2022 PH Elections - Voices

[Newspoint] Our last chance

Vergel O. Santos
[Newspoint] Our last chance

David Castuciano

Do we get a chance to make it? We will know when we vote on May 9.

I read about a study warning that good governance alone could no longer relieve the plight of the world’s poor appreciably, but that a good deal of philanthropy would be required additionally. 

That was many years ago and, with my parochial perspective, I put it down to preemptive doomsaying meant to prick consciences before they became numb with avarice. 

We didn’t seem such a bad case as to be alarmed ourselves at the time; in fact, we were not only better off economically than most nations in our region, but more promising yet. In my own largely lower-middle-class barrio, no family went hungry – merienda was in fact no luxury. Anyone who needed or wanted to work found work. I was myself on my third job a mere few years from landing my first, as a 17-year-old dropout, and each time I had moved on for better pay and prospects. 

If Ferdinand Marcos had already begun plotting for Martial Law, poverty wouldn’t have been, thus, a credible excuse. Sure enough, when he finally decided to plunge us into it, in 1972, he used the old Red ruse – Duterte still uses it today. Anyway, by the time Marcos was done with us, we had become a fit in that doomsday forecast. Under him, we had neither good governance nor philanthropy but autocracy and plunder. And with successors like Joseph Estrada, Gloria Arroyo, and Rodrigo Duterte carrying on his legacy, we now find ourselves at an existential crossroads. Do we get a chance to make it? We will know when we vote on May 9. 

If the contention between the two candidates leading in the polls holds until the end, the right choice should be all too easy to make: Ferdinand Marcos Jr. possesses neither of the two essential qualities that make for a good leader – character and proven capability – while Leni Robredo not only possesses both qualities, but does so in amounts we have rarely seen.

By lineage alone, Marcos ought to be barred from public life. In fact, being a convicted tax evader, he should be barred period – and so should his mother, Imelda, herself convicted of graft, being the other half, not necessarily the better one, of the conjugal dictatorship that produced him. If he has managed to pass himself off as less than abominable, it’s by bribery and lying, standard tricks he uses to be seen as upright and well-schooled (he has been exposed as misrepresenting himself as a graduate of a prestigious Oxford school in the United Kingdom and of Wharton, in the United States).

If those tricks work still in his presidential campaign, they work on voters either too poor to afford to decline his bribe or trapped too desperately in poverty for too long to be able to see through his incredible promises of quick fixes. But the courts and executive agencies that have allowed him to walk free without paying his dues to society, indeed to run yet for the highest office of the land, have no excuse whatever. 

In any case, against Robredo, Marcos cannot rely solely on old tricks. To be sure, he has sent out his vicious troll army to flood cyberspace with all manner of disinformation about her. He even got Duterte to go public with patently false allegations linking her to the communist rebellion. Still she continues to gain on him, a further testament to the same quality about her as attracted bandwagons of following in her last previous run, in 2016: starting off behind everyone in the vice-presidential race, she overtook the consistent frontrunner toward the end – and that was Marcos himself.

Being from the opposition, Robredo, as vice president, has been marginalized by Duterte and starved of budget. But that didn’t stop her showing him up, and the difference shows starkly in every aspect of leadership.

Duterte’s regime is marked by treason, which has continued to benefit China in particular since he ceded to it control over our strategic and resource-rich western seas; by militarization and general high-handedness, by cronyism and corruption, and by a war on drugs that has notched up kills in the thousands, for which Duterte and some of his lieutenants are now the subject of investigation by the International Criminal Court.

Robredo’s leadership, on the other hand, is distinguished by empathy, particularly toward those living on the fringes (in her words, “mga nasa laylayan”), and by honesty and openness, which have consistently earned her perfect marks from government auditors. Exhibited with efficiency and energy, those qualities have inspired a sense of charity and volunteerism so widespread it has made up somehow for Duterte’s denial of the wherewithal she deserved.

Indeed, those qualities that make for the precise element that, if state leadership were to achieve any redemptive powers, should combine with good governance – philanthropy. And Leni Robredo, being its inspirer, stands as our one chance, if not our last. – Rappler.com

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