Now, now, what makes her pronouncement different from those of other wannabes who have been more candid about their presidential ambitions? She’s saying the same message delivered by her potential rivals, although in a manner that presumes the audience to be a bunch of morons who can’t see through the ruse. The Tagalogs have a phrase for it – hele, hele bago kiyere. Being more straightforward would have served her better. I’d bet the people prefer those who have their eyes fixed on the ball not those who feign disinterest [at the moment].
Legarda, however, betrayed her eagerness [to run for president] when she rattled off her supposed credentials for the country’s top post. She concluded her sales pitch with the vow not to steal a single cent from public funds. And many of the other journalists – and those pretending to be journalists – applauded her. Goodness, what for? I asked in silence. We’re no cheerers here even if elections, like school intramurals, also offer entertainment and cheap thrills. Besides, the people need something more believable than a promise that dates back to the first president. Corruption is a perennial problem, yes. But it requires measures that go beyond motherhood statements. In fact, this is one crime where I would support the imposition of capital punishment.
The senator also tried to play heroine for media by declaring she was withdrawing her support to the right of reply bill, which journalists have labeled as anathema to press freedom. I turned to a radio reporter who sat beside me and quipped, “What’s the use of withdrawing support [to the bill] when the Senate had already voted on it?” Nonetheless, the other journalists – and those pretending to be journalists – erupted into another applause. Did they fail to see the brazen opportunism? Were they unaware that her change of heart came only after several media organizations cried foul [over the bill]? It was cheap gimmickry on her part, but my fellow journalists – and those pretending to be journalists – thought otherwise.
Fortunately for Legarda, the other aspirants are either as “mababaw” (shallow) in their premature campaigns or burdened by the stigma of unresolved controversies. Senator Manuel Villar has stuck to his “sipag at tiyaga” line and made conscious effort to make the public knows his humble roots. But she can ambush his presidential ambition along C-5. As for Senator Panfilo Lacson, he will always be haunted by allegations he was involved in the Bubby Dacer murder case and in the Kuratong Baleleng rubout incident. This early, in fact, the former police director general is feeling the heat of the past.
Senator Mar Roxas is handicapped by the absence of a nationwide machinery. The Liberal Party has been reduced to being a paper tiger despite efforts to revive its pre-martial law stature as a major political player. That should prod Mr. Palengke to reuse the old trick of getting a popular lady play the role as his expectant fiancé.
The rest of the possible contenders – among them MMDA chair Bayani Fernando, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro, Senator Richard Gordon – though often visible on national media, need a hard push to really register in the minds of the electorate.
These factors may explain in part the results of a recent survey which showed Legarda ahead with 40 percent of the respondents’ votes. But it’s too early to tell; perceptions can change – except maybe my perception of Legarda.
(H. Marcos C. Mordeno is one of the editors of MindaNews. He may be reached at [email protected])