I THINK I’ve shared this bit of trivia about myself with you before. Whenever I want to be entertained, I don’t read articles on lifestyle and show biz. For me, that’s pure and simple work. Puhleeze, give me a break!
Since I’ve been covering these two go-to sections, particularly lifestyle, of readers who want to take a breather from hard news, I consider reading about trends, say, in home and fashion as well as society and show biz gossip as a perfunctory part of my job.
When I need a respite, I read about, of all things, politics, both in the local and foreign fronts. And since life itself is one big political theater, there’s so much to learn from, laugh at and get mad about the world of politics and politicians.
Never a dull moment
And with the kind of politicians we have in the Philippines, there’s never a dull moment in politics as they change colors from yellow to orange, red to green, blue to purple, within a heartbeat and depending, of course, on what’s convenient and expedient for them.
It has already been said, tackled and analyzed to death before: what we have is a politics bound not by ideals, but by expedience. Since there’s no party system based on ideals to speak of, politicians can freely shed off their affiliations faster than porn stars can shed off their clothes.
And despite the catchy slogans, fancy rhetoric and sharp media messages these politicians carpet bomb the electorate with come election time, political parties in the Philippines can be generally classified into two: the dominant party (a.k.a. the party of the sitting president) and the party of those not in power (a.k.a. and others). The Filipino language captures the latter party best: partido ng mga wala sa poder.
On almost all occasions, the dominant party is nothing but a huge and imposing sand castle that collapses as soon as the winds of change start to blow this way and that. Put simply, the moment the sitting president leaves or is swept away from office by people power, so goes the party.
Very little commonalities bind these two groups together except for a few obvious ones. While one has the ear of the president and supposed access to the largesse provided by the country’s national coffers, the other is bound simply by the common desire to unseat the sitting president and get their man (or woman) and, by extension, themselves installed into power.
Should they fail to get their way after accomplishing the above objective, it’s not uncommon for these so-called oppositionists to fight among themselves and splinter into smaller opposition groups opposing the very person/s they rallied behind.
One of my favorite Philippine Daily Inquirer columnists Conrado de Quiros loves to point this one out: in more mature democracies such as Japan and the United Kingdom, switching parties is unthinkable.
How come? Since you’re defined by your supposed political beliefs and ideals when you enter the public arena, junking your party in midstream in favor of another, which subscribes to a set of politics and beliefs that are usually diametrically opposed to yours, is tantamount to political hara-kiri.
In the Philippines, where politicians never bother to hide their brazen ambitions through spin and by flouting established rules based on shared ideals and plain old decency, such attempts at party switching are viewed as acceptable, even commendable.
And instead of becoming a pariah, such calculated moves and tactical makeovers ensure their long-term survival, even victory. And it doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about the so-called members of the opposition, who now call themselves UNA (or first in Filipino), or the coalition cobbled together by President Aquino under the Liberal Party.
(If you don’t find PNoy sharing the stage and raising the hand, say, of Rep. Cynthia Villar, wife of his once bitter rival Sen. Manny Villar, odd and distasteful, then you should have your head examined.)
Personalities over party flatform
At the end of the day, and after all these decades of having freed ourselves of the Marcos dictatorship, personalities still trump party platform in 2013.
Until we completely overhaul the current political system as well as our thinking, we just have to learn to live with a dysfunctional system characterized by mercenary and transactional forms of politics that go with it.
Having said all that, I’m not about to throw in the towel and declare our great democratic experiment a failure. After all, we’re not electing saints, but men and women, who, in their desire to serve the public, are also out to look after themselves and their interests by getting elected.
Like probably most of you, I’m having a hard time completing the 12 slots up for grabs for senators. After much thought, I’ve given up trying. I’ve decided to simply vote for eight names, which, to my mind, are more capable than others in moving this country forward, advancing political discourse as well as looking after the common good. Here they are in no particular order:
My 8 (and, so far, only) choices
1. Loren Legarda: I’ve known Loren both as a public figure and up close and personal as a media subject for quite a number of years now. One thing that always strikes me about the lady is her honesty, preparedness
and earnestness, which, to some people who don’t know her, may come across as plain doggedness bordering on the obstinate. Seeing how she expects so much from her staff, I don’t want her to be my boss. Loren has, especially during former President Estrada’s impeachment trial, proven that you don’t have to be a blabbermouth lawyer like Miriam Santiago to ask the right questions. All you need is a clear mind with a heart that’s in the right place to do a good job. And it doesn’t hurt that she’s a constant Senate topnotcher, pro-environment advocate and a damn good dresser!
2. Koko Pimentel: To be honest with you, I don’t
know much about his accomplishments during his brief two-year stint in the Senate. Can we blame the guy if an illegitimate usurper hogged for four years what was supposed to be Koko’s in the first place? Imagine the things this lawyer could have done. One thing he did, though, which earned my respect, was his adamant refusal to “kiss and makeup” with the very person who supposedly stole what was rightfully his.
