#PHVote: The nognog-to-riches tale of Binay

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This photo was taken from Inquirer on 20 February 2016.

We are a rich nation, blessed with almost infinite natural resources. Ironically, more than a quarter of our population live below the poverty line. Ever since, poverty has been a thorn in our nation’s flesh. Many remain jobless, uneducated, and illiterate. Many have no food to eat, no shelter to stay at, no clothes to put on. Many resort to crimes, and other easier means to produce money, not solely for themselves but for the people who depend on them.

The bread and butter of our government is its people. Of the 24 days we work in a month, 8 days worth of pay is what we involuntarily give to our government. Tax, the peoples’ money. And it’s what the government uses to build roads and infrastructures, pay for our debts, and fuel all programs and initiatives for national development, among others. And it’s also what give food, clothes, and shelter to most of our politicians, except for those born with dazzling silver spoon.

Jejomar Binay is the 15th vice president of our republic, and is one of recent surveys’ top presidential picks. And it is his promise to reform the existing taxation policies in our country, in hopes to bring inclusive growth in a national scale. He believes that real economic growth is the one that is reflected on the lives of people. He used to be an ally of the incumbent administration but now is the face of the opposition. He is a lawyer, and the father of Makati City. And he is being hounded by large-scale graft and corruption allegations.

Binay was the dark horse in the 2010 vice presidential elections. He used the progress attained by Makati City to exhibit his success in leadership. He presented himself as someone among those who fought for our democratic rights against the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. He inspired many by exemplifying a noble thought that poverty is just a phase in one’s life, and that through hard work, anyone could make the unbelievable real. His life story has captured the imagination of the people, and the rest is history.

Corruption, now, is what tests his candidacy. Though the allegations haven’t been proven yet in the courts of law, this truly has affected his pursuit. Many have already judged Binay on various social media platforms, lambasting him and his family. Memes are found everywhere. Not only is he being ridiculed due to the money of the people that was said he stole but also because of his height, colour, and other physical features. Many have flushed down the drain all the good things he may have done over the past two decades or so of his stint in public service.

Despite the clamour for him to answer the allegations, all he did was keep mum. Instead, he focused on discussing his platform of governance through reaching the people, especially those in the grassroots to clearly deliver his message. Binay is a dreamer. He has no early connections. He worked his way up to where he is now. And he will never stop until he becomes elected as president, something he may have prepared for since the time he started dreaming.

Binay is clearly not the smartest among the presidential aspirants. He doesn’t stage big speeches. He lacks eloquence, and the character of a visionary leader who people would look up to. He doesn’t have the charisma that can draw cheers from the people. What he has, though, is a story that people can relate to, and a strong and loyal network down his line. He is pro-poor. And he has a platform of governance which focuses on uplifting the lives of the people, with some promises which seem too good to be true, like a drastic change on our existing tax systems; free books, school supplies, and uniform for all elementary and high school pupils; and a free wifi access in all public places from across the country.

But with everything that was said about him, mediocre is maybe the word that could best describe his leadership, and pretentious for his commitments. Because with the revenue that Makati City has, knowing that it is the country’s central business district, a lot of things could have been done better. Free overpriced birthday cakes are obviously not enough. There are still slum areas within the city, and the lives of the poor still have not gotten better. And as vice president, the second highest government role in the country, he could have done much over the past six years, instead of using his office for politicking, mudslinging, and premature campaigning.

So the question is, would you want a president whose story you could relate to, who has an infamous nognog-to-riches tale, but who is mediocre, and is tainted with moral issues due to alleged stealing of the peoples’ money? Go figure!

#PHVote: The unbelievable courage of Grace Poe

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This photo was taken from inquirer.net on 18 February 2016.

She is a foundling. She is a Filipino citizen. She renounced her citizenship when she once swore allegiance to the United States of America. She went back home, and repatriated when she was appointed czar of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB). She topped the senatorial elections in 2013 with over 20 million votes, the biggest in history. She is the adopted daughter of Susan Roces, and the late Fernando Poe Jr. (FPJ). She is Grace Poe, and she is one of the frontrunners of this year’s presidential elections.

