Smoke On Roxas

When you come to think about it, Mar Roxas probably has one of the most impressive résumés among candidates on the road to the 2016 elections. Roxas is the scion of two powerful families in both politics and industry (lest we forget that Mar is the son of a Senator and the grandson of a former President, and is also the grandson of the man who built the Araneta real estate empire). He’s an Ivy League graduate: he is an economist from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He spent years as a financial hotshot in New York, making a name for himself in the world of capital and investments. He’s a former Congressman, a former Senator (garnering the most votes for any candidate in a national election, at that), and held three different Cabinet positions under three different administrations.

While other prospective candidates have to blow smoke (like, say, turning the Philippines “into Makati”) to curry favor among the people and win their votes this early (at least one had to figuratively/literally blow someone’s rocks off), Roxas is—on paper—the most qualified. One may even say that he’s destined to be President: a man born and bred to be in Malacañang. Rightly or wrongly, Roxas has a very clear advantage among others through his position of privilege.

… I’m not even sure. Photo from Oras Na, Roxas Na

The problem is, that’s not exactly how Roxas is packaged. And as it turns out, it’s a really big problem.


Madrigal: The Non-Contender

Jamby Madrigal, for many voters, is the statistical pariah of the 2010 Presidential elections: the ultimate in un-winnability.  Madrigal is the outlier in a normal curve on a very different graph, so to speak.  Every other candidate can pull out track record: hers being that of advocacy for women, children, and fair economic policies.  Every other candidate can pull out evidence of winning, at this point in the elections: you have Villar and Aquino on surveys, Gibo eyeballing his campaign sorties, Gordon generating buzz on the Internet, Villanueva on his prayer rallies, Erap’s massive support base from his days as a film and media superstar, and the likes of Perlas not believing it at all.  She’s the only woman running for President right now, which should give her mileage.

All other things being equal, Jamby should be a contender.  Factors included, Jamby should be the attack dog nipping at the heels of the very candidate she’s running against.  Yet she’s not, she isn’t, and with close to two weeks to the May 10 national elections, she never will.


Richard Gordon: The Dark Horse

His most loyal supporters thrust and harp on the credentials and qualifications that make him who he is: 33 years of executive experience, two terms as Mayor of Olongapo City, 1971 Con-Con delegate, Subic Bay Metropolitan Area Chairman, Secretary of Tourism, 40 years of volunteer work for the Philippine National Red Cross, six years in the Senate, 270 authored bills and resolutions, 13 enacted laws.  In one long sentence, that’s Richard Gordon.

In many respects, Richard “Dick” Gordon should be a contender, if not the contender, for the most powerful position in Philippine politics.  If the Presidency is all a matter of credentials and qualifications – as some of his most loyal supporters believe – then Gordon should have the two leading contenders quaking in their boots.  Gordon has it all: the administrative and legislative background needed to run a country, and lead it to progress.  Gordon took up the challenge and made his bid.

Yet perhaps the most qualified man with all the credentials needed to run a country, command the votes of millions, and earn the mandate of a nation is at the bottom of the surveys (which, again, to his most loyal supporters, do not matter).  Richard Gordon is not doing well: the lack of machinery, the lack of funding, and adopting into technology too little, too late.  The way things are looking now, Dick Gordon is not poised to win the Presidency anytime soon.  Gordon is not jockeying for position with the likes of Noynoy Aquino and Manny Villar, but the scraps that fall up from the table with Jamby Madrigal, Eddie Villanueva, and Nicanor Perlas.

Gordon is definitely no longer a contender.  Then again, I can be wrong: Gordon can be the dark horse of the 2010 Presidential race.  That all begs us to ask: why?


Estrada: The Vendetta Brother

The political milieu of an entire generation was molded around the contempt of the people against Former President Joseph Estrada.  He is, after all, a very good example of what we don’t want from a President, whether it’s superficial or something that runs deep into our political consciousness.  Countless times, Estrada has proven himself to be a man without remorse: whether it’s for womanizing, drinking, his lack of education compared to his peers, plunder.  Pardoned after what passes for a prison sentence, Erap is back in the game: seemingly running for the Presidency for the sole purpose of vindicating himself.

In any other society – even within this one – where shame and dishonor is carried through entire lifetimes and generations, Erap seems to be the exemption, as he was years ago when he governed without regard for it.  Yet from a certain perspective, Erap deserves to run, if only to take back the Presidency which, in yet another brazen note, he thinks of a trophy rather than a mandate.  After EDSA II, with the massive discontent that followed the administration that replaced him, Erap sees his bid for the Presidency as vindication.  As vendetta upon those who have taken him out.  To vindicate himself in the eyes of the populace that once gave him the most support in a single election year.


Cantal: The Lost Presidentiable

Felix “Peck” Cantal is very forthright with his Presidential bid.  He’s not campaigning with sweeping proclamations, vague platforms, and promises that will probably be forgotten.

James Jimenez says that the election laws are silent on the matter; there’s nothing in the law, it seems, that a candidate declared a nuisance cannot come out with a campaign advertisement.   Then again, he’s doing a much better job at being honest compared to our other Presidential candidates.  Cantal pulls no punches or strings: the standard-bearer of the Philippine Green Republican Party is campaigning on a very simple, passionate premise: “Maawa po kayo sa akin.”

Now that’s what I call an honest campaign.


