Right from the start, I’m torn between two astute presidential candidates. This is not always the case ever since I became a registered voter. Normally, I had it all figured out a year or two before official declarations are made. But in this crucial 2010 Presidential Election, I must say I walked the extra mile before reaching a decisive decision whom to support. To be fair, I deliberated so hard on the pros and cons of each prospective candidate. Spent enormous time in research and profiling. I really wanted to make sure that if I will select a presidential candidate, I may be able to defend him not on Plaza Miranda but coffee shops. Why coffee shops? Well, for one I’m an insatiable coffee drinker. I love to talk, talk and talk over a cup of brewed coffee. (Not all the time of course, especially when the one sitting at the other end of the table loves to talk more about non-sense TV shows like the pathetic Pinoy Big Brother.) But more than this, coffee shops are convenient venues for the perceived “educated” working class in the metropolis. This is not to say that those who can’t afford Starbucks or Figaro are bereft of any opportunity to have fruitful discussions. In fact, even the street sweeper has a lot of sensible things to say on socio-political issues more than the conos whose silly conversation centers on six pack abs and weight loss. Anyway, my point is, in coffee-shops people tend to shed their inhibitions on almost anything. I would like to think that caffeine has something to do with this. It may be psychological or a cop-out to some, but coffee to me is something closely related with my personality. And so before throwing off my hat in the arena of coffee-table discussion, I had to make sure that my turf is secured. Heck, my presidential candidate deserves a zealous defense against the evils of politics like black propaganda and character-assassination. It has been my practice to never discuss issues with anyone who focuses more on personalities rather than substantive issues like platforms of government and track-record. Can you defend your preference with passion and objectivity? I’m sure you do and so am I! So here it goes.
At the outset and by looking at the prospective line-up of presidential candidates, I decided to go for Richard “Dick” Gordon all the way. Not until the eloquent Gilbert “GIBO” Teodoro came in the picture. I came to know Gilbert Teodoro long before he became a member of the House of Representatives but when he landed at the top spot of the 1989 Bar Examinations. As we all know, the bar examination is “arguably” the most difficult government examination administered no less than the Supreme Court itself. While passing the bar exam is more than enough ticket to success, topping the bar is surely every barrister’s elusive dream. GIBO, in all his media interviews, never bragged about topping the bar or bagging the Dean’s Medal for Academic Excellence in the prestigious UP College of Law. And oh, not to mention GIBO is a holder of Master of Laws from Harvard University. With all his sterling academic achievements both here and abroad, GIBO remains a humble creature.
GIBO never promised the stars and the moon just to win the masses. He is a realist. He does not have to hide beneath the cloth of motherhood statements to the extent of exuding false hopes to the people. In my article Aquino and Villar: Slogging through Campaign Slogans, I lambasted two “messianic” inflicted presidential candidates for exploiting the issue of poverty and corruption throughout the campaign season. The 1987 Constitution is emphatic that a president can only serve for one term and that is for six (6) years with no re-election. How the hell can a president extirpate deeply-rooted problems of poverty and corruption in six (6) years? The least he can do is to minimize or lay a foundation for the next president, may be his vice-president or any other future president. Is this what they are trying to say? I think not. Most of them seem to make us believe that they have some sort of a magic wand in their hands. And with a magic spell like Harry Potter’s “Wingardium leviosa!” alas, poverty and corruption disappear in the face of our nation. And so for the next six (6) years, we will be all living under a utopian state as envisioned by Plato. No hunger, no corruption and to make it more rustic, let’s say that there will be angels singing and trumpeting all throughout the six-year term. I understand that a populist platform is an effective campaign strategy. But sorry to say, like most thinking Filipinos, I’m not buying it. I don’t get it really. The reason why most candidates resort to messianic-strategy is because they have little respect for the masses. Like what I always say, necessitous men are not free men. This to my mind is one of the factors that separate GIBO from other presidential candidates. His honesty and sincerity can be judged with the way he presents himself to the public. He talks more about feasible reforms supported by hard facts and figures. If you, by any chance happens to be an avid viewer of presidential debates then you know very well what I’m talking about. With all the deeply rooted problems of this nation, what we need are real solutions coming from a realistic and intelligent leader. Of all presidential candidates, only GIBO has the guts to admit in public that genuine reforms may take some time to implement but we will be heading towards that direction. Now taking into consideration our political culture, how’s that for a presidential candidate?