“Itutuloy ko ang laban ni sinimulan ng aking ama.” (I will continue the fight which my father has started.) Maybe I wouldn’t understand this battlecry since I wasn’t a fan of “The King”, FPJ’s monicker. This is what Grace Poe, though, keeps on telling the people whenever she campaigns. And once this script has been delivered with great passion coupled with teary eyes, the drums will roll, confetti of white and blue will fill the air, and the people will cheer.

Grace plays behind the shadow of his father who lost to then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Her camp claims that the presidency was stolen from his father, and now is the right time to take it back through her. The million dollar question, however, is what makes a Grace Poe? Apart from her popularity, being a daughter of showbiz personalities, I know only a few. One is that she graduated in Boston College in Massachusetts with a degree in political science, and that she used to work as a preschool teacher, and liaison officer in a US government scientific agency. [The rest, help yourselves through Google.]

As head of MTRCB, prolly the most notable contribution the agency had was when it has reclassified the ratings system for both television programs, and movies. As a senator, she has filed a bill promoting film tourism, and has advanced causes relating to the protection of children’s rights. More recently, she led the legislative inquiry on the Mamasapano tragedy. Grace supports the reproductive health law, and has a strong support in the legalisation of same-sex marriage.

Truth be told, Grace has the weakest resume among all presidential aspirants. She just shakes off this remark, saying that apart from experience, our country needs a president who has compassion for people, and has a clean record with no any corruption allegations. She also said that being new is actually beneficial, in a way that it could provide novel perspectives, and a leadership which does not need to entertain any political accommodations, something we could not vouch for given the structure of her campaign mechanism.

My points of view may seem bias but her experience, the way she presents herself, her qualifications and all, do not capture my imagination as a voter. So, I felt that there must be really something wrong going on, her topping surveys here and there, and getting the bigger chunk of support from businessmen, known political figures and strategists, and some notable academicians. I could only think that these people just dive into Grace’s great chance of winning, just to be on the safe side. After all, one’s choice today may define one’s future. Quid pro quo, that’s how we call it.

For one, I can’t imagine having a president who has once given up her Filipino citizenship. The issue isn’t about her being a foundling, rather this is a question on her moral compass, on where she gets the courage to take over a country which is deprived of access to quality education, stuck in poverty, and haunted by crimes, among others. The president, at the very least, should have an unquestionable patriotism. Because in times of depression, people should have someone to get inspiration from.

What’s wrong, perhaps, is the culture than we’ve been accustomed to. We have supported political figures, time and again, based on their popularity, rather on what they have accomplished, and what they can actually accomplish even further. We have let go opportunities to experience greatness when we have repeatedly chosen to forego those who have great contributions to the advancement of our society. This culture has spiralled over time, and is now a constant variable in our science of politics.

With less than three months shy of this year’s national elections, Grace continues to battle on her place as a legitimate candidate, given the ongoing disqualification cases hurled at her due to questions raised on her natural born status, and the 10-year residency requirement for presidential aspirants. No matter how bad and forlorn these issues may seem, together with the dramas almost always being aired on free TV, these only amplify her popularity. The disqualification cases have even been sensationalised and dramatised to buy the compassionate hearts of some.

Grace Poe acts her part really well, especially when she delivers her speeches during campaign sorties. She must be a trained orator. But a boring one. Maybe if she could focus more on the message, rather than the rhetorics, something she must have copied from her running mate, I would have been more enticed to listen to her.

Nonetheless, it’s the people who will decide. It’s the greater majority whose voice shall be heard. And if we fail again, at least we all know that it’s the price of democracy that we have to pay. And we’re immune to it, to failing, to paying the price. I am not adamant to the idea that I must be overlooking something. That there really is something good on a Grace Poe presidency which perhaps I can’t see or understand just yet. Regardless, I firmly believe that the voice of the people is the voice of God. Vox populi, vox dei. So if she wins, so be it.

Let it be clear, though, that I don’t campaign against Grace Poe. Know that what I campaign for is greatness.

 

 

Aftermath

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We’ve just witnessed that love, to some, is real, and not elusive at all. Maybe they’re kinder than us or maybe they deserve it more than we do. The reason why the universe has blessed them with someone to cuddle, or express their affection with, especially on the feast of Saint Valentine.

