Column: Voting for history

Published on May 11, 2010.

For accountability’s sake, allow me to explain my vote, starting with the would-haves and wouldn’ts.

I would have wanted to vote for Gibo Teodoro as president; he was the most brilliant candidate, and he ran the only positive campaign. He stuck to the high road, and could rightfully claim, in his miting de avance, that he had not made any unreasonable campaign promises. But he was, he is, on the wrong side of history. He represents the Arroyo administration, which has done more than any post-Marcos government to undermine the institutions of democracy. Indeed, in a twist worthy of Greek tragedy, Gibo’s personal values (delicadeza, old-fashioned chivalry, a sense of responsibility, qualities that recommend him as a person) are the very things that prevent him from taking a harder line against President Arroyo and her excesses—thus proving that, no matter how much he tried to distance himself from her shadow, it continues to loom over him. Lesson: Personal qualities alone are (sadly) not enough.

I wouldn’t mind witnessing a miracle and seeing JC de los Reyes assume the office he is so obviously unprepared for, if only as a collective test of faith. But much as I respect the people behind his Ang Kapatiran party, and agree with much of their party platform, JC’s lack of qualifications puts even his party’s minimum program at risk. I cannot imagine this well-intentioned young man serving as the country’s chief executive; he wouldn’t know how. (I had a chance to tell party founder Nandy Pacheco: Perhaps if you had fielded a person of substance, of considerable achievement, such as AngKap president Eric Manalang, the odds would have changed.) Lesson: Party platform alone is not enough.

I would have considered voting for Dick Gordon, another unmistakably brilliant politician, with a strong personal vision and the capacity to impose that vision on reality. I found his attacks on surveys, however, not only bizarre (as Mahar Mangahas pointed out last Saturday, Dick used to commission or subscribe to surveys too) but also fundamentally counter-democratic. I hope to write about this at length, sometime soon, but for now let me just make the following point. Surveys reflect public opinion; to stop them, because they do not reflect the reality one sees, is to disrespect the very public one professes to serve. Lesson: Personal vision is not enough.

I wouldn’t mind it (not too much) if Manny Villar found himself the next president. Unlike President Arroyo, who made a ritual of dropping scandalous deals or denying them altogether once they became controversial, Villar has embraced the C-5 extension project and the PSE lobbying, the issues raised against him, and defended them as above board on their own terms. (Contrast this with GMA, who ordered the NBN-ZTE contract rescinded, even as her officials denied any wrongdoing.) But Villar stumbled in the surveys in large part because the public perceived him as willing to do anything. He certainly ran the best-funded, most disciplined campaign, with the most engaging TV commercials (I also hope to write about his campaign soon). But his willingness to consider burying the dictator Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani was an obvious political accommodation and placed him, at least for me, beyond the pale. Lesson: Campaign discipline, or money, is not enough.

This leaves Noynoy Aquino. Some of my friends may not be surprised at this choice, but in fact I made up my mind only a few weeks ago, and for a specific reason.

Last September, I wondered aloud what Cory Aquino’s extraordinary funeral meant for Noynoy, as her political legatee. “Is it the race to Malacañang, or could it be something greater than the presidency?”

I had hoped that Cory’s death would start a true political movement (the “something greater” I was hoping for), but instead Noynoy chose the more-trodden path. (I think his father would have approved.) But now that he has chosen it, the possibility that this is in fact the course our history should take exhilarates me. If “he decides to run,” I wrote last September, “his mother’s Yellow Army can, once again, claim its right to tell the nation’s true narrative.”

* * *

I voted for Loren Legarda, too, and for eight senatorial candidates. The ratings surge of Jojo Binay momentarily tempted me, for a couple of hours, into voting for Mar Roxas, but Mar’s hard-line stance on Mindanao peace makes the possibility of a peace agreement even dimmer. (As for Binay, Newsbreak’s back issues should explain why, or rather, why not.)

Randy David’s column last Saturday made the case for Risa Hontiveros (and her generation) much more incisively than I did in my column last week; it puts Risa’s role (in the Senate, I hope) in a higher perspective. But I also voted for Satur Ocampo, for reasons similar to those raised by Conrad de Quiros: to keep a close watch on an Aquino administration, and in recognition of his years in the freedom struggle.

I voted, too, for Neric Acosta, Sonia Roco, Serge Osmeña (the Senate’s true maverick), Gilbert Remulla (a bright young man, better off in the spotlight than in the shadows) and Adel Tamano. (I must say Adel’s conduct in the last few weeks of the campaign was most exemplary.)

Last, and perhaps in this instance least, I voted for Gwen Pimentel. Manang Gwen’s was a difficult decision to reach, not because she is not qualified to sit in the same Senate where her father served for 17 years, but because I remain hopeful that her brother Koko will win his election protest against Migz Zubiri. Hopeful, but not overly optimistic; the delays allowed by the Senate Electoral Tribunal have been discouraging. As a hedge, then, I voted for Gwen—if she wins, her victory will be her brother’s too.

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