Between Mar and Grace

/ 01:25 AM May 03, 2016

ALLOW ME, for the third time in nine years of column-writing, to list my choices for national positions at stake in the coming election—not as an endorsement but as an attempt at transparency. These are who I am voting for; weigh my opinion writing against my vote.

(To be sure, and as I hope I have proven over the years, voting for these candidates is no guarantee that they will be spared from criticism or their initiatives always assured of support. The true ideal of journalism is not neutrality, but independence from the people we cover or, indeed, vote for.)


I am voting for Leni Robredo for VP, for reasons I have already outlined in “Leni, ‘last man standing’.” She is the last person standing between us and the abyss: a Marcos restoration. It does not look likely, but I continue to hold out the hope that Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, who forcefully reminded the public in the April 10 vice presidential debate of the true Marcos legacy, will somehow give way to her.

But I have not yet decided on who to vote for president.


My choice is between Mar Roxas and Grace Poe.

I cannot vote for Digong Duterte, though as a proud son of Mindanao I was once tantalized by the possibility that the long-time Davao City mayor would become the first president from what Miguel Bernad, SJ, loved to call the “great island.”

He is a down-to-earth person who is easy to talk to and get along with; he understands the Moro separatist movement, its roots of conflict and the sources of peace; he has built bridges to the communist insurgency that can prove useful, going forward. But his human rights record (the evidence for the Davao Death Squad is chilling), his personalistic approach to policy (that jet ski fantasy of his will put the commander in chief’s life at great risk without doing a thing to protect our rights to the West Philippine Sea), and his patronizing, utilitarian attitude toward women (symbolized by his crass comment about wanting to have sex with the dead victim of a truly brutal gang rape) do not recommend him for the role of head of state.

(In our system, of course, the head of government—arguably, a position he can be considered qualified for—is also the head of state; I believe he has disqualified himself from this role as national symbol.)

And then there is the mob behavior he provokes; the latest controversy, about a Duterte supporter wishing for the rape of a celebrity’s baby daughter, simply because the celebrity is campaigning for another candidate, is all too familiar. That is our misfortune; the survey frontrunner has—against my own hopes—turned out to be Lincoln’s opposite, inspiring not the better angels of our much-harassed nature but instead calling forth from some of his supporters our baser, commonest instincts.

* * *

To help create a firewall against Duterte’s coming war on women, I am voting for as many women candidates for senator as I can. About some of these candidates I have some residual doubts, and in another election cycle I would perhaps not vote for all of them. But in this election, I will vote for Risa Hontiveros, Leila de Lima, Lorna Kapunan, Ina Ambolodto, Susan Ople, and Princess Jacel Kiram, in the hope that they will help push against the insidious antiwomen practices of that phenomenon Randy David has called “Dutertismo.”


I am also voting for Senators Serge Osmeña and Ralph Recto, for former senators Dick Gordon and Kiko Pangilinan, and for Representatives Roman Romulo and Neri Colmenares.

* * *

I have written about Roxas’ supercilious attitude before, when I witnessed it during a high-profile Senate hearing. But I have also seen him play courteous host to media misfits. So on the question of personality, it’s a wash.

He is a truly intelligent man, and of the many controversies he has found himself in, I can credit only the failure to make the Department of Transportation and Communications the engine of change it could have been. He risked his own life during “Yolanda”—a fact that I think is partially reflected in his continuing high ratings in the Visayas; he is seen not only as from there, but as truly one of the region’s own.

He also has a reputation for taking a long time to decide—something he would need to overhaul if he wants to make a decisive impact as president. As I have written before, he should have run for the Senate again in 2013—to recreate the winner’s aura he wore when he topped the Senate race in 2004, and to create some distance between him and his good friend, President Aquino. It was a mistake for him to stay in the Cabinet.

I believe that of the five candidates he is best qualified to represent the country abroad, and to bring the country to the next level.

The main reason I hesitate in choosing Roxas is Duterte’s surge in the polls. Perhaps Senator Poe is the best alternative to Duterte in that regard.

Of all five candidates, I actually think that Grace is the most natural of leaders, for our time; she is very consultative but at the same time also decisive. I was highly impressed with her Senate campaign in 2013, which was a model of courtesy and competence. I worry that she is too close to Chiz Escudero, and that she made the wrong decision and issued the exactly wrong statement at the height of the potentially destabilizing Iglesia ni Cristo rally last year. But can she beat Duterte?

In 1992, I voted for Jovito Salonga but did not mind that it was Fidel Ramos, a genuine Edsa hero, who claimed victory. Right now I think the same way about Mar and Grace.

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On Twitter: @jnery_newsstand

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TAGS: candidates, election, Elections, Grace Poe, Mar Roxas, opinion
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