I’m sure, though, that most of us have uttered the words “I love you” either to the wind or to some of our friends who are dear to us. Some family-oriented, to their moms or dads, and perhaps, siblings. Regardless of to whom we’ve dedicated those words, I’m sure we all did.

I love you. What ran inside your head when you uttered those words? On Valentine’s day, I told a friend, just one friend: “Hey! Labyu! Happy Valentine’s!” We know it isn’t sweet. I mean, it isn’t the definition of the word sweet we apply on this season. It felt like a mandatory response of my brains to the resonating occasion. Nonetheless, it’s shallow. Not that I don’t love my friend. God knows I sure love Pam.

But especially on Valentine’s day, there’s a damning few seconds that we, most among us if not all, look forward for something else. At the farthest back of our minds, we thought of a picture perfect moment which does not have to be really fancy, just a plain image of us being with someone else, maybe sitting by the edge of a cliff, overlooking the vastness of the oceans, talking in rhymes, and beating as one.

Romance, is it? We want romance. We want to be loved, to feel secure in love. And that’s what we’ve been reminded of. More than the flowers, stuffed toys, and whatnots, and maybe the exchange of promises of forever so prevalent on social media, we’re told that it is really on us why we’ve ended up alone, hopelessly, helplessly crying inside to be with someone else, to be loved. Valentine’s day is a reminder that love, like everything else, is a choice we make.

Choose love. Despite being completely unaware of the unknown. Despite being afraid that it might cradle you into the oblivion. Despite knowing that it might cause you unimaginable pain. Despite not being able to fully move on yet from the horrors of the past. Despite knowing that we might get hurt again. Despite of all the imperfections that it may bring. Choose love. Because like every soul in this world, we deserve to be loved. And we deserve to celebrate love every single day, not only on Valentine’s, goddammit!

We all have reasons. I have mine. But maybe, just maybe, instead of wallowing time and again on the what-ifs and the what-could-have-beens, it’s time we start all over, with or without the person who we thought we deserve. Because more than the person we’ve been praying for to have in our lives, we deserve true love.

In the novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky told us, “We accept the love we think we deserve.” True as it may, we have to empty our baggages, turn our guards down, and let our spirits start traveling again, hunting, chasing, finding that other soul that would complete us. And only then we could settle with the love we deserve, not when we’ve finally found it, but when it has already found us.

Our stories haven’t ended on 14 February 2016. Actually, we have little less than a year more to make 2017 ours. I mean, everyday we could, and should celebrate love. But for the sole purpose of being one with the world in celebrating Valentine’s day, the hour glass is still in our favour. And it isn’t merely about joining the bandwagon, it is more of living our lives like how it’s supposed to be lived: filled with love.

And more than the stories of heartbreaks, and hugot lines which our times have so much been accustomed to, sure there’s more good in poetries born out of love than anything else.

And us, you ask? Us, singles. Loveless. Alone. Go figure!

#PHVote: The fight of Miriam Defensor-Santiago

Accessed on 6 February 2016 through miriam.com.ph

I would not elaborate further on what makes a Miriam Defensor-Santiago. Everyone sure knows that she was once a recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for government service; and once named as among The 100 Most Powerful Women in the World. Miriam, as we all know, is a widely recognized international and constitutional law expert; the senator who has the most number of principally authored bills; an award winning member of the judiciary; an accomplished cabinet secretary during the government of Corazon Aquino; an outstanding academic; a proficient writer; and a notable diplomat.

Time and again, we’re told that she is the president who [really] won in the 1992 elections. Without political machinery, enough resources, and power, she caught the attention of the voting population, more especially of the youth. She won the hearts of the Filipino people through her wit, charisma, and a clean history of public service. Since then, her platform of governance is rooted on eradicating corruption from within the system, saying that it is what perpetuates poverty in the country.

For the third time, she is gunning for the country’s top post. This time, she relies heavily on the power of social media. She will still run under her own political party but has formed a loose coalition with an independent vice presidential aspirant. Like before, she tops presidential surveys on key universities. Only this time, she lags behind in nationwide pulse reports, getting a measly 5 percent [at most] of the voters’ preference. She is the only presidential aspirant who hasn’t done any premature campaigning. She has no TV or radio ads yet. Like in 1992, she has no stable political machinery, enough resources, and power. This time, she seems to have a smaller pot money from the business community, and no visible support from any known political figures and strategists. Having stipulated such incontrovertible conditions, winning the presidency seems to be more elusive for her now than ever.

