The Presidential Choices 2022 – first published by The Manila Times on 13 & 20 October 2021. – admin
THE door for the filing of certificates of candidacy is half shut. We now know, more or less, who the contenders are.
“The contenders,” instead of “The choices,” would have been perhaps a better heading for this piece, but the latter takes the voters’ perspective to the front, and it is in their behalf that I will try to take a cursory look at the choices that now stand in front of them. I shall start with the presidential candidates (vice presidential and senatorial candidates to follow), ranked in no particular order.
- Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson
For a country that wobbles under the weight of corruption, it seems hard to understand that its citizens have not taken enough notice of pork-free Lacson. He is one of few — maybe there is no one else — who does not covet the so-called congressional pork barrel funds. These funds, whose notoriety has been underscored by the Napoles plunder cases, are by no means the only source of corruption in government. But by not touching it, he sets an example for everyone else to spend public funds in the most efficient, responsive and fraud-free manner possible.
The problem is few people believe him. In the House of Representatives, almost half of its members have been designated as deputy speakers, which is one way for them to access more pork barrel funds.
Lacson vied for the presidency in 2004. He ranked third among five major candidates, behind Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Fernando Poe Jr. In the latest pre-election surveys, he trails early favorites Sarah Duterte-Carpio, Ferdinnd “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., Francisco “Isko” Moreno and Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao.
Before becoming a legislator, Lacson had established for himself a solid — if sometimes controversial — career in public security and law enforcement. As chief of the Philippine National Police, he earned a reputation (probably unique to him) for instilling discipline among members of the police force — from marginalizing the overweight and clearing the streets of “kotong cops.” However, he also figured in controversial summary execution cases (something which is not unique to him), highlighted by publicly documented testimonies about his role in the Dacer-Corbito double murder case.
- Sen. Manny Pacquiao
His standing as one of the world’s greatest athletes ever is beyond question.
As mentioned in a previous column, he is the only professional boxer, both living and dead, in the entire history of the sport to have won world titles in eight different weight divisions (i.e., from flyweight at 112 pounds to welterweight at 145 pounds). While wiping out opponents in numerous weight classes, he wrested five lineal championships, which is another world record.
It takes more than talent to achieve what he accomplished. The grit, determination and hard work that he showed as a successful athlete can help him succeed in other fields of endeavor. It can, depending on one’s appreciation of the presidential job description, help him become successful as President Manny Pacquiao.
Those who think that the role of a president is overrated, that government — for as long as there is a robust civil service system — will work even without a micro-managing chief executive, then the story line of how he overcame adversities in life that he can bring to his office should be enough to lift the battered morale of millions of Filipinos.
If he can lead by example, such as in living modest lives or in warding off the wicked temptations of political power, then his resume should be enough to win the support of his constituents. That support, I think, is the most consequential capital that any sitting president can have.
But for those who believe that the presidency is best left to those who have adequate training in public administration, then Pacquiao comes across as yet pretty much in the process of becoming. He is a work in progress. In the event of a dramatic win and he gets accelerated to become president next year, he, at best, for the most part of his term, can only be an on-the-job intern. He may, however, compensate for his deficient qualifications by putting up an equally hardworking, honest and competent team that can help him run the government.
- Mayor Isko Moreno
His rise to prominence in the world of politics is nothing short of phenomenal. He earned more following in the last couple of years that, as mayor, he oversaw the cleanup and beautification of the country’s premier city of Manila. His competence as administrator was further tested, and appeared to have passed with distinction, when the Covid- 19 pandemic ravaged the densely populated areas in the country.
It is thus unsurprising that his plan to bring his talents from city hall to nearby Malacañang was met with much enthusiasm from a good segment of the population. Pre-election surveys show that he is contending well among the possible winners in next year’s presidential election.
But for all the goodwill that he has managed to generate, he appeared to have fumbled in the early steps of his candidacy. Trying to position himself as acceptable to all sides of the hexagonal political spectrum, he alienated himself from those who have taken a definite position of aligning themselves with anti-administration candidates. Unless he rebrands quickly enough, he could end up, in trying to please everyone, satisfying not in the numbers that are good enough to bring him to where he wants to be.
