Wednesday, February 03, 2010

ELEKSYON 2010: For Richer or for Poorer

One thing I have learned in my political science subjects in college was that politics is never about black and white. It is never true that just because a leader is vilified by the west does not mean that his or her own people also hate him or her. Take for instance the many monarchies in the world. Outsiders and leftists criticize monarchies as obsolete and a useless expense on the people, but surveys done among the subjects of monarchs have shown year after year that their people do want them as their head of state.

It is more or less the same in the Philippines. The upcoming election in the Philippines is becoming more and more confusing, with real issues being shoved aside (as usual) and nonsense things like who has actually spent his Christmas on the road (literally) or who is not a magnanakaw (thief). In the first place, wealth or experience of poverty is not an assurance of a good leader. Neither is work experience. We’ve had people in the past claiming to be poor or pro-poor (ERAP para sa mahirap, which is ironic as he came from a wealthy family and his pro-poor image came from, surprise, surprise, his acting roles), or people who’ve had tons of experience (GMA, Marcos, etc.). We’ve even had a former leader who claimed to be a plain housewife (Cory. But, take note; she was no plain, simple housewife. She was a multimillion heiress who could speak French fluently). All our former leaders promised to be a breath of fresh air from their predecessors, and all they did was get impeached (ERAP, again), or forcibly removed from office (Marcos). In other words, rich, poor, smart or not, none of these traits actually made our presidents (whether current or previous) what they did while in office.

In terms of wealth, true, Manny Villar is the richest with billions of pesos in assets, but Noynoy Aquino, Erap Estrada, Jamby Madrigal, Gibo Teodoro, and Dick Gordon are no paupers either. Even evangelist Eddie Villanueva is no beggar. It takes millions to actually run a national, presidential campaign and thus it should not be taken against Villar if he is richer than all his other opponents. As to source of his wealth, we can only surmise for the moment. Did he steal money? Did he use his powers to divert roads to increase his landholdings’ selling price? We truly do not know. It is too presumptuous of us to accuse him of these things while he is still, legally, innocent. I hate to wait for our delayed and oftentimes ineffective justice system to take its course, but there we have it. We cannot hang a man for being rich if we still have not proven in a court of law that his wealth is ill-gotten. I’d still choose being a Filipino any day and wait for a long overdue sentence than be one of those blood thirsty nations that hang or execute their leaders even before a verdict has been passed. While we are on the subject of wealth, why have we not raised the issue on the haciendas of the Cojuangcos? Surely, the issues regarding these vast landholdings vis-à-vis the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program have not been settled, coupled with the issues surrounding hacienda Luicita from two years ago, I think. Why have we not vilified the Conjuangcos (yes, Noynoy AND Gibo) for their wealth, and simply stuck to Villar regarding this issue?

Experience wise I’d say Dick Gordon has the best resume. Noynoy’s stints in the House and later in the Senate have been dismal, unfortunately. Gibo’s only a little better, but not stellar. Villar’s political career has always seemed muddy to me, and experience teaches me that he is nothing but a balimbing and an opportunist.

In the end, I’d still go for breeding. Not the breeding of wealth, but breeding of good values and genes. For instance, we all croon about what saints President Cory Aquino and Senator Ninoy Aquino were, but they are hardly the only people who have helped shape Ninoy’s political heritage. Ninoy’s political lineage, in his father’s side, can be traced as far back to the late 1700s, when pioneering couples Don Angel Pantaleon de Miranda and Doña Rosalia de Jesus and Don Severino Henson and Doña Placida Paras first cleared and settled what was then the barrio of Culiat, the northernmost outpost of San Fernando. Later they created new towns from this and held political positions. A direct descendant of these people, Servillano, fought against the Spaniards during the revolution. A little known story about the Aquinos is this: in 1898, the Guardias (a radical peasant movement) killed his father-in-law, who was the town president of Murcia, as well as his wife, who was staying with her father. She was pregnant at the time, but she fought and killed seven of the Guardias before she was overwhelmed. And of course, Ninoy’s Cojuangco side is also riddled with many public servants (see my former discussions on the Conjuangcos in Noynoy & Gibo: Presidential Aspirants, Second Cousins).