The reason why most people tend to shy away with politics or government for that matter is because they picture it as a dirty game. This attitude has serious repercussions. It discourages citizens to participate in the affairs of government. It likewise promotes complacency and attention-deficit on the part of the people in relation with the government. In the end, the outcome is manifested with the crop of leaders we have elected to sit in public office. The players, mostly traditional politicians have a lot to do with this negative perception. This is especially true even during election season. Have you seen how LP presidential bet Noynoy Aquino and Nacionalista standard-bearer throw mud at each other? The equation is simple: Noy accordingly has an untainted character but very poor track record while Villar has a relatively solid legislative track record but with a questionable character. Now, with this kind of picture, the strategy is predictable. Pinch salt on the weaknesses and bank on the perceived advantages. I don’t have to elaborate any further since the media has always been jumpy every time these two presidential candidates fired at each other. It’s an ugly mess and I don’t want be associated with this kind of politics. If one of them happens to be your sure-fire bet to the presidency, then don’t expect reforms in government because what you see right now is what you’ll gonna get for the next six years.
Where is GIBO amidst this mudslinging politics? Well, my presidential candidate is obviously busy waging a positive campaign all over the country. Critics, mostly from the anti-GMA camps, have tried to put him down many times. Some of them throw black propaganda at him but what do they get in exchange? GIBO just simply shrugged them off. Show me one, just one TV interview where GIBO appears to be vindictive against his fiercest critics who have nothing against him except that he is a LAKAS standard bearer, and I would be willing to concede my mistake. I tell you there is none. GIBO, despite his superb credentials and being a Cojuangco, remains prudent and humble amidst the political circus. When asked about the rationale behind his positive campaign, GIBO had this to say, "If I also put hatred and negativity in my heart, and practice mudslinging, how can I unite the nation when I become the president?" LP presidential bet Noynoy Aquino has a lot to learn from his cousin on how to wage a positive campaign that promotes unity rather than divisiveness.
For argument’s sake, let us pretend that LP bet Noynoy Aquino has the much needed character and integrity to become the next Philippine president. Does it necessarily follow that all other presidential contenders are corrupt and devious? In other words, Noy Aquino or anyone for that matter has no monopoly or exclusivity whatsoever to make a pompous claim that, “Inde ako magnanakaw!” If you ask me, I will go for character plus track record. Why settle for less if we could have more. Strangely, if all that is needed is simply character to make a good president, why not elect Ang Kapatiran standard bearer JC De los Reyes or perhaps Nick Perlas to the presidency? Surely these two struggling presidential contenders have never been linked to any scandal or corruption in government. They too represent new blood in Philippine politics as opposed to trapo governance. The truth is, and some quarters may find this hard to admit, qualities such as character, intelligence and track-record are all essential features of a great president. Very well then, is there even a hint that GIBO, judging from his many years of public service, would be a “magnanakaw” if elected as the 15th Philippine President? Critics are quick to dismiss him all because he served as a cabinet member of GMA and later as the standard bearer of LAKAS. This is a clear case of guilt by association. The way I see it, this issue has always been the lone objection against GIBO. Like my pessimistic friends, critics label GIBO as GMA’s lapdog. On the contrary, I believe this single yet defensible barrier may work to GIBO’s advantage. It is here where GIBO show the makings of a great president.
In various live presidential debates and media interviews, GIBO has always been castigated and tagged as GMA’s puppet. However, critics don’t seem to care to check on his accomplishment as the youngest appointee since Ramon Magsaysay to head a key executive position. In August 2007 and at the age of 43, GIBO was appointed as Secretary of the National Defense and chairman of the National Disaster Coordinating Council. As Secretary of Defense, GIBO led the campaign against communist and Muslim rebels. GIBO likewise vowed to employ anti-corruption measures to cleanse the department. And he did. To systematically combat corruption within DND, GIBO implemented a policy that would coincide with transparency and accountability in all DND’s transactions especially with a third party who belongs to the business sector. As chairman of the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) GIBO oversaw rescue and rehabilitation efforts in areas devastated by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng. In both tasks, GIBO undoubtedly gain public admiration for his performance as a cabinet secretary.
During his stint as Secretary of DND and while serving concurrently as the head of the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC), I never heard an iota of accusation charging GIBO of corruption. And so if GIBO did a fine job as a cabinet secretary, why charge him guilty for the excesses committed by the Arroyo administration? Is there a reasonable link between GIBO’s performance as cabinet secretary and the Helo Garci, Fertilizer scams, NBN-ZTE fiasco and other constitutional violations committed by GMA? Time and again, critics tried to squeeze blood on GIBO because he is the administration’s candidate. Believe me, I’m not an apologist for GMA’s administration. I have been very critical in my writings every time GMA so decides to tinker with the 1987 Constitution. But let us put things in the proper perspective and be objective enough.