Tag Archives: Loren Legarda

Poe campaign: Royal passage stuck in real world

This 3,000-word feature, part of the Inquirer’s Charm Offensive Revisited series, ran on the front page of the May 5, 2004 issue—a week before the presidential elections. (This version differs slightly from the piece as published; I edited three or four infelicitous passages, made a couple of corrections, changed one translation.) 

Air of unreality

Fernando Poe Jr. is a king running for president. This explains his candidacy’s mass appeal; it also explains his campaign’s increasingly unappealing prospects of victory. An air of unreality marks his bid for the presidency.

Flashback to two Tuesdays ago. At the back of the makeshift stage constructed in the middle of Librada Avelino Street in Pandacan, Manila, campaign organizers call for more security about 10 minutes before Poe arrives. Local campaign supporters wearing blue vests are marshaled into the area, and they join the others already linking arms. With their bodies, they mark off a path for Poe. But the moment Poe exits his vehicle (a new Toyota Land Cruiser without license plates; he is, as is his wont, riding in the front seat), a frenzy difficult to capture on television spreads through the crowd. The pushing and shoving is claustrophobic. Even the supporters doubling as security shout and scream his name. “FPJ! FPJ! FPJ!” In their fervor, some forget to link arms.

Is this a political campaign? More like fans’ day for the popular movie actor known as “Da King.”

But the same unreality marks the rest of his campaign. His leaders belittle the surveys which Poe once ruled. These are being manipulated, says Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, Poe’s personal campaign manager. They are the work of “analysts in air-conditioned offices,” Poe’s running mate Senator Loren Legarda says over a midnight meal. How do you measure your progress in the campaign, if you don’t believe in the integrity of these surveys? “We conduct our own,” says ex-Senator Ernesto Herrera, one of Poe’s candidates for the Senate.  Continue reading


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Column: Roxas’ path to victory

Published on August 4, 2015.

CAN MAR Roxas win? The objective answer is yes. Will he? The most realistic answer is: It’s too early to tell.

I find myself belaboring these obvious points, because the theory—or the narrative, if you will—that Roxas is a sure loser is making the rounds again. (For a couple of days after President Aquino endorsed Roxas as the Liberal Party candidate for president in the 2016 elections, the news and social media environment for Roxas turned decidedly favorable. Call it the endorsement bump.) But some of the same people who thrill to the possibility of a Miriam Defensor Santiago presidential run (which would be her third), or declare confidently that Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has the right strategy and enough money to lay claim to the presidency, sweepingly discount Roxas’ chances because of his “low” ratings. But in the June 2015 Social Weather Stations survey, only 4 percent of the respondents saw Santiago as one of the three best leaders to succeed President Aquino, while only 3 percent listed Marcos. About a fifth of the respondents, or 21 percent, included Roxas in their list. Continue reading


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Column: “It’s entirely about character”

Some readers misunderstood this column as a concatenation of endorsements, less than a week before the election. My purpose, however, was to do as I did the week before the 2010 vote, and come clean with my choices. Published on May 7, 2013.

That line is from “The American President,” a political romance starring Michael Douglas which the incumbent American president recently described (for comedic effect, but not inaccurately) as “Aaron Sorkin’s liberal fantasy.”

The quote comes from a climactic speech, which to my mind best expresses the view that it is personal character—not platform or policy or ideology—that matters most in politics. (I’m tempted to rank this speech right up there with Charlie Chaplin’s, at the end of “The Great Dictator,” if only because it is less abstract, more grounded.)
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Column: Deconstructing Zubiri

The third part of the Zubiri trilogy, published on February 1, 2011. I must say that, on at least one crucial aspect, the ex-senator was telling the truth: He had kept a gentlemanly silence, and was provoked to complain about me only after I had taken another senator to task.

EITHER CONFLICTED or callously cynical. Or both. But whichever way we read Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri’s letter of complaint against me (which I ran in this space last week in full and unedited), I think the reasonable reader can reach only one conclusion: It is incoherent.

In language shriveled by nine years in the House and three years in the Senate, Zubiri first sought to stake a claim to higher ground. “This Representation strongly respect [sic] all opinions and criticisms as one of my advocacies is to uphold the freedom of expression and freedom of the press.” And then he turned around and attacked his own supposed advocacy: “It [he means both freedoms] should not be utilized to malign a person’s reputation much more mislead the public by presenting twisted facts and biased opinions.” Continue reading

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Column: Migz replies: Nery out to destroy my reputation

It may be best to think of this piece as the middle part of a trilogy of columns; it responds to the previous column, and it is followed by a detailed counter-response. Published on January 25, 2011.