Teodoro: The Necessary

I see his face painted on the back of many buses, in the attempt perhaps to boost his reputation and to improve recognition.  “Posible,” the advertisements read, that he is the key; he is the answer.  “Galing at Talino:” the Harvard Law graduate, the most intelligent in the motley crue of Presidential aspirants, the man with the plan.  Gilberto Teodoro, Jr. is poised for the grand prize of Philippine politics: the Presidency.

He is the most articulate among them, bringing with him the kind of surprising charisma that turns him into a most enigmatic, charming figure brimming with confidence at every word and spiel.  One can make the case of him being the most intelligent: there are brains, in a way, to be glossed over when you do go to Harvard and bring with you such stellar credentials to the Presidential race.  Yet perception – the very thing that makes up anything and everything about politics – is reality, and political at that.

In Presidential debates, Teodoro finds it difficult to shrug off questions about the President.  He parries them, avoids them, dodges them, strings artful responses, and yet he cannot escape them.  He is who he is: Gibo Teodoro, the hand-picked successor to Gloria  Macapagal-Arroyo.  Every parallelism and judgment passed to him because of that is justified and warranted, never mind that it seems “unfair” or “underhanded.”  He is Arroyo’s golden boy, and whether that’s a medal on his neck or a monkey on his back is something he has to – necessarily – contend with.


Aquino: The Scion

Noynoy Aquino is a Presidential candidate banking on memories: a campaign that has run the gamut of remembrance and amnesia.  Though the demands of the campaign would require that he should be his own man and not invoke the memory of his parents, Noynoy Aquino cannot be spoken of in terms of “who he is.”  He is, no matter how much you cut up and dissect and butcher the pre-campaign period campaign period, the son and scion of Ninoy and Cory.

Lorenzo Tanada III has acknowledged the pink elephant in the room: that “Cory Magic” is wearing off on The Scion.  Memories, for Noynoy’s campaigners and supporters, can be both a blessing and a curse.  While there is no denying the importance and the relevance of his parents, we are dealing with a generation that has no living memory of the People Power Revolution.  The standards may be there, evoked and affirmed on a daily basis by every democracy-loving politician on the road to 2010.  Noynoy, however, has no monopoly on it other than his name.  He is The Scion: the heir to the legacy of his parents, the Once and Future King who did not lift Excalibur from the rock, but was privy to it because of his name.

Every critic of Noynoy Aquino is right to say that he is the circumstantial candidate.  Without the stellar background of his rivals in his field, he banks on the memory of his parents and his pedigree, without swaying the skeptics of who he is, and what he can bring to the table.  Yet every supporter of Noynoy Aquino is right in saying that he is the preferred candidate: that he may not sully and disgrace the name of his parents is reason enough to vote for him, than the others who can do so freely without regard to pedigree.


Vetallano Acosta

Vetallano Acosta.
(cue Spanish guitar strum)
Aged in oak barrels, for the finest in Spanish brandy.
(cue flamenco dancers)

Smooth, sophisticated, every sip comes alive.
(archetypal instrumental with guitars, castanets and clapping)
Vetallano Acosta, VSOP: Very Special, Only Pilipino.

All we know of Vetallano Acosta is that he is a Presidential candidate for the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan.  He is backed up by Jay Sonza of “Mel & Jay” fame; fallen from journalistic grace, as it seems, for endorsing some brand of rubbing alcohol many years back, and tried his hand at running for the Senate.  The small legion of Senatoriables for the KBL include, among their ranks, the one and only Imelda Papin.  Yet we know zero of a man who’s running for the Presidency.

Yet he is the man Noynoy Aquino wants disqualified; for reasons other than what Sixto Brillante and Juanito Arcilla have, I could only speculate on the power of sheer surprise.  Could he be more badass than Nick Perlas?  Does he have the power of a thousand Megatron clones that he can destroy Dick Gordon?  Does he have a fuller head of hair than JC Delos Reyes?  Is he the one kontrabida that Erap Estrada can’t beat in a bare-knuckle fight?  Is he more blessed than Eddie Villanueva?  Can he change the world faster and better than Jamby Madrigal?  Does he know of more possibilities than Gibo Teodoro?

Pardon the code-switch: baka siya na nga, at hindi si Villar, ang nakaligo sa dagat ng basura, at nakapag-Pasko pa sa gitna ng kalsada. We know next to nothing about the guy.


Villar: The Manager

* – First in a series of posts about the Presidentiables

Many of us are familiar with the Autobiography of Manuel B. Villar: born poor, sold fish in the market, and climbed up his way from the slums to the Senate.  It’s an autobiography not written in books, but in TV commercials and PR material.  If there’s any candidate hell-bent on seeking the Presidency, it is Mr. Sipag at Tiyaga; a man who built his sheer political presence based on gutting and scaling fish on a 30-second commercial spot.

A few months back, when I was invited to a chit-chat with the man, he emphasized his stand: leadership by management.  All the cinderblock-lifting and shrimp-vending on TV ad spots does not disguise the fact that he’s a successful businessman, a wealthy tycoon, and a leading figure in Philippine politics.  Yet despite all that, Manny Villar leaves – and has left – behind a trail of distrust and corruption.

Manny Villar is the consummate manager.  For all that has been said about him as a traditional politician or a populist in the suits of big business, Manny Villar is simply one thing to my mind: a manager.