COMMENT : After May 10, What? By Patricio P. Diaz

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 30 April)– At noon on June 30, the most hypocritical regime in the history of the Philippines will take a bow and exit. Will the Filipinos elect on May 10 a president more truthful, sincere and transparent than Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo? That is how historic this question is: “After May 10, what?”

What kind of president the Philippines will be relieved of on June 30 by whoever is elected the new president on May 10? As it’s said, “Take it from the horse’s mouth.”

In her inaugural speech at EDSA on January 20, 2001, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo gave the Filipinos very much to hope for – her four-point commitments. Briefly: 1. Fight poverty. 2. Good government. 3. New politics. 4. Leadership by example.  How did she live up to her commitments? The answer will fill volumes.

May I quote Commitment No. 3: “We must change the character of our politics in order to create fertile grounds for true reforms.  Our politics of personality and patronage must give way to a new politics of party programs and process of dialogues with the people.” (Emphasis supplied)

What happened in nine years?

1. She promised not to run for election in the 2004 election. She broke that promise to win most questionably. While still in office, she is running now for a seat in Congress representing the second district of Pampanga — sure to win.

[As a side note: She and her supporters justified this precedent-setting act by invoking the example of U.S. President John Quincy Adams, who, after the White House, ran for and won a
congressional seat in New York and was reelected every election thereafter to die in office but they omitted the fact that Adams ran in the election after his presidency. What mental dishonesty!]

2. During her incumbency, her two sons, her brother-in-law and one or two more in-laws won seats in Congress.  Winning by their own, on their own grit? Even the blind can see them riding the presidential wagon to the seat of power to enhance her power. This, indeed, is new politics!

3. The Lower House of Congress has become the House of Patronage. It has made a mockery of impeachment to protect its patroness – a mockery of the constitution to create a congressional district for its patroness’ son. Only a miracle prevented it from revising the 1987 Constitution to perpetuate its patroness in power. Politics of personality and patronage rearing at its awesome best!

4. Gloria epitomizes the politics of ingratitude, the scourge of power bred by politics of personality and patronage. In 1998, Lakas-CMD, the party in power, invited her and her newly-formed Kampi to be its vice presidential candidate.  In 2009, she and Kampi took over Lakas-CMD, kicking out its founders – former President Fidel V. Ramos and former Speaker Jose de Venecia, who both had stood by her during her critical hours in 2005.

5. Gloria will also be remembered for her politics of gratitude – akin to once Speaker Jose Avelino’s “What are we in power for?” – using the government to thank those who had served her best by appointing them, including her manicurist and gardener, to tenured positions.

6. Gloria packed the Supreme Court with patronizing justices who would readily bend the Constitution and disregard precedent Court decisions to please their patroness including their ruling as constitutional the unconstitutional creation of a congressional district in Camarines Sur for a presidential son.

More can be told about her commitment to bring new politics to the country.  Of all her four commitments, this may be asked: What does the balance sheet show of what she had  accomplished and had not – that she could have – accomplished?

But President Arroyo and her Malacañang apologists do not believe in “balance – especially that with ‘-ed’ – sheets”. The Gloria or Arroyo Doctrine for media is this:  Publish only the plus-points, not the minus. Under this doctrine, she can be the best president the Philippines has ever had. This is hypocrisy!

However, under the Balance Sheet Doctrine – weighing the plus against the minus – the many that she has done in nine years are heavily outbalanced by the more that she has not done but that she could have. In contrast to Very High in 2001, her Social Weather Station survey satisfaction rating for March 2010 was Very Bad at minus 53 percent.

Who among the presidential candidates can rid the country of politics of personality, of patronage, of gratitude, of hypocrisy on top of mounting social, economic and national security problems?  If there is one, will he be elected?

The options are limited to four – Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, III; Manuel “Manny” Villar; Joseph “Erap” Estrada; and Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro. Poll surveys are credible. The five others have only the miraculous chance to get elected.

Aquino – leading his closest rivals by 19 percentage points in the latest survey and last survey of Pulse Asia, April 23-25 (Inquirer.net, April 29) – has the biggest chance to be elected.  But
his credentials are least reassuring. By the “lesser-evil standard” though, he stands out as angel-like.

Villar – with 20 percentage points in the same Pulse Asia survey – believes he has the votes to win. He has very impressive credentials. However, his questionable political tendencies and ethical standards in office and the latest exposes put him in the “lesser evil” category.

Estrada – tied with Villar in percentage points – also says he has the votes to win. If voters have clear memory and are ethically sensitive, they should recall Estrada’s two-and-a-half years in the presidency and deny him another chance. Unrepentant and cocky after getting pardoned, he proclaims his innocence. Sandiganbayan, in convicting him of plunder, erred. Elect him? God forbid! He is in the “proven evil” category.

Teodoro, believes his poor poll showing — seven percent in this last survey – is not the reality in the field. He has very impressive credentials and platform.  Untainted like Aquino, he is outside the “lesser-evil standard”.  As standard bearer of Lakas-Kampi-CMD, he is weighed down by the Arroyo baggage and a majority party in contradiction crippled by dissention, in-fighting, desertion.

One of these candidates will be mandated to straighten and clean up the mess that Gloria will leave behind.  But it must be critically ask: Do the candidates and the electorate really care for what will happen after May 10?

What happens long after any election depends on the political environment in which the election is being conducted and the seriousness of all people concerned.  Can the president elected in an
election of personality, of patronage and of gratitude or utang na loob rise above the same breed of politics awaiting him? History is chilling.

We see in the May 10 election the abuse of the multiple-party and party-list systems; the black propaganda and character assassination; the media hyping, not facilitating the intelligent discussion of issues — all at their worst, sensationalized by media.

Not one of the four above has seriously presented his platform of government in their sorties or in the media. If they have, media must have preferred to feed their readers and listeners with stuffs to heighten emotion not to promote wise voting. Or, are the candidates and the electorate not interested in election of issues?

Elated by the stream of people chanting his name and by his 19 percentage points lead over Villar and Estrada in the latest and last Pulse Asia survey, Aquino told Reuters, “So the changes that we are seeking to implement to improve the lot of our people seem imminently doable.” Never has any of these changes been discussed in media.

The same can be said of the other candidates. They appeal more to mob mentality, to the emotion – not to the intelligence of the electorate.

In the U.S. 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama won on the issue of “Change”. From the primary to the regular election, he enumerated the changes he wanted to happen and these were extensively discussed in The New York Times, Washington Post, and other major newspapers and television programs – not just by Obama and his leaders but by media commentators.

Obama is now being made to account for his promised “Change”. The Americans voted for him knowing what the changes were. How can Filipinos make their next president account for his plans after May 10 when no plans have been discussed intelligibly and intelligently?

So, “What after May 10?”

If the President does not do well – reverting to politics of personality, of patronage, of gratitude, etc., as Gloria and others before her did – just denounce him in the halls of Congress, in
parliaments of the street, and other forums.  The Philippine media will obligingly splurge the spectacle in their front pages and prime time programs.

We are hoping for a brighter “What after May 10?” But the same causes produce the same effects. The same political environment and seriousness of the electorate and the candidates in which Gloria and the rest before her had been elected are dominating the May 10 election.  Can we expect a different President long after May 10?

Only if the prime cause – the elected President – is the opposite of Gloria, et al.

(“Comment” is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz’ column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Mr. Diaz is the recipient of a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Titus Brandsma for his “commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate.” You may e-mail your comments to *[email protected]*).

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