On Manny Villar, Noynoy Aquino and Gibo Teodoro
Some thoughts provoked by Winnie Monsod’s Mussings*:
- I, too, share the same fears about Manny Villar.
- After Cory died, when people first started buzzing about a Noynoy presidency, some government insiders I know rolled their eyes at the idea and dismissed Noynoy as “tamad” and “bobo.” Senate staffers observed that Noynoy is dull, can’t seem to keep up during senate deliberations, and is a notoriously late riser because he’s up all night playing PS3. Some community organizers we work with in Nueva Ecija said that they supported Noynoy up until they actually met him at a sortie, where he did not answer their questions satisfactorily and he was so spaced out that they wondered if he was autistic. A senior government official during Cory’s presidency said that while Cory was a “saint” she did not have the intellectual prowess and technical knowledge to be an effective president. Even people who adored Cory have come to realize that pureness of heart is not enough to run a country.
- I understand why people so desperately want to believe in Noynoy. After Erap, followed by nine years of GMA, we just want a president whom we can trust. Even if he is painfully mediocre. Sure, Noynoy’s clean and he won’t steal, but c’mon. He has no outstanding achievements and he wouldn’t have even been considered as a presidential candidate if Cory hadn’t died. It was the outpouring of love for Cory and all that she represents (hope, democracy, goodness) that propelled Noynoy to prominence. Without his Aquino lineage, he is nothing.
- Men Sta. Ana defends Noynoy’s lackluster legislative record, saying “The number of laws sponsored by a senator or congressman does not make one a competent legislator.” Okay, sure. Quality over quantity. I get that. But seriously, 9 bills? That’s all? Miriam authored 738 in the same time period. And technically sound as Noynoy’s bills may be, they aren’t exactly exceptional. It’s not like he has gems in there like, say, Mar Roxas’ affordable medicines act or EVAT funds for educational and healthcare law.
- During presidential debates it’s all motherhood statements, he throws around terms he clearly does not understand, and when backed into a corner he invokes the memory of his parents as a talisman against difficult questions. During the Face-to-Face forum with LGUs, Noynoy sounded like he was just parroting sound bytes that had been previously fed to him by his handlers and could not expound further. Also during that forum, it became apparent that though Noynoy is chair of the Senate Committee on Local Government, he knows nothing about local government issues, particularly devolution. His answer to everything was “Pinag-aaralan ko pa ho.”
- While Noynoy’s campaign slogan “Kung Walang Corrupt Walang Mahirap” is emotionally compelling, it is also largely untrue. Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and Thailand are all notoriously corrupt but they were able to significantly reduce poverty. The solution to the problem of poverty is much more complex than the slogan would have you believe. Corruption is just one of many problems. Eliminate corruption and you’d still have to: (1) stabilize the country’s fiscal position; (2) provide adequate infrastructure; (3) strengthen the investment climate; (4) equitably distribute growth among sectors; (5) address the unequal pattern of development among regions; (6) alleviate demographic pressure; (7) implement genuine agrarian reform; (8) develop human capital, invest in basic services, especially education and health… and that’s just the beginning of a whole laundry list of things the next administration will have to address. An administration that is not corrupt will not necessarily know which strategies to pursue. “I will not steal” is not a substitute for “I am technically competent.” Integrity is a necessary but not sufficient condition for one seeking public office.
- As unimpressed as I am with Noynoy, I admit that there are valid reasons to vote for him. It just annoys me that people insist on romanticizing him. Let’s recognize him for what he is: a mediocre candidate, but the only who seems capable of beating Villar in the polls. If it’s down to a choice between Noynoy and Villar, I can understand why you’d choose Noynoy. But please be honest with yourself and cut the crap about his “competence.” He is not our messiah. He has not demonstrated that he has any capacity whatsoever of fulfilling all the hopes and dreams that the nation is so eager to pin on him.
- A number of people I respect and admire support Noynoy for pragmatic reasons. Former Finance Secretary Bobby de Ocampo told me that this election isn’t about who’s smarter or more competent, but it’s about making a clean break from the present administration. I don’t necessarily agree but it’s certainly something to think about.