Truth be told, among all the presidential aspirants, she is the most accomplished. No one comes close. With her notable experience in all the three branches of government, she could be the most brilliant president our country could ever have. She is known for being feisty, outspoken and eccentric, and likewise for having fashioned integrity at all times. The question, however, is why in spite knowing what a Miriam presidency could bring, she remains an unpopular choice for the post?

There could be several factors. Perhaps the most resounding is her battle with cancer, and the reality behind whether she has already been cured or not. She used to have stage 4 lung cancer. But according to her, during a radio interview in early December last year, her doctors said that her cancer’s stable. She asserted on the radio show that she can hurdle all the complexities that nationwide campaigning may bring, as much as the responsibilities of a president should she get elected. Other factors may involve the lingering question on her sanity which has been an ongoing witticism on her; the reproductive health bill which she principally authored in the upper chamber of the house which has been denounced by the Catholic magistrates; and perhaps her strong stance against political dynasties, and corrupt politicians which made her truly unpopular among her peers.

The presidency is not her sole fight. She fights cancer up to this day. She’s been fighting corruption, as much as ignorance, ever since. She fights for the protection of the constitution, and the preservation of our freedom against all sorts of subjugation. She promises to have a government which people can be proud of. She hopes to bring to the Filipino youth an access to quality education.

The Filipino youth still backs Miriam’s presidency, as evidenced in the results of recent electoral surveys held in various universities. But it remains not enough for her to win the presidency, even for the third attempt. Presidency, like everything else, is destiny. She has what it takes: experience, charisma, capacity. But the stars should align with her dream, and the universe has to conspire for her, to make her desire, this presidential desire, real. As poetic as it may seem, I thought it’s what fits the puzzle.

Regardless if she wins or not, we know she would always rise. And that she would always have a place in our country’s history. She could either be a celebrity talk show host throwing pick up lines every now and then or she could be a justice secretary. After all, she has recently been invited to join Bill Gates as part of the International Advisory Council of the International Development Law Organization (IDLO).

Miriam’s fight doesn’t stop on the success or defeat of her presidential aspiration. Her fight is ours. And we shall continue fighting this good fight.

 

 

#PHVote: Rody #Du30, and the hopeless majority

Accessed on 5 February 2016 through the Sun Star website

The clamour has gone stronger. Since time immemorial, we have been voicing out our want to effect change in the society we live in. More than the rallies of civil society groups staged in every available venue in Manila, and some parts of the country, the longing for change is reflected most noticeably on our concerted rants in social media.

We untiringly call for the cleansing of the bureaucracy. We dream of having a government we can unrelentingly support, and be proud of. We aspire for a leadership we could trust, a brave leadership which can improve our tax systems; create jobs that could eradicate poverty; strengthen our economic policies without sacrificing the rights and welfare of the people; put to jail corrupt officials; end political dynasty; uphold freedom of information; support fully the existing reproductive health bill; eliminate crimes; impede the perpetuation of illegal drugs; empower our police force; and ensure safety of our fatherland, among others.

And in the height of all the problems we face as a society, married with the wants we haven’t had just yet, we have become hopeless, ready to take risks, and vouch for an unconventional presidential candidate who, fairly looking in the totality of how he presents himself, is a dictator in the making. Rodrigo Duterte is a lawyer, and among the longest serving mayors in our country.

Davao City is Duterte’s Exhibit A. Through an online crowd-sourced rating platform, Davao has been voted as one of the safest cities in the world. Under the highly urbanized category, Davao City has won several times the outstanding local government unit award. Local media have presented Duterte as a feisty and outspoken mayor who lives a simple lifestyle, and someone who doesn’t shed a tear just to be in the limelight. More recently, he declined a nomination for the World Mayor Prize, and said he doesn’t need any recognition because he was just doing his job.

Not that Duterte is an unqualified candidate. But among this elections’ presidential aspirants, he seems to have a rather weak resume, in terms of combined executive, legislative and judicial experience. He has also been kicked out during his high school in Ateneo, and flunked in several core subjects during college. The rub lies, however, not on his credentials but on his certain qualities which are truly defiant of the culture and the values we have been upholding ever since.

