So you want to be prez
A friend of mine who’s in active military service told me that if he were Ferdinand Marcos after the assassination of Ninoy Aquino and saw the people’s anger and massive outpouring of support for Ninoy, he would have gone on national TV, announced his retirement from politics, and told the people he was sick and passing on the presidency to whoever they would vote for in an election he would call and guarantee as honest.
“That way, the people would have forgiven Marcos,” my friend said. I replied: “You’re an Ilocano, so why didn’t you tell him?” My friend said: “I’m a nobody, and I doubt very much he’d listen.”
When Joseph Estrada was ousted, a listener of my radio program told me that if he were Estrada when all his Cabinet members were in Malacañang at the same time that Gloria Arroyo was presiding over a huge crowd screaming “Erap, alis dyan!” on Edsa, he would have told his personal security to lock all the doors in the Palace.
“That would have prevented the two Judases—who sold him out for 30 pieces of silver to Gloria—from leaving him in his sinking ship. But I’m just a nobody for him to listen to me,” my listener said.
Lesson to learn: Ordinary people can have better sense than the learned ones.
Here’s a sampling of advice that we gathered from “nobodys” unschooled in politics—read: ordinary voters—directed at the more prominent presidential wannabes:
Miriam Defensor Santiago. Her supporters claim that if elections were clean she would have been elected president. The people showed their frustration over the absence of a strong leader when they voted for “the woman with balls.” The frustration stayed when her quest was frustrated.
The good news is the fire in her belly continues to rage, and the bad news is she has cancer. Chemo, similar to the alchemical philosophy of ancient times, is an inorganic chemical discredited as the elixir for human longevity; chemotherapy destroys cancerous tissues and, more often than not, the healthy ones as well. My yoga guru advises: Greens like malunggay, pechay, ampalaya leaves, repolyo, broccoli, alugbati, etc., eaten raw, are effective alternatives. If it’s a go nonetheless, she may settle for a “Miriam-Trillanes” or a “Miriam-Alan Peter” tandem, however unpalatable to her it may be, like eating veggies raw.
Ping Lacson. Is he the “living hero” many people are awaiting? He restored discipline in the police, did not accept a centavo from his pork barrel as a senator, and although criticized by “human rights advocates” for his alleged brutal manner of “getting rid of criminal elements,” many extol him for his courage. It’s not uncommon these days to hear people say that an iron fist (“kamay na bakal”) is what’s needed if this country is to really reform, and most of all, the imprisonment of all the thieves and highwaymen in the government. Does he care at all for the poor? He comes from a poor family, we are told, and it should not be hard for him to approach the poor and present his plans to improve their lives.
My barber says: “Ping’s no-nonsense character may be put to good use to convince people that he is not ‘all tapang and bang-bang.’ He’s the sort who should be president.” He might just be the patriot that this country needs, especially now that he has finally “found God to guide” him.
Mar Roxas. Arguably mayaman(wealthy) trying to look mahirap(poor). That’s forgivable; that’s the hackneyed technique of all politicians. My farmer-friend says: “We don’t believe he is unpopular when we look at the numbers. Millions voted for him when he ran for vice president in 2010. The sad fact is, someone outsmarted (or ‘outmoneyed?’) him. In 2016, he has to be alert!”
Buying electoral victory is against the law, but it’s said that the poll body goes blind purposely during elections. Perhaps Mar thinks he should be admired for sleeping off this defeat “with honor.” But conventional wisdom says there is no substitute for victory. My farmer-friend and discerning and patriotic voters are optimistic that being a hard-working politician who is not corrupt and is a scion of distinguished and honest forebears—from his grandfather President Manuel Acuña Roxas to his father Sen. Gerardo Roxas—he can win the presidency.
Grace Poe. She is the new political wunderkind. Uninitiated in politics, she topped the senatorial race. Some attribute this to the fact that she is the daughter of the late FPJ, who became more loved after being cheated of the presidency. But in the Senate she has shown herself as eloquent and intelligent, proving that she can hold her own. A former TV production assistant of ours argues that “her being new in politics can even be her asset.” People are tired of trapo, the same production assistant says. “Grace Poe is not trapo, is competent, and is American-educated to boot. And she shall vindicate her late father with her victory.” Well-meaning friends of hers think she’s a shoo-in for vice president.
But our production assistant insists: “Nothing but the presidency!”
Rodrigo Duterte. If Ping Lacson is “not all tapang and bang bang,” the people of Davao swear by Duterte’s bang bang style as the reason his province is peaceful. They say criminal elements have all been “evacuated,” to use the Hitlerian term used to keep secret the extermination of Jews during World War II.
Says a fellow Bicolano: “Duterte shall be the strong leader to ‘evacuate’ the rascals in our midst.” But is he presentable enough for the highest post of the land? “Absolutely,” says the Bicolano. “He has been governor of his province for a long time and has proven to be a capable public servant.” I do not pursue the discussion and omit mentioning negative comments about Rod, such as: “He should explain the accusation of ‘black gold’ being smuggled out of the Philippines in huge quantities without any arrest.” Be that as it may, many are convinced that we need a leader like him.
Jojo Binay. A friend of ours, a young businessman based in Makati, feigns fear and makes the sign of the cross when we ask him about Binay. “Susmaryosep,” he says, using a Filipino exclamation culled from the names of the Holy Family (Jesus, Joseph and Mary, which, when contracted, come up to “Jejomar”). “Don’t be unkind,” I say. “He has been your mayor for so long and deserves respect.”
“Compadre, do you want more cans of worms aside from what we see on TV during the Senate hearings?” the businessman says. “I don’t need that,” I say. The businessman retorts: “Before more damaging revelations are made public, Binay should announce his withdrawal from the race. Or better yet, from politics, with his wife, daughters, son, and who else? He should keep his huge wealth and be happy and, as a sign of contrition, dedicate his remaining years to helping the poor. We can still forgive him.”
So who else wants to be president?
Eddie Ilarde (PO Box 107 Makati City 1222) is a former councilor, congressman, assemblyman and senator. He is the founding chair of Maharlika Movement and Golden Eagles Society International, and a Lifetime Achievement awardee for radio-TV. His radio program “Kahapon Lamang” is aired over dzBB, 1:30-2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.