The Presidential Choices 2022 – Part 2
4) Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
His name may have been tarnished. But it sells. No other brand — except Aquino — has dominated the market of electoral politics for as long a time as the Marcos name has.
The two-hour movie “Iginuhit ng Tadhana: The Ferdinand E. Marcos Story” — also dubbed as “Man of Destiny” — was rubbish from a film critic’s standpoint. But analysts then said that it helped Marcos win the presidential election in 1965. In that movie, eight-year-old Bongbong played himself as the son. A role-play scene with siblings and his grandmother had him hopping on to an impromptu stage and delivering this line:
“Dear friends, I am Bongbong Marcos. When I grow up, I want to be a politician. I will serve my country, especially the poor. And I will give them plenty of bigas and ulam, gamot at damit…”
At 23, he was a real-life politician, having been elected vice governor of the province of Ilocos Norte in 1980. His political career progressed almost unimpeded since. He held various political offices for at least 27 years: governor for nine years, member of the House of Representatives for nine years and senator for six years. In all those years, there is doubt that he ever helped create conditions where the country’s poor could have given themselves access to plenty of bigas and ulam. As a member of Congress, he hardly proposed any legislation that promoted social amelioration. He was content to co-author bills with his peers, except one — Senate Bill 1186, enacted into law as Republic Act 10632, which sought the postponement of the 2013 Sangguniang Kabataan elections.
On the contrary, the cases of plunder of which his family is accused of — some of which resulted in conviction — depict the role he played in cheating a government that otherwise is tasked with feeding the poor. The rest of his profile flirts with a time in jail instead of a seat in Malacañang.
In 1995, a Quezon Regional Trial Court convicted him for tax evasion. In 2011, Raissa Robles, writing for the South China Morning Post, claimed that Bongbong tried to recover P10 billion from a Swiss bank that government had identified as part of the massive Marcos loot.
Far from being doomed, he almost got elected as vice president of the republic when he narrowly lost to Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo in 2016, barely two years after he was implicated in a P100-million PDAF pork barrel scam.
In recent pre-election surveys, Bongbong figures among the top choices for the next president. Voters continue to keep him in high regard. And they are, at the day’s end, all he needs to reclaim the power his father wielded for close to 20 years.
5) Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo
Pre-election surveys for vice president in 2016 showed that Leni was a poor choice. Among the four leading candidates (along with Francis “Chiz” Escudero, Marcos, Alan Peter Cayetano), she trailed either Chiz or Bongbong during most of the entire campaign period. By April 2016, Bongbong took the lead almost all to himself. It was only in the week preceding the actual election where her winning chances showed up (Pulse Asia – April 26-29: 28 percent for Marcos, 30 percent for Robredo; SWS – May 1-3: 29 percent for Marcos, 28 percent for Robredo).
The latest survey for president puts Leni in almost the same place when she ran for vice president. Pulse Asia reported that she ranks fourth among six officially declared candidates, trailing Marcos, Isko Moreno and Manny Pacquiao, in that order.
But while she lags, a few things are going for her, such as consistency and performance record. While other contenders huff and puff trying to figure out where to position themselves (given their inconsistent past) as they compete for voters’ attention, Leni has a relatively defined niche: the one that can be broadly defined as the political opposition.
Of all presidential contenders, Leni has the distinction of calling out, on a consistently regular basis, the incumbent Duterte administration for, among other breaches, human rights violations in its enforcement of law and order, as well as in allegations of irregularities involving government agencies that have been tasked with managing the pandemic response.
But quite apart from being just a critic, Leni has demonstrated how her office has been able to help government address the Covid crisis even with just a fraction of the budget that most government offices with more or less similar mandate have at their disposal. She supported local government units put up testing and vaccination centers; she helped them develop communication and coordination hubs. To augment the meager resources of her office, she facilitated resource mobilization among various sectors, including private groups and individuals.
That she has been found to step up even under limiting conditions may not surprise those who had followed her professional career, even outside of politics. As a volunteer lawyer for Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panligan (Saligan), she joined teams that immersed in remote rural communities to help them access legal, medical and livelihood services.
In some ironic way, Leni did not need to become a politician to bring to life Bongbong’s dream of becoming one to bring bigas, ulam, gamot at damit to the poor.
Posted by Ingming Aberia, 6 November 2021