Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Why Senator?

Because I think change needs to begin from the top. Because the agenda of cleaning-up politics is a national one. Because the Senate is a deliberative body that should keep an eye on the President and this requires individuals with integrity who possess a philosophy resulting from long years of study of economics, history, culture and the sciences. Because the longer you stay in Philippine politics, the surer the chance that you become as corrupt as everyone else (it would be the height of hubris to proclaim immunity from temptation).

Monday, February 26, 2007

Most Frequent Question

We were "launched" as candidates by the party yesterday. The historic ballroom of the Club Filipino was jampacked and banners bearing our names and visages adorned the large hall. There was a press conference that followed and the most frequent question concerned our being "unwinnables". I re-framed the question in this manner: if after heavy discernment and you are convinced that you have something to offer your country but you are intimidated by the 200 million peso traditional politics "entry fee"; afraid that your votes will not be counted; certain that the people will go for the popular celebrities and then decide to remain on the sidelines, then you will have proven yourself "unwinnable" without even trying.

"Unwinnable" is a product of mediagenesis that is harmful to a nation's politics. It is harmful to a nation's politics because it discourages many potential philosopher-thinker-leaders from entering into the fray of "franchise politics" and it is also harmful because the ruling administration will play it safe most of the time by promoting celebrity-lightweights over serious nationalists.

Personally I will try my very best to get one vote at a time for as long as it is legally permitted. I long ago refused to allow these same political actors from speaking for me. Collectively, they have done enough damage. To sit-out of this terrible mess and instead focus on steadily reducing my golf handicap is no longer an option. From an electoral viewpoint, I may be "unwinnable" but I would not want to lose on infinitely more important principles.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Why Politics?

I did the math. If I saw 100 new patients every single day (and this is not a realistic number) I would see 720,000 patients in 20 years of non-stop practice. In 20 years, the Philippine population would be about 120 million people so I would have seen .16%.

I saw Hillary Clinton in New York in 1993. It was the most impressive sight I had seen. Here was a politician's wife who had the potential to influence healthcare delivery in the US more than the combined forces of the American Medical Association. This validated my belief that when it came to doing good for the most number of people there was no other proven way than through political action.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Nothing New

I am frequently asked if I have some secret economic formula that will propel our country to First World status. I tell them that many people in the past have thought about ways to improve upon our human condition (from Aristotle, Buddha, Jesus, Adam Smith, Marx, Gandhi and so on), the formula is out there; what is required is implementation.

Implementation however will require credible leadership. I have no doubt in my mind that GMA and most other leaders today have our country's interests at heart. I do not question their love for our country. The problem is they have committed some serious missteps in their long years in power that have rendered them ineffective. We urgently need credible leadership that will inspire and unite us to work together for our country.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Our Country is Beautiful

I have been traveling about the country for almost a year already and I know this campaign period will only get me to even more places. I'd like to think that I've been around. I've seen many things. But try meeting Filipinos and you immediately feel genuine human warmth that in all my years abroad I only occasionally experienced. Part of this may be because I am in my own country but for this cause alone, to help unite everybody to pause and take stock and finally to work towards redeeming this very beautiful country of ours, I am willing to stake all my material possessions and devote my youthful energy.

Having cared for many terminally ill patients in the most developed nation in our planet made me understand that when our short time on earth is over, what will matter is not the amount of material goods we accumulated but rather how we were able to serve other people.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Old School Party

One of the four horsemen, Mario Ongkiko the most senior member of the team withdrew today due to health reasons. Despite our assurances that he could leave the rigors of the campaign to us, he told us that it wouldn't be honorable to mislead the voters. He even refused to hold his withdrawal until a substitute could be found, never mind that this was a perfectly legal move.

Ang Kapatiran at first glance will leave most everyone the initial impression that it is a group of stubborn and narrow-minded, ultra conservative, "old school" senior citizens with a reactionary agenda. It is strongly Pro-God, anti-violence and anti-dishonesty. Describing the current leaders of the Party as "uncompromising" will be putting it in mild terms. I confess that I (one of the very few liberal Democrats in Oklahoma) have had some concerns about a number of positions that the Party has espoused but I accept the validity of the saying "the devil is wise because he is old". These are people with far greater experience who have in a sense seen it all. So whenever we discuss the platform I always bear in mind that I must always respect the seniority that they possess. This respect never fails to cast a calming effect on my youthful exuberance. So while I put on record that I agree without any reservations with all the core principles of the Party, I have some slight differences with a few "non-deal-breaker" issues.

