Monday, May 10, 2010

Not a bad crop

This was my column on the date indicated above. This post is antedated.

I have hesitated to make a direct pitch in this space for any of the candidates for national positions, particularly the top two posts in the land in today’s elections. This is because I have felt that contrary to what many people would like us to believe, the possibility of utter and total catastrophe this time around is not as pronounced as in previous elections. I really believe that an impartial analysis of the qualifications of most of the candidates running for president, vice president, and the 12 slots for senator will reveal that we have a relatively good crop of candidates this time around.

I have my own bets, of course. As can be expected, I do feel that the candidates I have chosen for president, vice president and senators would do a much better job of bringing this country to new and greater heights than all the others. However, in my heart of hearts, I also do believe that any of the other candidates have as much potential to do well for this country.

I do feel that allowing Joseph Estrada to run for President was wrong although I also think that it in a way it was a blessing that he was allowed to because he divided what is referred to as the masa vote. I continue to have serious misgivings about the man but I also recognize and accept that there is a possibility that in the most unlikely scenario that he wins and becomes the first president to be elected anew despite having been subjected to an impeachment trial, despite having been deposed in a people power movement, and despite having been jailed for plunder, the oath of office might just acquire more significance and perhaps more sanctity to him this time around. There are powerful lessons to be learned from the tragedy that he has gone through and even if my whole being feels revulsion at the thought of seeing him at MalacaƱang again, I am willing to grant that he represents a powerful message that needs to be understood and accepted: That redemption is always a possibility and that hope springs eternal.

I also think that Jamby Madrigal falls short on many of the competencies required to become President of this country. She has a temperament that seems too volatile for the highest post in the land and her motivations are, quite frankly, suspect. She has struck me on many occasions as having delusions of infallibility and moral righteousness. But I am willing to grant that her platform of government is sensible. I had misgivings about the level of vitriol she heaped on the other presidential candidates but on the overall scheme of things, many of the things she said were based on incontrovertible facts anyway. Although she also leveraged on her relationship with one of the heroes of this country (one wishes she also followed the example of her grandfather Jose Abad Santos who chose to die rather than do irreparable damage to this country), she tried to run a campaign that was issue-based although not necessarily free from cheap gimmickry. In my book, she is not the best candidate for the post but given her experience as senator and the strength of her convictions, having her as president may not be as worse as, say, having Eddie Gil.

JC de los Reyes was probably the only candidate that had a platform that was based on a clear political ideology. His party, Ang Kapatiran, has distinguished itself as the only political party today with what passes to be a political ideology. I disagree with his very conservative stand on many issues, particularly his supposed pro-life and anti-reproductive health stance. To my mind, reproductive health is non-negotiable—we have higher maternal deaths compared to our neighbors—but I believe that for as long as our leaders continue to stay in the communications process and continue to listen there is hope for win-win solutions. De los Reyes has shown willingness to listen. He is young and passionate and the fact that he and his party have reached this far is already a major achievement. He is not the worst thing that can happen to this country.

Everyone I have talked to about Nick Perlas knows only one thing about the man: That he is running on a platform to save the environment. There are many people who think it is really about time that we elect a president who is also passionate about saving Mother Earth. But even those who are fierce environment advocates agree that the issue cannot be the end-all of be-all of an elected president. I haven’t met anyone who said he or she was voting for the man. But Perlas is competent and he represents a paradigm that is unique and out-of-the-box. He is probably the only candidate that represents real change and because of this, a Perlas presidency, although very remote, can be a welcome development.

Brother Eddie Villanueva is running on a platform that is utopian: A corrupt-free republic within six years. It cannot be done, of course; which is not a reason to scoff at it. My problem with Villanueva’s anti-corruption campaign is that it is directed only at certain people at the top and turns a blind eye to the fact that corruption is systemic in this country. I also have major problems with the fact that Villanueva is a religious leader with his own powerful sect. But again, there are far worst things that can happen to this country than a Villanueva presidency.

Senator Manuel Villar has plummeted in the surveys in the last two months and this, I believe, is indicative of the volume and kind of baggage he carries. There are those who insist that all the accusations leveled on the man in the last few months were politically motivated hogwash. My take on the matter is that Villar has unfortunately shown inability to manage confrontation—the reason the issues have stuck to his person and to his campaign was precisely because he never really confronted the issues in a way that achieved closure. I also am very queasy about a Villar presidency but I grant that having been Speaker of the House, President of the Senate, and CEO of his successful companies, he is well prepared for the post.

Senator Noynoy Aquino is the front-runner of the Presidential race mainly on account of the resurgence of “yellow fever” in this country. I look at the Noynoy Aquino phenomenon as many people’s attempt to correct the mistakes of the two people power uprising. Here finally is an opportunity to catapult to power through legal means someone who represents hope and courage. I have written about Aquino in this space many times so I will just repeat the thesis of my convictions: Aquino is not the most competent nor the most qualified for the job, but he probably is the safest choice at this time. To my mind, choosing Aquino is a compromise.

In another time and place, Senator Richard Gordon would be a shoo-in for the post. He epitomizes the competencies of what a president should be. The man has vision, integrity, superior intelligence, a track record as public official, the gift of oratory, etc. Sadly, Gordon launched his candidacy too late in the day and his campaign has been hobbled by its inability to engage people outside his core base of supporters.

Everyone agrees that if he were not the administration candidate and that if only he is not allied with Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Gibo Teodoro is the perfect candidate for the presidency. His supporters argue that Teodoro, not Arroyo, is the one running for president. Teodoro could have engaged in dirty politics to boost his candidacy but through it all, he continued to preach unity and reconciliation.

I join everyone in praying for a safe, orderly, and clean elections. Let us all vote and help make the first automated elections in this country successful.

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