Ang lagay, eh, ganun na lang ba ’yun? (Is that all there is to it?) At the expense of alienating himself from the Three Kings of UNA, he chose principle over expedience in the end. Of course, it’s personal. Now, this is a guy with backbone. This is a guy with balls!
3. Ramon “Jun” Magsaysay: If silent waters run deep, Jun is the personification of such saying. This guy may be quiet, but when he
does choose to open his mouth, he talks sense. And during the height of the so-called fertilizer scam perpetrated by then President Arroyo’s minion Joc-joc Bolante, Jun wasn’t afraid to rock the boat and ruffle feathers to get to the bottom of it. And he was equally unafraid to back up his words with action by turning his back on the party he then shared with Arroyo. Jun, despite having disagreed, was far from being disagreeable, unlike fellow senatorial wannabe Mitos Magsaysay (the fake Magsaysay, to paraphrase Sen. Franklin Drilon’s words). Bring the Guy’s son back to the Senate!
4. Risa Hontiveros: If we want genuine change to start permeating the hollowed halls of the Senate, then we should vote for people like former sectoral representative Risa Hontiveros, who, damn the established order, wasn’t afraid to advance laws and arguments that weren’t only pro-women but pro-people. For her efforts to empower the powerless, especially poor
women to have a say about their health and their bodies, she has unfairly earned the ire of certain members of the Catholic hierarchy. What they conveniently forget or try to gloss over, as Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist John Nery pointed out, is the fact that both of them are protecting and advancing the interest of the very same marginalized sectors. Risa, believe it or not, “embodies Catholic social teaching,” wrote Nery.
5. Teddy Casiño: Like Risa Hontiveros, Teddy is not an unknown entity. Brave yet pleasant,
articulate yet humble, he also has a solid and consistent track record for his work as a sectoral representative. He has been labeled all sorts of names—from the more benign leftist to the more seemingly threatening communist. To Teddy’s credit, and thanks to his mild-mannered ways and boyish good looks, the latter accusation never stuck. True, he is left- leaning, but it doesn’t mean he’s out
to impose collective farming and communal settlements in the countryside once he’s elected. Even in supposedly Communist China, Chairman Mao and his utopian ideals are dead! What I’m certain of is it’s about time to have a variety of views in the Senate, and the best person to articulate progressive left-leaning thinking is Teddy.
6. Grace Poe: She may have pushed the
name-recall game into absurd heights, but, unlike Nancy Binay, Grace has nothing to be ashamed of by associating herself with her late father, Action King Fernando Poe Jr. Nancy, who did nothing after finishing college but do his politician father’s bidding, isn’t only an unknown entity. With nothing but a famous family name and her father’s mahogany skin tone going for her, she doesn’t deserve a place in the senate. At least, not this early. And should Vice President Jejomar Binay become president in 2016, could you imagine the scenario of several Binays in Malacañang, Senate, Congress, and Makati City Hall—nerve center of the country’s richest city—calling the shots?
Now, that’s what you call political dynasty in the first order. The prospects are too frightening to imagine. In contrast, Grace has proven herself to be an outstanding and personable leader of the Movie Television and Classifications Board. Like her mother, Susan Roces, she also comes across as deep yet very likable. She deserves to be given a chance to prove her worth. Please vote for her poe.
7. Dick Gordon: Dick, unapologetically pro-US bases, has been taken to task repeatedly by de Quiroz for saying something like you “can’t eat sovereignty” at the height of the US bases debate in the early ’90s. Dick may
be dramatic and larger-than-life (the short man’s syndrome?) in many of his pronouncements, but I like him for being a can-do “action guy.” Being loud, passionate and sometimes over the top, Dick is the antithesis of Jun Magsaysay. Just the same, back when he was a member of the Senate, he managed to get the job done—sound bites, bluster and all. He could teach a thing or two to the Bong Revillas and the Lito Lapids of this world. Let’s bring Flash Gordon back where he belongs.
8. Cynthia Villar: I feel a bit ambivalent about my last choice. Unlike the likable and almost Teflon-like quality of her handsome husband, outgoing Sen. Manny Villar, plain-looking, no-frills Cynthia is nearly devoid of innate charisma. It doesn’t mean, however, that she’s a
slouch. She didn’t become one of the country’s richest women by spending hours preening in front of the mirror trying out countless outfits and looks. That’s what I like about her. Her “take me or leave me” demeanor looks so fresh when viewed against someone as bombastic and calculated as Miriam or as flighty and imeldific as, well, Imelda. I’m all for people empowerment through jobs generation. What kind of jobs is another question worth asking later. The ghost of C5 Extension notwithstanding, I’m inclined to give Mrs. Hanepbuhay the benefit of the doubt.