I think that it is better to aspire for a perfect world rather than remain content in patching up our imperfect house.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Radio Interview

Adrian and I were interviewed by Mike Enriquez, a very popular radio personality this morning. Before reporting to the studio, I read a newspaper article quoting another senatorial candidate who estimated that it would take $4 million just to "play" in this election. This amount was coming from a candidate who was already being aggressively supported by the administration. I don't think it will require a lot of deep thinking to determine how these politicians plan to recoup their "investments". Everywhere I go, I get asked if I know what kind of a morass I am getting into. I always reply that as long as we ordinary Filipinos do not work together and change the system ourselves, we should not expect these "pros" to disturb what to them is an exceedingly beneficial set-up.

During a moment of levity, Mike asked when I was scheduled to see a psychiatrist. Not an entirely humorous question because any which way you look at it you will ask why a successful gastroenterologist in the US who has never been sued in a medical malpractice case (the interviewer asked if I was running from something) with his pulmonologist wife will bring their 4 US-born daughters back to a 3rd world nation where hunger, corruption and mayhem continue on a daily basis. Right now I am still searching for more answers: That if we don't actively resist then we have no business to complain and whine; that to those whom much is given much is expected in return; that I am personally responsible for my countrymen; that I have prepared myself painstakingly and will do a better job; that my motives are clean and hence I will not fail.

I may just show up for the 2 pm appointment.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Constitution

With all the talk going on about amending or even changing the constitution, I wonder how many people have read this document in its entirety? I just finished reading the whole deal, all 18 Articles and I must say that it is a well-written document that deals with among other things accountability of public officers, social justice and human rights, agrarian reform, urban land reform and housing, people's organizations. It is a terrific document. Sure there is room for improvement but to call for another expensive constitutional convention is clearly an overkill.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


I have always rooted for the underdog all my life perhaps because I have always been the underdog--heir to no great wealth, no grand political dynasty. With that preface, you will understand why it does not bother me at all to visit marketplaces alone and distribute strips of thin and austere paper (the spare and simple quality does justice to the description "paperthin") with my name and the names of my partymates printed. My only other equipment is my cell phone that is pre-paid.

People ask me if I know what my chances are and I tell them all that no amount of money, no amount of advertising, no amount of endorsements will stop an idea whose time has come. Every Filipino has got to be tired of all this traditional politics. The situation would be totally different if we were a more prosperous nation and people were not dying from being unable to purchase simple medications, or people were not being killed because of their social conscience, or hunger would only be experienced by citizens on a voluntary diet, or our educational system worked to produce competitive and motivated graduates. But a resounding no--things can certainly get much better for this country. Our national brand of traditional politics is clearly inimical to the interests of the people.

In our highly politicized society, another frequent question is whether our party is "administration" or "opposition" or even "third force". I tell all of them that we have faith in the power of the moral force of our convictions.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Miracles Begin

On the eve of the beginning of the campaign period, I receive a text message from a friend from high school asking if I wanted to guest in a TV morning show. Telling her that we had no advertising budget she assures me that she worked at NBN, a government station that broadcast throughout the Philippines and was fed via cable to the US, Australia, Middle East and Europe.

So at 7:30 am, when the major roads of Metro Manila were suddenly studded with promotional campaign materials from the well-financed candidates, I found myself in the studio where 33 years earlier I had worked in an educational tv show for kids. It was still the NMPC then (National Media Production Center) and the show was "Ano 'Yon?". Our director was Gil Portes, writer Tony Perez, talents included Laurice Guillen, Leo Rialp. The show went on for about a year and through this little adventure, I managed to play a tiny role as the young Jay Ilagan in Lino Brocka's "Tatlo, Dalawa, Isa" a trilogy that was screened at the Cannes Film Festival. So much for my acting career then lest I be accused of "celebrity politics".

