Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 13 February 2016


The subject of this column has to be the opening salvos of three presidential candidates in the rallies marking the start of the “official” campaign period. And this columnist has a lot to say about them.

First, and the biggest shocker of all, at least as far as I am concerned, is the fact that Grace Poe had to read her campaign speech. No, she didn’t have the paper in front of her—nothing as obvious as that. But she did use a teleprompter, or whatever you call those things that presidents use in delivering their State of the Nation Address in Congress.

You can see it in the YouTube version that I caught, and if you didn’t see the teleprompter itself (get the hint from one viewer, who says it comes into view in the 11th second of the video), you can tell immediately from the fact that she always looks to her left, in precisely the same direction, when she delivers her speech.

So what’s wrong with that? If presidents can do it, so can she, right? But that’s just it. She isn’t even president yet, and she is already depending on someone else’s thoughts and writings to get her through. What does this say about her presidency, if she wins? That she will only be a mouthpiece, because she doesn’t have an original thought in her head? Why then should anybody vote for her?

Perhaps I am being too harsh. Maybe she did write the speech herself, but she was just too nervous, and needed the teleprompter as a security blanket. But that doesn’t hold water. She was a teacher (kindergarten or elementary), and as such she has to break her thoughts into bite-size pieces for the benefit of her students, so she knows what has to be done to deliver a message.

Not that her message was in any way complicated, as a matter of fact. The usual drama about her birth. No substance. But there was a lot of show biz about it (shadow plays, Susan Poe on film, introducing her daughter). Surely she should have tried harder, and surely she could have committed it to memory?

In any case, this incident only gives support to the assertion making the rounds: that a vote for Poe is really a vote for her vice president, who will be running the show. Oh, boy.

* * *

Now, for Rodrigo Duterte, but not in Tondo. He had a folksy approach, and very earthy, and the crowd truly loved it, and roared every time he cursed. But he put his foot in his mouth (again!) when he was in Tarlac campaigning. What did he say? That barring the dictatorship, Ferdinand Marcos was the best president there was. Ever. Then he spoiled it all by citing Marcos’ “achievements,” specifically the “Masagana 99” and “Biyayang Dagat” programs for farmers and fishers, respectively.

Come again? These two programs were started during the Marcos dictatorship, Mr. Duterte. And were successful for a short period of time—but were ultimately not sustainable, for many reasons. One of the reasons was corruption, meaning everybody and his brother were dipping into the pot, and to hell with the farmers and fishers.

Another reason was maybe the very short attention span of the dictator, who had other things in mind, which meant more money for him.

Perhaps, what Mr. Duterte was really referring to was the Rice and Roads program that Marcos started during his first term (legitimate), with Paeng Salas as its implementor. That program was successful; that’s what got Marcos reelected (the first time Filipinos ever reelected a sitting president). But his dreams of a dictatorship got in the way.

In other words, if only, Mr. Duterte wishes, Marcos didn’t want to stay longer than the eight years he was given. But gee, Mr. Duterte, that didn’t happen. And because Marcos stayed longer than the people wanted him to stay (13 years more, actually), sh-t happened. The country went into debt crisis (caused by greed and corruption) in 1983, and it took the Filipino people more than 17 years to overcome that Marcos-caused situation. Only in 2000 did the Filipino people gain the real per capita income levels they enjoyed before the 1983 crisis. Plus, this kapit-tuko habit of his had several other impacts, all negative.

Are you willing to overlook that, Mr. Duterte? And more important, will the Filipino people overlook your overlooking?

* * *

Then there is Jojo Binay. If Poe has her foundling handle so Filipinos can sympathize, Binay has his Nognog handle, which he helpfully defined, in his kick-off speech, as “bansot na, negro pa” (not only short, dark-skinned even).

Now understand, Reader, Binay read his speech, just as Poe read hers. But Binay did it openly. Besides, it was a very long speech, which could not be said of Poe’s. Also, Binay is 73 years old, and is subject to a failing memory.

Binay’s speech was the best of the three, at least as far as outlining what his specific plans were. But by being very specific, he also revealed how he intends to win the presidency: by promising just about everything and anything to the people. Examples: He will remove the income tax on employees who make P30,000 or less a month or P360,000 a year. Then, not worried about the loss in revenue, he promised a P65 billion increase in expenses to defray the costs of uniforms and books for
every school child in the Philippines. Plus, he promised three full meals a day for every Filipino family. And that’s just for starters.

He also showed his dream world (the world according to Binay): He claimed that it was HE who made Makati the city that it is. And that what he did for Makati, he can do for the Philippines. When will the Makati Business Club expose him for what he is?