Duterte cusses even on national TV. He used to utter the words “putang ina” along with the name of the Pope. He openly womanizes. His family is a political dynasty. He says he represents, too the leftist groups which exist in our country. His government is likewise hounded by administrative malpractices. He swore he has committed extrajudicial killing of criminals. But later on said that the killings were supported by existing laws, and that he would bring forth just and fair prosecution to law offenders.

The mayor has a clean name, and has never been tarnished by any corruption allegations. He has his share of hyperbolic statements, like zeroing in crime rates on his first six months which really seems preposterous. But his usual iron-fisted stance says that it’s possible under his stewardship. And him saying that he will resign if it doesn’t happen is like saying an old overly-used poetry to a child to get a good night sleep.

#DuterteMagic is what they say. The mayor coming from the vast nowhere, is now at the second spot, and at times top, in several electoral surveys. I don’t see magic at all. All I know is that Duterte says whatever the people want to hear. And in national elections, you have to really be yourself. You have to be as animated as possible. I thought that’s the best marketing strategy in a country like ours which is fond of comedy and drama. Most people, seriously, do not care of anyone’s platform of governance. All they ask for is hope in the midst of hopelessness. And Duterte, clearly, is giving it.

Right now, he is right on track. And the possibility of him being the next president of our dear republic is quite bright.

#PHVote: Mar Roxas, and the elusive presidency

Accessed on 3 February 2016 through the Philippine Star website

Noynoy Aquino’s “anointed one” certainly lacks appeal or the political “x-factor”. In local showbiz, you can liken him to John Arcilla, the one who portrayed Heneral Luna. Arcilla is an amazing character actor who we can all be proud of, and who, in his lifetime, has way more supporting acts than lead roles. He may have brought box office money with his flick Heneral Luna but it’s not enough, presumably never enough, for Arcilla to forge another lead role in the near future.

And the same goes for Mar, only aside from being an atypical lead starrer, he gets almost tens of thousands of social media mockery every single day. He is, unfortunately, not bankable at least according to the majority of the Filipino people based on recent electoral surveys. Prominently in social media, you would see Mar’s name along the words “tuwad na daan”. And people, in spite of all his accomplishments, see him as rubbish, a puppet to Aquino who, in no way, will be the peoples’ icon or hero.

Mar is one of the best leaders that our country has ever produced: academic, diplomatic, strategic, and perhaps pragmatic. He is one of recent history’s most reliable legislators, principally authoring bills on cheaper medicines, tax reform for minimum wage earners, and SME magna carta, among others.

Not known to many, Mar has served as a cabinet secretary to the past three administrations (including the incumbent). He has helped in improving the country’s readiness to being an IT-hub in Asia which later on proliferated jobs on business process outsourcing. Likewise, Mar helped on bringing to people the fundamental principles of economics through his “palengkenomics” initiatives.

The above-mentioned are only a portion of Mar’s successful contributions to the development of our country. These contributions, however, are seemingly not enough for him to capture the presidency come May elections. And I doubt if he can overturn all known odds into his favor, especially that the election is only a few months away.

Recent events have really been unkind to Mar, particularly the typhoon Yolanda, which has curtailed his political ambitions. His rivals have used his rather distasteful response to help out the victims, to disintegrate the very fabric of his leadership capability through commissioned media reports [here and there]. Because of this, together with the Mamasapano tragedy, MRT and traffic conundrums, his “sacrifice” when he gave way to Aquino in 2010, might just go down the drain, especially that he has nothing left to do [in the political arena] at least over the span of three years should he lose this election.

Mar Roxas would have been a brilliant president, prolly better than Aquino. But Mar is far from becoming a peoples’ president. Because in a country like ours where democracy has gone beyond what it’s supposed to stand for, a Mar Roxas is but a character actor, only enough for a supporting role.

What he needs now, maybe, is either a miracle or a tragedy in his life that may stage a Cory magic-like effect. Because as we all know, presidency is destiny. The universe always has the final say. It’ll either conspire for you or otherwise.

And Mar [with everything he’s done, noble and at times funny, with everything he’s sacrificed and willing to sacrifice further in the name of being a president like his grandfather, and much-loved politicians like his father and brother] certainly needs divine intervention, more than anything else.