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Shoo-in for PH transformation

Fernando Poe Jr. may be the best-loved president the country never had. Though his “virtual” presidency was aborted by “Hello Garci,” his case exposed the rot in the political and electoral system. And his daughter, Sen. Grace Poe, may have the unique opportunity to make an FPJ legacy of popular people-oriented leadership a reality.

“Amazing Grace” is deemed a shoo-in for either the presidential or vice presidential race in 2016 and may be able to run on a platform of transformation of Philippine society. She may expand the “daang matuwid” mantra for a 12-year comprehensive national transformation program, covering all facets of public governance. A six-year period seems too medium-term to install fundamental transformation initiatives. At least two of the six years get eaten up by Philippine-style politics—toxic, elitist and dynastic—given the three-year cycle for “midterm” elections. A 12-year program will be right for fundamental transformative changes.

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Why 12 years when the presidential and vice presidential terms are six years, without reelection? Here lies the catch: Grace Poe can set aside ambition to be president in 2016, humbly recognize experiential, exposure and engagement gaps, and seek the vice presidency. But she will be proactive in selecting her presidential candidate. She will have to negotiate with her prospective presidential running mate or the party under which she will run that it must commit to a well-defined 12-year program as its covenant with the people.

There is a presumption in this seeming aggressiveness: that she can carry to electoral success a qualified presidential candidate with respectable polling numbers.

The impetus for this presumption is first and foremost “justice-driven.” Filipinos must have felt that FPJ should have been president in 2004, and thus resoundingly elected his daughter the No. 1 senator in 2013. She may have a fight for the presidency in 2016, may win or lose, but for the position of vice president, Filipinos are likely to continue to respond to the “FPJ magic” given that “Amazing Grace” has been exactly that in her three years as freshman senator. She has had significant visibility that projects a strong potential for transformative leadership.

Is this being overly presumptuous? The upcoming surveys should be able to provide some objective validations.

There is a real need to transform Philippine-style politics if Filipinos aspire at all for a fundamental transformation in society. A definitive program to pursue this transformation must be presented by candidates demonstrably untainted by graft and corruption. The presumption will find validation or rejection from the response of Grace Poe herself to the challenge of running with a presidential candidate with perceivable competence and a clear and concrete straight-path advocacy. She will have to make that judgment—a first test of her natural leadership sense, if that gift is in her.

Poe can simply run for president or vice president on the politics-as-usual mode of Philippine elections. But that will mean rejecting a unique opportunity to make a contribution by defying the protocol of personality-and-popularity politics that includes patronage; goons, guns and gold; the money lobby; the “SOP” graft groups; marginalizing even more the poor and powerless; and sustaining the election cycle of hopelessness, manipulation and greed.

The challenge to Poe is to use a perceptible people-mandated call to higher leadership and formulate a detailed 12-year program that can bring about social redemption from institutionalized graft and corruption and utilize substantial resources that will be released for soft and hard economic and social infrastructure development. The program formulation may be done via an interactive process, in the style of a town hall meeting, that will hopefully shift emphasis from personalities to platform and programs of government.

With this approach, the concept of a vice president as a “spare tire” will dramatically change, with the presumptive vice president transparently active in program development and potentially providing a 12-year time frame. The next presidential election would then have completely prepared the vice president to be elected as president and continue the program, assuming that measurable successes have been achieved. The 2022 presidential election can become a formality if the first six years’ milestones are reached. The president and vice president will become true partners, dual leaders for one program: a new covenant with the people.

The program-based approach—based on poverty eradication and people empowerment; employment, production and incomes for the people; justice and peace; national and international integrity; national security and public order—can be replicated in 2022 when the next potential vice presidential running mate will subscribe to the updated 12-year program leading toward the 2028 electoral cycle. The long-term view will begin to be the norm when the short- and medium-term perspectives are realized.

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If the popular support for Grace Poe running as vice president in 2016 is not overwhelming, and she is not a virtual unopposed candidate, this commentary becomes a misplaced political endorsement, and that is not its intention. The unsolicited suggestion is not meant to “politicize” looking at a 12-year horizon. But it is believed, at this time, that support for her is overwhelming.

Thus, she is best placed to work with an equally worthy would-be president for the 2016-2022 term.

Danilo S. Venida ([email protected]) holds undergraduate and postgraduate degrees from the University of the Philippines and the Center for Research and Communication/University of Asia and the Pacific. He is a former president of the Philippine Daily Inquirer and is now a business consultant.

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TAGS: 2016 Elections, Fernando Poe Jr., Grace Poe, presidential candidates
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