Proving Ground

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After a weekend retreat, Noynoy Aquino decided to make a historical announcement – on 9/9/09, of all dates – and announced his Presidential bid.  The test of Aquino’s mettle is not in declaring his candidacy today, but the months ahead leading to the elections on May 10, 2010.  Noynoy will have to go through the crucible of the campaign trail; a much more difficult and taxing gauntlet than what he went through in 2007.  From here, Noynoy Aquino.  Over there, we don’t know yet.  It’s a long road ahead to 2010, and that’s what campaigns are for.  We don’t test the mettle of someone’s “presidentiability” just because they declared it.  To say that would be to bank on nothing more than prejudice until you reach your polling precinct.

At the risk of stating the obvious, I’ll say it anyway: the test is not Aquino’s name, the memory of his parents, or handing the flag of the Liberal Party to him on a silver platter.  Like a Virgil (yeah, I just had to say that), the proof is on Noynoy Aquino.  The proof is his campaign.

Which is what makes democracy so good.

Am I going to vote for Noynoy?  Maybe it’s my fault that I’ve not been reading enough newspapers, enough blogs, or watching TV to get to know more about the credentials of Noynoy as far as governance is concerned.  Or maybe it’s Noynoy’s fault that he’s not been visible in enough newspapers or blogs or TV to get to be more visible to the public eye and the public pulse.  Kaya nga may kampanya eh.

Here’s the problem that I see with Noynoy’s run: he’s the archetype of a lot of things we resent.  He’s rich, landed, a storied name, the heir to a legacy.  In so many ways this can work for you, but in so many ways, this can work against you.  The way I see it, Noynoy Aquino is already every politician out there: rich, landed people with glamorous sounding names.

The caustic term for it is “dynastic politics” and somehow many of us – including myself – are wont to resent that.  The Old Boys’ Club, so to speak.  Whether or not he wants to focus his campaign for or against that is the business of his team.  On the one hand they can focus their energies on debunking these “dynastic” claims.  On the other hand they can build him up as a “character choice.”  Your call, but my vote.

So here’s my take on it: things like circumstances, and yeah, pedigree, qualifications, “winnability,” and all those things have fallen onto Noynoy’s lap and made him a potential President of the Philippines.  If you don’t like it, well, too bad.  If we don’t want the people to vote for Noynoy, we should match their efforts to persuade people to vote for him anyway.  Other than that, whatever efforts we do to discredit or to support a potential candidate is also subject to the will of the ballot.

That’s what elections are for.  Which is why we have campaigns.  It’s a debate where every single person participates, the end being consensus.  It’s about winning as it is about convincing.  Playing by the rules, and yep, everything we could have had before has the potential to be here now.

It’s any indication this campaign and the polls has the potential to move us out of guns, goons, and gold and get us back on a character campaign.  Debates, agenda-building, the meeting at the barangay hall.  Instead of the things that we are so familiar with, 2010 could be an opportunity to bring everyone to the political game, to develop a central issue for 2010, to get to know more about our candidates.  To get ourselves involved and informed enough for 2010, outside the prejudices that we started out with.

I’m not saying that we should not vote for so-and-so because of so-and-so.  At this point in the road to 2010 we should keep our eyes and ears open for issues and programs, not just personalities.  I’m saying that we should vote for so-and-so because this is what they have to say, these are their programs, and you can expect that from them.  From there, you know the drill.  And that potential incidentally began with Noynoy being a potential contender.

In the end, all Noynoy has to do is to sit down, make his program, and start the walk to the proving ground.

Meanwhile, I’m going to go get more paper.

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