IN THE last few months and until last week, I had been more or less incommunicado, completing a book project. But I was never completely out of the loop, and when I found out that Sen. Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri had written our publisher a lengthy letter in reply to my column on Sen. Loren Legarda and Zubiri’s case at the Senate Electoral Tribunal last week, I asked for a copy. His letter, it turns out, is too long for our Letters page (we cannot accommodate anything more than 3,000 characters long). Instead of sending it back to him to cut it down to the right size, however, I thought of running it here instead. I have done exactly that in previous instances, and I am only too glad to do the same thing for him. Continue reading

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Column: Good Loren, Bad Loren

Published on January 18, 2011.

A SIMPLE but stirring sight—I thought the photographic record of Sen. Loren Legarda’s recent courtesy call on Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma (Myanmar) was definitely newsworthy, and could have elicited more supportive commentary. The fate of the Burmese democratic icon should be of the greatest concern to Filipino democrats, for reasons both personal (we see in her another Cory Aquino, a reluctant symbol of the democratic struggle) and collective (her fate reflects the fate of the long-suffering Burmese people).

But I suppose Legarda’s celebrity, and the nature of her fame, got in the way. Continue reading

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Column: Risa and Loren

Published on May 4, 2010.

When the history of the 2010 campaign is written, a chapter will be reserved for the pivotal role played by two of my fellow columnists: Conrad de Quiros for articulating the case for a Noynoy Aquino presidency back in August, and Solita Monsod for launching the first legitimate critique of (that is to say, the first non-partisan attack on) the Manny Villar life story. By and large, I think they have called it right.

Conrad’s analysis of Jojo Binay’s ratings surge Monday, however, I found to be a stretch. Continue reading

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Column: Black propaganda: Chiz & Jejomar version

Published on April 13, 2010.

It was a real privilege to serve as a resource person at a roundtable conference organized by the National Academy of Science and Technology last week. I hope to set aside some space sometime soon to discuss the provocative insights of eminent economist Emmanuel de Dios, the other guest speaker; for now, allow me to acknowledge the stimulating company of National Scientists Gelia Castillo, Mercedes Concepcion and Teodulo Topacio Jr., as well as (ceteris paribus!) of Deans De Dios and Raul Fabella of the UP School of Economics. Continue reading


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Column: An agenda waiting for a president

Published October 13, 2009.

Some thoughts on the vice presidency. Vice presidents do not elect their running mates; if the opposite were true, Joseph Estrada would have been helping Danding Cojuangco measure the drapes in Malacañang in 1992. Presidents do not elect their running mates either; Estrada’s coattails in 1998 did not extend to Ed Angara.

The reason is separate voting, which puts a premium on the popularity of each candidate, rather than on political tandems. Continue reading

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Column: The 20-percent presidency

Published on May 26, 2009

When it comes to everyone’s favorite pastime—no, not watching the latest Hayden Kho sex video but handicapping favorites in the equally rough-and-tumble world of presidential politics—everybody has an opinion. But this emphatically does not mean that one man’s guess is as good as any other’s. I say this not simply because I have a vested interest in professional commentary and political journalism; I say this because certain factors are already in play, and opinion that does not take them into account is worse than useless.

Political facts, of course, may be read differently. In the interest of greater accountability, I would like to advance the following five theses, with which I propose to frame my reading of 2010. Continue reading

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Column: The vice-presidency is subtraction

Published on April 7, 2009

No, this is not an attempt to add to the literature of “warm spit”—the practice, begun by the Americans, of minimizing the importance of the second-highest office within the gift of the electorate. In the first place, John Nance Garner’s famous quip (the US vice presidency is not worth “a pitcher of warm spit,” he said) may have had some traction during his time as Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s second wheel; it does not apply to the United States today. Al Gore reinvented the office, and the imperial Dick Cheney used it as base to assert an over-aggressive executive.

Secondly, the charge of political irrelevance does not apply with as much force to Philippine politics. Even the famously self-effacing Sergio Osmeña continued to dominate Visayan politics under Manuel Quezon’s shadow. And ultimate political power was also always within sight. Since the Commonwealth era, six of the country’s 12 vice presidents have succeeded to the presidency: Osmeña, Elpidio Quirino, Carlos Garcia, Diosdado Macapagal, Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Continue reading


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Column: Worrying about the future

Published on March 3, 2009

In Cagayan de Oro City last Friday, a high school senior named Niku Tindugan asked me a blunt question during the first open forum of the day. Aren’t you worried (“Hindi ba kayo nag-aalala,” he asked in Filipino) that young people don’t read newspapers anymore? His question was echoed by a college editor during the second open forum I took part in (held this time at the busy atrium of the SM mall in the city), who asked what school newspaper editors should do to reach students who no longer read school newspapers.

