Under different circumstances, the person I would have voted for is Dick Gordon. His qualifications can be summed up in 5 words: Subic, Wow Philippines, Red Cross. The man's leadership skills, vision, and passion for service are unquestionable. Now here's the sad reality: he will not win. Maybe in the future, when Filipinos are smarter, when we have all learned to distinguish performance from personality, Dick Gordon can become president, and a deserving one at that. But today he will not win.
A vote is not a roll of the dice; it is a weapon, it is a strategy. And I feel that, considering the close competition of those at the top of the surveys, insisting on voting for a good man who will not win is terribly unwise. I do wish Dick Gordon had chosen to run for vice-president instead.
The fight for the 2010 presidency is now really just between four people: Noynoy, Villar, Gibo and Estrada. I wish that were not so, but if we do not accept reality, we lay ourselves open to its dangers.
Many Filipinos I know and respect are voting for a different candidate from my own. Among them is my mother, whose vocal support for Gibo is the reason why I have not, until lately, openly campaigned for my own choice of president. While my father and sister are voting for Noynoy, some of my other family and friends are voting for Villar, and others, I'm sure, are still swayed by Estrada's charm. We all have different reasons why we support one candidate and not another. I respect that. But now I must explain my vote, and to do that, I have to explain why I am not voting for the others. Sorry.
Let's start with Erap. Those looking for experience alone need look no further. He entered politics in 1967, became senator in 1987, and was elected president (without the help of Garci, I might add) in 1998. If you count experience by the number of times people were convinced to vote for him, Erap is your man. And that just goes to show that experience, as a qualification, is unreliable. Jueteng. Jose Velarde account. Boracay mansion. Laarni Enriquez, etc., etc. Unexplained wealth. Need I go on? In 2001, I was among the many who took to the streets when his impeachment trial was turned into a joke by his allies. Since 2001, I am happy to say, I have not actually lost my mind yet. I have no desire for Malacanang to turn into the Playboy mansion again.
Supporters of Gibo have a slogan: "I think, therefore I am for Gibo." Well, I have thought about it, and thought about it well, and I am not for Gibo.
If you really think about it, there is just nothing in Gibo's qualifications that would make him the best person to lead the country. His supporters boast of his experience, but he entered politics as a congressman in 1998, the same year as Noynoy, six years behind Villar, and a good 31 years after Erap. Administration loyalists want Gibo to continue Pres. Arroyo's "good work." Since Gloria's declared wealth, since she became senator 17 years ago, has grown by 2,000% (that's two thousand percent, in case you missed it the first time), I sincerely hope no one gets to continue that kind of work. Some Gibo fans are just enamored with his ability to fly a plane, but all that tells me is that he is tall enough to meet the height requirement and rich enough to pay for flying lessons. Not exactly the same criteria that need to be met by a president.
One of the things that Noynoy Aquino's detractors always say about him is that he has done nothing significant since he entered public service. For my part, I, too, cannot specifically name anything Gibo has done since he entered public service. (Can you?) I did not even know he existed until he appeared in TV ads for the National Disaster Coordinating Council -- an agency that, by the way, does not need advertising. His supporters have since accused Noynoy and Villar of spending too much in campaign ads, but let's not forget that before that schmaltzy "Hindi Ka Nag-Iisa" ad of Noynoy's came out, before Villar's catchy tunes and well-produced videos were released, there was Gibo and his public funds-funded NDCC ad.
Manny Villar's is a rags-to-riches story. His ascent from Tondo slum kid to one of the Philippines' richest men is the foremost reason why a lot of people are voting for him. If he can do it for himself, he can do it for the country.
But will he? At what cost?
There are many reasons why I am not voting for Villar. Here are just a few of them:
1. His ads are misleading. And they were designed to be so. You would think, looking at images of poor kids in garbage dumps singing "Hindi bawal mangarap ang mahirap," that Villar himself was as poor as that. He was not. His father was an inspector for the Bureau of Fisheries and subsequently held a director position in the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources. His mother was a shrimp and fish vendor at the Divisoria Public Market, but if you think "market vendor" necessarily means "poor," think again. I have relatives and classmates who live quite comfortably on their parents' public market earnings.