My friend Veronica Baluyut-Jimenez whom I had not seen in 25 years was so warm and kind and put me to ease. All those years I spent becoming a doctor, she spent becoming an accomplished TV personality. She was purely professional and I was glad for her success. The interview went well according to my mother who ordered everyone in the house to watch the 10 minute spot.

Next I made further inquiries regarding election leaflets and cards because I wanted to start visiting marketplaces and leave everyone I encountered with a card bearing my name and the names of the other candidates. If this miracle does happen, remember always that I began by writing down those names by hand and walking to a fruit stand and asked for votes. Can't have a humbler start than that.

The Inquirer was gracious enough to give us an interview in the afternoon. All 4 candidates were present and we spent time discussing issues, the most pressing of which was the lack of traditional campaign tools (guns, goons, gold) that the perceptive reporter quickly picked up.

I went to bed early. Here I was, tired and deeply involved in a national election with meager resources but relying on the prayers of many for a miracle.....I just might enjoy this.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Day 2

Today our slate was completed. Mario Ongkiko at age 76 decided to join the ticket. He agreed with Ang Kapatiran founder Nandy Pacheco that since the problems our country face today where cooked during their time, it was only right for the elderly to take an active role in helping solve the mess. Tomorrow is the first day of the campaign.

So it's O Para Sa Bayan! (Ongkiko-Paredes-Sison-Bautista). This early, some people are already branding us "unwinnable" but this is precisely the attitude we seek to reform because only the people ultimately decide who the "unwinnable" candidates are. These many cynical political operators and pundits don't have any power. The people do. It is not that I have so much confidence that I am rolling up my pants and entering this mud pool. It is because I have confidence in the Filipino people that they will finally awaken and cast their enlightened votes. We have underestimated them for too long.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Day 1

First full day as a declared candidate but unable to campaign because the start of the campaign period is still 2 days from now. I emailed my classmates and friends and asked for their prayers and support. I called a couple of printing presses and inquired about the production of election materials. I spoke to advertising executives and I spoke to party staffers. Usually, in a national campaign, the candidates are only told where to go and what audience to expect. This early, I am having to do everything by myself. I am accustomed to hardship and this does not bother me. I am starting small and inauspicious: there is nowhere to go but higher. What got me to pause was when my 6 year old daughter, calling long distance told me she threw a coin in the fountain this afternoon and she wished that I would be home in Bacolod tomorrow

Saturday, February 10, 2007

I Have Declared

This morning, my brother drove me to the Commission on Elections Office and I filed my certificate of candidacy for the Philippine Senate under the banner of the Ang Kapatiran Party (Alliance for the Common Good) with my running mates Jess Paredes and Adrian Sison. It felt as if a boulder was lifted off my chest.

Ang Kapatiran is a different party in that principles and platform come before candidates. The Party has clear and specific objectives that enhances the common good. It promotes the politics of virtue, public accountability and duty. I agree with the priorities of the Party: moral principles over political expediency; needs of the poor over the interests of the rich and powerful; common good over special interests; life and peace over death and violence.

I cannot help but grudgingly admire all these professional politicians because the decision to join the race was the most difficult one I have yet made. In my own case, the decision was so much tougher because of my young children and my almost-perfect life at the moment. In the end, I chose to declare, after I accepted the reality that I was going to do this for myself, as my way of sanctifying my selfish life.

Again and again I have stated that the odds are particularly long and I ask for your prayers because in so many ways this mission will require a miracle. Not to get elected, that would be a secondary gain, but to enlighten as many of my countrymen that all is not lost if only we realize that we the ordinary citizens hold the real power to change our nation.

Martin D Bautista

Friday, February 9, 2007

In the Arena

Somewhere in this blog is a quote from Teddy Roosevelt about the special qualities needed for a person to slug it out in the political arena. I have a lot of admiration for all these politicos who seem to thrive in all the patronage, corruption, deceit, immoral compromises that characterizes our political environment. I have been unable to sleep well over the past 3 weeks just thinking about what I may just plunge into. I don't think I ever pondered anything as serious as this in my 18 year medical practice. Pondering is too easy, agonizing would be more appropriate. There have been many times when I would just tell myself that it was not yet the right time and my daughters were still too young and my golf handicap needed to go down a little bit more...I have even asked my wife on a number of occasions to command me to drop everything (which she of course never did because she thinks that I will only be miserable in thinking about the what ifs). This is one part of the journey that I need to do on my own because she will have to care for our kids in Bacolod, a very radical departure from our close, daily association in our 17 years of medical practice.

