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Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Lenten thoughts

The Lenten Season is a time when the Christian world grinds to a halt and confronts the recurring theme of the redemption of mankind through the bitter passion and death of Jesus Christ this Holy Week, and His glorious resurrection on Easter Sunday.  The story of the Passion and Resurrection impacts on us individually, as we reflect on our human sinfulness, but also on our faith in the boundless mercy of God’s redeeming love.  

In a very real way, the story of the Passion and Death of Christ and His glorious resurrection may be said to be reflected as well in the story of our people and nation, as we agonize through our various problems---in the everlasting hope that we would eventually triumph over them and see our country claim its rightful place among the developed nations.  

Gibo to run for the Senate?

Buddy Cunanan recently wrote in his Manila Times column that a “welcome news” is that former Lakas presidential candidate Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro may be seriously planning a run for the Senate in 2013. He said he heard of this rumor in a recent gathering of Gibo supporters. I agree that if true, Gibo’s planned Senate run would indeed be welcome news, for he will certainly enhance the caliber of the Senate---which is now in the doldrums due to the excess of noise over competence, form over substance.

Hordes of ‘Gibonians’ refuse to disband

Buddy also said that two things are going for Gibo. One, that as the ratings of President Noynoy Aquino are on a downward spiral (due to the vacuum in leadership), Gibo is beginning to be missed more and more as the guy who should have won the presidency in May 2010. Moreover, he said, what’s truly amazing is that despite the nearly one year since Gibo ended up a poor 4th in the presidential race, his hordes of supporters of college age and young professionals have refused to disband.
The latter observation is very true---the “Gibonians,” or “greenies,” as they call themselves, are as intact today as they were during the 2010 campaign, and it seems they have adopted various  advocacies just to stay together, such as protecting the environment and following the “hocus-PCOS” issue in various electoral protests. It is a phenomenon indeed, considering that their idol has not been heard from, and I doubt if he is truly in contact with them. Definitely these followers are not mercenaries out to milk what they can of their candidate.

Gibo still generates electricity in rare public appearance

To quote Buddy, Gilbert Teodoro has completely hibernated in the past year, perhaps still licking his political wounds. But another phenomenal thing in addition to his band of supporters staying intact, is Gibo’s continuing crowd appeal. I saw this for myself last January when Gibo walked into the Heritage funeral home on the last evening of the four-day wake for my late husband.  Of the myriad political personalities who showed up during the wake, it was he who attracted the most attention.
 Suddenly there was electricity in the huge hall as people---generals’ wives, middle-aged matrons, fathers of swooning teenagers and balikbayans---sauntered up to him and asked him to pose for photos with them.  Gibo was hesitant to engage the swooning crowd, telling me, “Ma’am, nakakahiya naman ki Sir,” pointing to my husband’s coffin.  I told him it was the people who were pulling him.  After a few minutes he  chose to disappear quietly out of embarrassment.

If not president, why not a great senator?

I quite agree that Gibo, a bar topnotcher, Dean’s awardee for academic excellence at the UP and a Harvard master’s degree graduate, should make a run for the Senate and concentrate on being a good, productive senator.  The presidency is a matter of destiny, and if it’s not in his stars to be president, he could still leave his mark as a good and even a great senator.  How many Filipinos ended up being just that---great senators. We can easily recall Jovito Salonga, Lorenzo Tanada, Claro M. Recto, Jose W. Diokno, Emmanuel Pelaez and many others---brilliant minds (some of them No. 1 in the bar exams too, like Gibo) who never made it to President, but whose names are seared into the annals of our history forever as great parliamentarians. 

 At this moment of our history, when there’s such a paucity of brains and vision in public service, we need all hands on deck. Gibo, who captivated intelligent voters during the campaign with his keen and deep grasp of the problems of the nation, should answer the summons to serve in the Senate.

Villar and Gordon would have been competent presidents

Actually, Noynoy Aquino was the least prepared of the presidential candidates in the last elections. Aside from Gibo Teodoro, who successfully ran the Department of National Defense that oversees the government's largest bureau, the Arned Forces, for nearly three years, Manny Villar and Richard Gordon would also have made competent presidents

Manny Villar has had vast experience as an entrepreneur and self-made real estate magnate, and his long congressional stint has been enhanced by his management skills in terms of the laws he had filed. Villar told me at an informal gathering some months back that despite his having financed an expensive presidential campaign, public offerings of his companies these days command better prices  than ever before, so that his business empire is in a healthy state once again. Queried why, he said with a grin that investors obviously believe he will have more time to run them now. A question of confidence, he said (the very element missing from the current administration---BOC).

On the other hand, Dick Gordon ran the town of Olongapo as its mayor pretty systematically and efficiently, and cleaned it up of its honky-tonk image to be a model in local government. He also successfully managed Subic Freeport in its most difficult adjustment period in the post-American era, climaxed by the landmark APEC Summit there in 1996.  Over the many years Gordon has also chaired the Philippine Red Cross. As senator he was effective and projected well. Dick would have made a decisive president for this country.

Noynoy targets OMG at commencement speeches

By contrast, Noynoy Aquino lived a charmed life characterized mainly by love of target-shooting and cars, and his three terms in the House and three years in the Senate were unremarkable, with his voice hardly heard on vital issues. Noynoy had never managed anything in his life, not even his own household, and suddenly, by dint of destiny and incredible image-building, he found himself the top manager for the nation. 


The struggle shows.  Now that he’s president, the most passionate idea he put forth as guest speaker in the commencement exercises of the two most significant educational institutions in this country, the UP and the Ateneo, was to rally the graduates to support his anti-Merci campaign. Oh yes, he also offered to teach government prosecutors how to handle a gun to protect themselves.  Unfortunately these gimmicks are not the elements of leadership needed for our times. No wonder everyone these days is jumping on the theme of the vacuum in leadership.

Disgruntled cab drivers

The nation is going through a most difficult era, when prices of basic commodities are going up and jobs are painfully needed but woefully inadequate. But there’s nothing in the horizon to give the people confidence that the government knows what it’s doing to help them cope with high prices and the lack of jobs. And as the Political and Economic Risk Consultants (PERC)'s recent survey showed, foreign investors would rather go to Burma and Cambodia than to the Philippines. Why? 


The indices of discontent are anecdotal, but that’s how they register. Sports columnist Recah Trinidad today wrote about having ridden in recently days in four taxis, and all the cabbies invariably grumbled about the situation today.  One day, while caught in traffic, I saw an able-bodied young man weaving through the stopped vehicles, peddling three small bottles of cold water in the stifling summer heat. It wrenched my heart as I thought of the pittance that that young man may be making from those three small bottles of water (doubtless consigned to him), whereas in another setting abroad he would likely have acquired the needed skills training and would be working in a factory, and earning so much more


P-Noy could help usher in the resurrection of our beloved land, but he has to do much more than what he's accustomed to do in his ersthwhile charmed life. The presidency is only for the tough of heart, mind and character.

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