THE LATEST survey has the leading “presidentiables” bunched together in what the surveyors call a “statistical tie.” This means Grace Poe leads Mar Roxas by a nose, Roxas leads Jojo Binay by a nose, and Binay leads Digong “Urong-Sulong” Duterte somewhat by a neck.
It’ll be a tricky thing to “unbunch” the crowded Magic Four. Each has a formidable finishing kick, yet each is handicapped by an injury of varying sort and gravity. But let me try.
Poe is in the lead of the pack: the most favored as likely to be voted president. There’s no surprise there. In her oh-so-brief immersion in politics, she has shown an uncanny ability to work up to her favor the emotion of the people, to make them imagine she’s one of their own that they should care for and enfold in their arms. Thus the recurring theme in her utterances—“foundling,” “FPJ, cinematic hero and adopted father,” “pulot infants also have rights,” etc. Poe, no question, is the darling of the media, who are charmed by her simple ways. She’s clean of anything that spells graft and unseemly behavior. She has a superb work ethic and looks sincerely determined to deliver what she has outlined to do if gifted by the people of the presidency.
Yes, Poe is a fresh face in national politics, and it will be quite exciting to have a fresh face in Malacañang. But being president of a country is not the same as being president of a garden club. Meaning—no disrespect to Poe, whom I truly admire—she may not yet be ready for the job of being president of a country of 100 million people that is saddled with needs and problems too numerous and complex to detail. The job requires experience and seasoning, of which she has none.
Let’s talk about Roxas—a great gentleman, clean as whistle. You can dig deep into the pile of records anywhere in the government offices he has worked in, and you won’t find a scintilla of wrongdoing to which his name is or can be linked. He’s hardworking, bright, and continually cranking out ideas for the job he’s holding. He’s a meticulous perfectionist; he would not allow a project go onstream unless it has been vetted and debugged to perfection by the staff. He would be a thinking president.
Roxas’ perfectionist trait can be a bane to his efficiency. He procrastinates and temporizes a lot, pacing the floor and continually muttering, a la Hamlet, “To be or not to be… To sign or not to sign…” This predilection not to act in one way or another until the matter at hand has gone through a labyrinth of scrutiny stops manned by specialists in his staff indicates one thing: He’s overly careful, lacks the derring-do to take risks, and is wanting in the one trait of a leader—fearlessness to make mistakes when called to act on an urgency.
The intriguing figure in the mix is Binay. Short, dark-skinned, with a visage that reflects his ethnic ancestry, he has never been considered as deserving of becoming a future occupant of Malacañang—except by the hoi polloi, the unshod, underprivileged throng that marketing men bracket as the C-D-E groups who give him the thumbs-up in survey after survey.
Yet an unbiased mind sizing up Binay’s gravitas cannot but come to judgment that the man is not only deserving of becoming president, he is also perhaps the kind of president we need. He walks the talk. Of all the “presidentiables,” he’s the most experienced and successful in running a public office. He delivered as mayor of Makati, making the city—no exaggeration—a pocket Singapore: gleaming public structures, modern hospital accessible to all especially the poor, free education from grade school to college, and many other initiatives that make Makati the envy of the rest of the country.
But not everything is cool and dandy about Binay. Casting a dark cloud of doubt over the integrity of his achievements and his persona is a catalogue of allegations that he amassed a fortune while supremo of Makati for nearly 30 years. These he has to dispel and correct in a convincing fashion if he wants his stab at the presidency to stay straight and true to its preplanned trajectory.
About Duterte, I assume he’ll succumb in the end to the importuning of his supporters and the groveling of vice-presidential types who want to be his running mate, and run. Is he a viable “presidentiable”? He is. The latest survey says so. Many are enamored of his blunt statement about what he will do if he becomes president. I will not repeat it here. Look it up yourself. He might change his mind about his statement, reformat it, or deny he has said it, and where will I be? In the fools’ stand dodging missiles that I am an Alzheimer’s specimen.
So who among the four do I choose for president? I don’t know. I like Poe. She’s so simple, so sincere and idealistic. I like Roxas. He’s a technician who moves only after making sure all fronts are covered. Being careful and thorough is not a minus; it is a plus. It averts errors ranging from punching the wrong key in the computer deleting dates to remember to punching the wrong key launching a nuclear missile. I like Binay. He’s down-to-earth, has the heart for the poor, and gets things done without so much beating around the bush.
And Duterte—who will not like him? Honest and blunt about his ideas and intentions. Calls a spade a damned shovel, the heck with niceties. There’ll be a lot of excitement if he becomes president. Plenty to cheer about, especially about the fate of drug lords and drug pushers and kidnappers and all dregs of civilized living once he gets to handle the mostest levers of power.
So who is worthy of our vote? At this time, I don’t know. Let’s sit tight, wait for more grand promises, and remain… undecided.
Gualberto B. Lumauig (firstname.lastname@example.org) is past president of the UST Philosophy and Letters Foundation and former governor/congressman of Ifugao.