“We are dreaming with our eyes open,” (Fr. Robert) Reyes said, noting that the tandem (Pampanga Gov. Ed Panlilio and Isabela Gov. Grace Padaca) will have to overcome the traditional politics that have been ruling the Philippine political landscape.
– Panlilio-Padaca movement for 2010 launched
Nikko Dizon for the Philippine Daily Inquirer
March 22, 2009
I think that it was Pres. Manuel L. Quezon who once said that national strength can only be built on character. That has somehow become apparent with “Among” Ed Panlilio and Grace Padaca, two people who have overcome the infections of traditional politics, and brought in fresh blood to a political system suffering from the leukemia of political dynasties and the hepatitis called transactional politics.
Both Panlilio and Padaca won their respective gubernatorial slots through a “character campaign;” one that does away with the conveniences of dynasties and transactional politics and banks on grassroots, alternative governance and politics. Panlilio, a priest, faced the juggernaut that was the Pinedas of Pampanga; with a wide base of support from Pampanga’s Catholics, and a few strokes of luck here and there, he won. Padaca, a former radio journalist who suffers from polio, went head-to-head with the Dys of Isabela; with a wide base of support from Isabela’s Catholics, and a few strokes of luck here and there, she won.
Do I smell President Panlilio and Vice-President Padaca in 2010? I don’t think so. See, if national strength is built on character, and if national strength can be equated to the Presidency, it’s built on caricatures.
If you take a look at resumés in Congress and in the Senate, the typical occupation would be “lawyer.” The lawyer character has almost always been the image required of a political career in the Philippines. In the provinces, for example, being called “Attorney” and having a shingle of your lawyerly prowess hung on your door would instantly catapult you into a possible career in politics. Never mind name recall or dynasties or whatnot: the profession associated with politics is the law.
However, it’s not the first time that we elected a non-lawyer-type to the highest post in the land. In fact, every President post-Marcos went against every trope and stereotype of the “qualifications” of the Presidency. Every President post-Marcos satisfied the minimum qualifications required of the Presidency: being at least 40 years of age, being a registered voter, literacy, citizenship, residency. Consider:
- Corazon Aquino: widow of Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr., housewife, symbol of the EDSA movements of 1986, won the Presidency in the 1986 snap elections. First woman President.
- Fidel Ramos: military background, former Secretary of National Defense and Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, won the Presidency in 1992. First non-Catholic President.
- Joseph Estrada: award-winning and box-office hit actor and former Mayor of San Juan, won the Presidency in 1998 in a landslide victory. First actor to become President.
- Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo: economics professor, second-generation President, assumed the Presidency by succession from Estrada in 2001 and “protected her votes” in 2004. First-class pain in the… you know.
(Side-note: do I hate GMA so much that I refuse to acknowledge that she won the Presidency?)
Going beyond the “all lawyers are liars” assumption, what has been ruling the Philippine political landscape is not the “traditional politics” of dynasties or transactional politics, but the caricatures that come along with it. Comic book characters, soap opera heroes, the President and the Vice President being a love team. Somehow the orientation was never along the lines of a “central issue of the campaign” or the Filipino project and trajectory beyond 2010, but political showbiz: star power, and staying power. The Presidency, as well as any other office in the land, is no different from the “exotic creatures” exhibit in a zoo: to be there and to stay there, you have to be different.
Yet you know what they say: the more things change, the more they stay the same.
See, even political saints like Panlilio and Padaca are not immune from the anger of a minority or a majority or whatever is played up in the media as far as the unrest at Pampanga goes. Hardly alternative governance, if you asked me. Same political banana, different political peel; whilst alternative governance should have brought alternative problems, whilst a mature political choice should have brought mature political questions, both Panlilio and Padaca on some occasions have been brought to the proverbial guillotine for actions their predeceessors were liable to. Like, say, corruption. Hardly alternative. Hardly new. Completely traditional.
I wish both Panlilio and Padaca all the best in their bids for 2010, but really, I see no marked, marketable difference that makes them unique choices right now. Somehow, there has to be a convincing statement that a ballot in 2010 would not be the way it stands right now, and in the forseeable future. I just hope it would not be about voting for a priest for the Presidency, and would not be about voting for a woman with polio for the Vice-Presidency. We have to go beyond the imaginative burnination of things, the curiosities of the possibilities, and, like Plato said centuries ago, vote for the best. Not the best possible, but the best. If that will be Ed Panlilio, if that will be Grace Padaca, then so be it.
Idealistic, yes. Unachievable, possibly. Hell (so to speak), keep dreaming. I’ll just see how things turn out by then, assuming that people like their photo-ops and dinners and such with politicos…
But that’s another story. Uh, I can’t stir up that much trouble at 3 in the morning.