- I like many of the people who’ve chosen to rally behind Noynoy, among them Mar Roxas (accomplished in both the private and public sector, impressive legislative and executive track record, my presidential candidate if he hadn’t stepped down to make way for Noynoy), Risa Hontiveros (beauty and brains, Nobel peace prize nominee for her work as chair the Government Panel’s Reciprocal Working Committee on Socio-Economic Reforms in the Peace Talks with the National Democratic Front), Neric Acosta (distinguished academician and political scientist, principal author of many environmental laws including groundbreaking Clean Air Act), Jesse Robredo (outstanding multi-awarded Mayor of Naga City, my dream DILG Secretary), Mike Luz (former DepEd Undersecretary, the brains behind the LP platform on education, my dream DepEd Secretary). Noynoy is not lacking in advisers, intelligent people who understand our various problems and have concrete plans on how to solve them (even if Noynoy himself doesn’t). Maybe that’s enough to get him through. Maybe it’s okay that he’s not brilliant for as long as he listens to his betters. But I’m not sure.
- I share Ma’am Winnie’s concerns about the Liberal trapos: “My only concern with Noynoy is how deep he might be in the Liberal Party and whether he has accumulate political debts to Liberal trapos. The Liberal Party, like any party, has its own share of crooks (including those bandwagon trapos who jumped off GMA’s boat to ride on Aquino’s popularity).” In that sense, Noynoy is really no different from Gibo, whose only real flaw seems to be membership in Lakas-Kampi-CMD — GMA’s party. If the concern about both candidates is political indebtedness to the trapos in their respective parties, what then makes Noynoy a more desirable candidate than Gibo?
- Gibo’s party affiliation does concern me, but the guy is a shrewd politician. He’s managed to distance himself from GMA and the party. It’s a tough balancing act because he needs the political machinery of the party but at the same time he doesn’t agree with their positions on a lot of issues. I’m impressed by the finesse with which he’s handling himself. But I’m still wary of the people around him. And it’s still not clear who will hold important cabinet positions if he does become president. I want to make sure that no one is pulling his strings, that he won’t be so politically indebted to the party that it will compromise the decisions he’ll make in the future. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt though. Thus far he seems to be his own man. I don’t believe that if elected he will merely be the party’s lapdog.
- Gibo is a bar topnotcher and a Harvard magna cum laude. He is intelligent. Unlike many of the candidates out there, Gibo doesn’t fumble for answers. He knows what he’s talking about. I’m impressed by the depth of his understanding of issues. (In this interview with National Artist F Sionil Jose, he answered all the questions impressively, and I particularly liked his answers on poverty, population management, and the Philippines’ “damaged culture.” He quoted Mancur Olson and Thomas Friedman in the same breath and is apparently a neo-institutionalist. Be still my heart!) He’s not afraid to take tough stances, he will say things other candidates are afraid to say (e.g. disarm government and non-government groups in ARMM, yes to comprehensive reproductive health program). As far as I’m concerned he’s out-performed all the other candidates in the presidential debates.
- Gibo is strong and confident, but I see no traces of ego whatsoever. I like that. He does not see himself as a messiah; he is offering himself up as a humble public servant.
- Gibo exudes sincerity. I feel like I can trust him, and his public record suggests he is deserving of that trust. He is untainted by allegations of corruption, and is by all accounts an honest man. Noynoy isn’t the only one with a legacy to protect. Gibo is proud of his name and has carefully guarded his reputation.
- Ma’am Winnie’s criticism of Gibo isn’t even really criticism. She’s holding his “galing at talino” against him because GMA supposedly has those qualities but she turned out to be a lousy president. She’s holding his eloquence against him because Marcos was a great public speaker. Should we not elect intelligent presidents just because they’ve screwed us over in the past? We elected a dumb president (i.e. Erap) and that didn’t turn out so well for us either. Intelligence is not enough to ensure a good president. But neither is moral uprightness (e.g. Cory).
* It would seem that someone wants to use Winnie Monsod’s influence to win votes for Noynoy. Ma’am Winnie says she did not write the “Why I Will Vote for Noynoy” statement that has been attributed to her. I’m kind of relieved. I was surprised when I first read it, having previously heard her views on Noynoy. My reactions to the piece are the same regardless of who wrote it though.