In doing this article, I also dug deep into whatever resources I could search online and in some of the available books on Filipino politics. I discovered that, in terms of pedigree, Noynoy does not have a monopoly on good genes. For instance, Jamby Madrigal is not only a member of the rich and powerful Madrigal family, but she is also the granddaughter of the former Supreme Court Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos. Pre-Commonwealth period Assemblyman Pedro Abad Santos, her grand-uncle, founded the Socialist Party of the Philippines. Her paternal grandfather was Senator Vicente Madrigal while her aunt, Senator Pacita Madrigal-Gonzalez was a senator during the Quezon and Magsaysay administrations and was the first administrator of the Social Welfare Administration, what is now the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

Senator Richard Gordon, who was able to transform Olongapo from what was considered a “sin city” to “model city” with innovations in local governance, namely: color coding of the transport system, expansion of its public markets, integrated solid waste management program, vendors’ cooperatives, community organizations and many other public and community development programs, was the son of James Leonard Tagle Gordon and Amelia Juico Gordon, who both served as mayors of Olongapo. Like Noynoy Aquino, Gordon’s father was also assassinated. James Leonard Gordon, the son of an American father and a Filipino mother, decided to remain in the Philippines unlike his four brothers who chose to elect American citizenship to enjoy the comforts of a well developed country. James Leonard's maternal grandfather, Jose Tagle, is best remembered for his exploits in leading a raiding team against friars and Civil Guards in the Battle of Imus and then against a strong Spanish force in Bacoor, Cavite. He was victorious in both instances and was praised by Aguilnaldo. In recognition of his leadership he was appointed as Municipal Mayor of Imus. Because of James Leonard Gordon’s political independence and strength, three assassination attempts were made on his life until finally, in 1967, he was gunned down. Senator Jose W. Diokno succinctly but aptly summarized the greatness that was James Leonard Gordon: “He was born to an American father, chose to be a Filipino, raised his children as Filipinos, served his country as a Filipino and died a Filipino hero.”

Gibo Teodoro, like Noynoy, derives his political pedigree from both sides of his family. Aside from his illustrious Cojuangco line, his father, the senior Gilberto, was a longtime and effective administrator of the Social Security Services (SSS) who implemented many improvements in this agency, such as the Educational Loan, Calamity Loan, Investment Incentive Loan Program, Small-and Medium Scale Industries Loan Program, Study-Now-Pay-Later Plan and the three-month salary loan program. Gibo’s paternal grandfather, meanwhile, was a judge.

Finally, Manny Villar, though from a poor family, himself married a woman who came from a rags-to-riches family. Villar’s wife, Cynthia Aguilar, is the daughter of former Rep. Filemon Aguilar, who was first a doctor, then a businessman, then finally a congressional representative. In is interesting to note that Cynthia’s grandmother, Manuela Aguilar Riguera, sold beetle nuts in the public market of Las Pinas. Interesting that both the Aguilar and Villar families, while coming from poor families, rose to become multimillionaires in just a span of two generations (for the Aguilar’s case) or one generation (for Villar’s case). Truly, a lot of creativity and gumption went into work for these two families to become what they are now.

Wealth and experiences all these candidates have. If I were to choose the candidate with the least assets I’d say that would be Perlas (if we count him, delos Reyes, and Villanueva). Among the strong five contenders, I’d say it’s Gordon. Experience wise, I would like to think Gordon made the most out of his career in public service. Ultimately, based on their pedigrees, I’d say Gordon’s and Noynoy’s families have made the most impact in Philippine history. If only Noynoy had Gordon’s strength and experience, he would definitely be the best candidate.

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