The short answer: Yes, working journalists are worried. The worrying is hardly confined to the Philippines. Consider the case of a friend who works in risky Mexico; her husband is a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, the venerable newspaper which may be shut down in a matter of days. “There are no words” to describe this reversal of fortune, she writes.

The long answer is, well, lengthy indeed: We worry, but we do not despair.

Despair, to quote a recent column of colleague Randy David’s, written in another context, is merely the other side of confusion. In the first place, the younger generations are still reading — mainly in other formats, of course, like Twitter and Facebook and by SMS, but like other information-processing generations they still require the hammer of news and the anvil of opinion to force the world into a recognizable shape. We — that is, “traditional” journalists — simply need to fill their need where they need it. Secondly, the decision-makers still read the newspapers, either in the traditional print format or in the now-tested online edition.

A blunt question deserves a blunt answer: A bright young kid like Niku may no longer read newspapers, but his teachers, his parents, the people in Cagayan de Oro who make decisions that reach all the way to his school and his home — they still read newspapers. Their reading helps shape the world Niku finds himself in. We can say this dynamic is part of the structure of Philippine reality. There is the critical few, and then there is the crucial many. Where, in five years’ time, does Niku see himself?

* * * Continue reading

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An election lesson plan

My apologies for cross-posting from Inquirer Current, but that blog is taking forever to load today. Besides, the topic — Are Filipinos intelligent voters? — fits in nicely with this blog’s particular obsessions.

In Current, the post is entitled “Learning from Loren.”

The other day, I was asked yet another question about intelligent electorates. Do Filipinos vote for the most popular, even if the most popular are not necessarily the most qualified? Or (to use the terms the interviewers used): Is the Filipino “audience” intelligent? How about the Filipino “electorate”?

I gave a qualified answer, of course, making a distinction between the way we vote for the presidency and the way we vote for the Senate. I use that same distinction in my column of February 10, where I propose that our next president, come May 2010, can only be either of the following: Kabayan, Loren, Manny Villar, Chiz, Ping, and Mar. (Is the fact that Manny Villar does not have a ready one-word handle boon or bane?)

But it is possible, even when we only have a single vote to cast rather than the 12 we can use for the Senate, to send clear signals to the candidates, a point I raised in passing in my column of February 3.

Consider the case of Loren Legarda. The 1998 Senate topnotcher, she did not do well in the voters’ preferences surveys conducted by SWS in the run-up to the 2004 vote.

In the December 2002 survey, for example, Raul Roco and FPJ topped the list, with Kabayan and GMA in striking distance. Loren, however, had a measly dieter’s slice of the pie.


In that same survey, however, Legarda did quite well in the vice-presidential list. She placed second to Kabayan (who had just topped the Senate race a year and a half before, in 2001).


As it turns out (here is an SWS news release for its November 2003 survey, about a year after the first poll), Legarda’s vice-presidential qualities (to coin a phrase) impressed more and more Filipinos. By November 2003, the race between De Castro and Legarda had become a real contest.


My point: In 2004, voters were discriminating enough to make a distinction between Legarda as president and Legarda as vice-president. (In contrast, voters were equally happy to say they would vote for Noli de Castro either as president or as vice-president — at least until FPJ threw his hat into the ring.) I see that distinction-making as a sign that, in fact, and by and large, voters in the aggregate know what they want.

Here, then, is intelligence, of a sort, at work.


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Column: Legal ‘barok’

Published on February 3, 2009

Of the many basketball teams I have rooted for, perhaps my sentimental favorite is the Magnolia team of the 1985 Open Conference. Carrying the colors of the San Miguel franchise in the Philippine Basketball Association (at that time, there was only one), the team was probably the weakest ever on paper. Aside from playing coach and import Norman Black and Marte Saldana, once a Rookie of the Year, there were no other top-tier players (or at least none that I can remember). Oh, there was the hard-working Gerry Samlani, who flustered history one unforgettable night when he converted a rebound into two points—-in the opposing team’s goal.

And yet the team ended up dueling with the impossibly talented Great Taste team (coached by Baby Dalupan, led by sweet-shooting MVP Ricky Brown, backstopped by All-Defensive stalwart Abe King) for the conference championship. Great Taste, with its superior firepower, won in six games; Magnolia finally surrendered after Dalupan launched yet another new weapon: Jimmy Manansala’s three-pointers from nowhere. But what a ride for a team with no prospects. As a team, Black’s warriors weren’t destined for anything; they created their own fate.

I was (improbably) reminded of the team after watching the great Roger Federer lose to Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open finals the other night. Don’t ask me why. Perhaps something to do with the difference between destiny and fate. Continue reading

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