the town almost two decades ago when he transformed Subic Bay into a showcase of what the Filipino can do once he sets his mind to it. But everything else was the same —the passion, the oratorical prowess, and most of all, the overwhelming faith and affection for this country and for its people.
A number of questions were running through my mind during the first 20 minutes of his speech, which, by the way was delivered extemporaneously. Why isn’t this guy out there as a possible frontrunner in the 2010 presidential elections? Why can’t we have more politicians like him—people who actually believe in this country and its people and look like it too? And even more telling, how come competent people like him with the vision, the burning passion, the competencies, won’t probably get elected into the highest seat of the land?
Let’s face it. There are very few politicians in this country that can hold a candle to the man in terms of manifested passion, overall intelligence, eloquence or oratorical skills. I mean, just how many politicians can deliver a finely textured rendition of Lord Alfred Tennyson, at a moment’s notice and completely from memory? Not that being able to recite The Charge of the Light Brigade or Ulysses automatically qualifies anyone as superior, but it sure is a good indicator.
And certainly, fewer still are strategic thinkers who can formulate a compelling vision of a desirable future. It’s sad, really, really sad that many of our leaders cannot see beyond the present. As someone once said, action without a clear vision is just passing time.
There is absolutely no doubt about it: Gordon is infinitely more qualified to run for the highest post in the land compared to other monkeys that threaten to turn the 2010 presidential elections into a circus.
Why then is Richard Gordon not being considered seriously as Presidential timber? The answer dawned on me during the last twenty minutes of his address last week and it was a disheartening realization as it is a reflection of the state of the maturity of our voting population.
Gordon is not out there as a frontrunner in the presidential derby because he doesn’t seem to have the billions required to finance an expensive presidential campaign; or if he does, he knows only too well that he would have to recover the “investment” one way or the other, most likely through shady deals, if and when he gets elected into office.
He is not a front-runner because he is a stickler for discipline and the rule of law, unlike other politicians who have no compunctions about campaigning early and already spending hundreds of millions in television ads a good year and a half before the actual elections.
In a brazen display of self-importance, Bayani Fernando has decorated our major thoroughfares with giant tarpaulins of his grim visage, in the process assaulting millions of Filipinos everyday. Wherever he goes, he has a brigade of pink-shirted men and women distributing campaign materials.
Senators Manny Villar and Mar Roxas have been campaigning hard since last year. They have upped the ante by producing slick television advertisements that extol themselves as the panacea for our country’s many ills.
While it can be argued that Villar and Roxas are wealthy individuals who are supposedly—although this is met with well-deserved skepticism—spending their own money, they are clearly violating electoral laws by launching their campaigns very early on. Pray tell, what kind of message are Villar and Roxas sending? That they are above the law?
Gordon is not a front-runner because we are a people who don’t like leaders who tell us sobering truths. We prefer leaders that entertain, make politically-incorrect and sexist jokes, make promises that cannot be implemented anyway, and in general, make band-aid solutions to major problems that require surgery and chemotherapy. We certainly don’t like candidates who tell us unequivocally that we are all part of the solution, that our problems are best solved if we all practice good citizenship and do our bit in making this country work. Thanks but no thanks but we’d rather have candidates who fancy themselves as in possession of superhuman powers that they can solve our problems all by their lonesome selves.
I am not saying of course that Gordon is the best man for the job, but he certainly deserves consideration. All I am saying is that in an ideal democracy, he should be a front-runner out there. Unfortunately, we’re stuck in this rut where landing on top of surveys is seen as blanket substitute for qualification, where money is considered the ultimate advantage, where populist strategies win over the principled, etc.