2. Granted, while not exactly impoverished, Villar was not born an Ayala. Or even a Cojuangco. Let's just say that he was relatively poor. Tell me this, then. How does a Tondo kid become a viable contender for the presidency? By eventually becoming rich, right? By working his way up the political ladder? Well, then. Answer this. In the current business and political climate of the Philippines, can someone, who had very little financial and political capital to start with, really go on to become one of the richest and most powerful men in the Philippines, without bribery, compromise of principles and favors to repay? Forgive the long sentence -- it's a simple question, and the answer is no.
3. Villar himself says, in one of his ads, that if he really wanted to become richer, he would have just gone back to business. His supporters say that the millions he is pouring into his campaign does not make sense financially, and that therefore it is not a business move, and that therefore he is not in it for the money, that he just wants to serve. But that is not exactly true. There is nothing like easy money. (Ask Gloria.) There is nothing like putting yourself in a position where you can control infrastructure, influence policies, direct loan releases, and intimidate the competition, all under the guise of serving the people. Villa knows this, we know this, but he thinks we are stupid enough to believe he would have just gone back to business if he was just after money. Well, are we?
4. I call it the Baby James phenomenon. This is what all the ads, all the songs, all the big-name endorsements are for. Repeat something long enough and it will start to appear true. The slogans will start to sink in, subconsciously or otherwise, proof of which is that his adversary's own nephew is shouting out Villar's name. Villar's campaign is high-budget PR at its best. You think Manny Villar is the best candidate for president. But do you really think so?
5. Willie Revillame. Dolphy. Manny Pacquiao (and his groupie Chavit Singson). If we are known by the company we keep, what does that make Villar? (Aside from rich.)
Maybe Villar can make the Philippines prosperous. I'm not saying it is not within his abilities to do so. But again I ask: at what cost?
For me, though, Villar's strategies took an appalling turn last week, when Andal Ampatuan, Jr., the man
By now it should be obvious who I am voting for, and that is Noynoy Aquino.
I don't believe that having heroes for parents qualify a person for the presidency. I don't believe that one person can rid the entire government of corruption. And I don't believe for one second that getting rid of corruption, even if it were possible, would put an end to poverty in this country.
What I do believe is this: I need a leader I can trust. I need someone whose hands have not been stained by corrupt deals and politicking. I need someone who has enough leadership experience but who hasn't yet sunk into the Philippine political quagmire.
Some say Noynoy has done nothing. The more accurate observation would be: he has not sought the spotlight. There is a difference, and it is an important one. Read "Noynoy Aquino, out of the shadows", a report from the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.
A lot of people resent Noynoy for riding on his parents' popularity. But let's not forget that before his mother died, and public clamor rose for him to take on the presidency, Noynoy had no intention of running for the highest office in the land, at least not in 2010. Noynoy was content to stay in the sidelines and do his own thing. Until Cory's death reminded us that honest, principled, good-intentioned presidents were still possible. With that in mind, some of us looked around for an honest, principled and good-intentioned man, and our gaze fell on Noynoy. We asked him to run, he hesitated, thought about it, prayed about it, and then with resolve said yes. Why do we resent him for taking on a challenge that we ourselves laid on him? Isn't this what we wanted? A good man to run for president?
It's true: Noynoy is popular because he is an Aquino. But if that means that he has had no need to be a media whore, if that means that he has not had to compromise his principles to go up the political ladder, if that means he has less political debts to pay, so be it. I would still rather have him for president.
As long as people are lazy, as long as people are irresponsible, as long as people go on having ten kids while on a monthly income of zero, there will always be poverty, and there is nothing that a president with outstanding business acumen can do about that.
But when we do decide that we have had enough of subsisting on one meager meal per day, when we decide to go to school and study hard, when we decide to work until we're tired to the bone, when we decide not to squander our earnings on vices but save instead for our children's education, when we decide to maybe set up our own small businesses and create jobs for our fellowmen, we will need our government to be there for us. We will need our government to be fair and just, to spend money where it is needed, to create projects where they will most be useful, to cut the red tape, to plug the leaks in the system. Most of all, we will need a government that will do what is right, at all times, at whatever cost, and inspire us to do the right thing. And for me, the person who is in the best position to make sure that that happens is Noynoy Aquino. Business geniuses can be tapped, people with superb organizational skills can be brought on board, but the presidency is a position of trust. Noynoy is not a perfect man but he is the better man, by far, and the one who most deserves to be entrusted with my vote and my country.