The odds are soooooooooo long and there have been times when I have felt bereft thinking about the political heavyweights arrayed in front of me. They have so much more money and resources, so many more connections, so much more experience in this kind of activity. What is a gastroenterologist doing here?

Probably because the stakes have never been higher and if we don't move and we don't do anything and we don't speak up, who will? Tomorrow will be a very important day. Stay tuned for the next post.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Pork Barrel

Just like in the US, our representatives also are allotted their very own barrels to use in whatever way that they see fit. Big difference is the utter lack of accountability. Politicians looking forward to an election need to give back a little bit more to their constituents lest they be accused of selfishness. This is the season when vacation-home-building and international junkets are momentarily put on hold. Pork barrel figures prominently among the reasons why politics has become a means to making a livelihood.

But will abolishing the pork barrel solve the problem? Certainly not. It will simply join the long list of widely publicized, painless and short-sighted solutions that don't directly address the problem. Most of the funds come from the significant remittances from our toiling citizens abroad. There is also a new source in the 12% Value Added Tax. When you stop disbursing funds to lawmakers (who really have no business dictating where the next bridge will be built, where the next school will be constructed, where the local health center will be located....) who will the recipient be? Will the money stay with the President? How are we assured that the President will act as a responsible steward for all the excess cash that is literally from the blood of millions of sacrificing Filipinos?

This is why long lasting reform will need to go deeper than mere administrative changes. Our leaders need to do a lot of serious prayerful reflection and find their way back to their original noble goals. We all need to return to the principle of "first things first". Poltics of virtue and politics of duty. The dignity and the development of each person must be the single most important priority of the State.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Philippine Politics

Ten years ago, the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines issued this statement:

"Philippine politics--the way it is practiced--has been most hurtful to us as a people. It is possibly the biggest bane in our life as a nation and the most pernicious obstacle to our achieving full development...If we are what we are today--a nation with a great number of poor and powerless people--one reason is the way we have allowed politics to be debased and prostituted to the low level it is now."
Since then millions of Filipinos have left the country in search of a better life, not necessarily an easier one. Since this exhortation, we have driven away one president and have beleaguered his successor with charges of corruption and dishonesty. It would be fair to state that the situation has taken a turn for the worse.

We can do something about this. Since these problems are as a result of our many limitations, we can work together as a nation to remedy the seemingly insurmountable problems that have turned many of our people into cynical and apathetic citizens.

First we need to find the root of the problem. John Paul II identified them as the "Idols of today". These are materialism and selfishness and their consequences: violence, corruption, hedonism. Benedict XVI added the "dictatorship of relativism" which leaves every individual to determine whatever value system that best suits him or her.

We need to accept that we are part of the problem.

We each need to undergo a personal revolution and permanently reform for the better.

Finally we need to take positive action.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Against the Odds

Buckminster Fuller said: "You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."

Recent estimates by political pundits placed the possible cost of a Senatorial bid at PhP 150 million ($3 million). This would include tv and radio spots, print ads, "sample ballots", election gimmicks, "watcher fees" at $20 a day for 3 days multiplied by 150 thousand precincts if you want your votes counted and guarded against alterations, etc. Truly an awe-inspiring circus given that 40% live in poverty and people continue to die each day from complications arising from the inability to purchase hypertension and diabetes medications and inexpensive antibiotics.

We must not allow all these traditionals to frame yet again this coming electoral exercise according to their specs. We must begin somewhere. We must have faith in God and we need to stop treating the majority of the voters as idiots. I don't think anybody will disagree with me when I state that our country desperately needs us all to change.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

The Struggle Ahead

Frederick Douglass, the "Lion of Anacostia" who was born a slave and became a fervent abolitionist was accused in his time of being too cozy with the white oppressors. He understood that to become an effective political voice, he needed to make some concessions but he was always conscious of the long, difficult struggle that would demand great sacrifice in order to accomplish great works: "If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will."

Friday, February 2, 2007

11 Martyrs

I spent 12 of my early and formative years at the Ateneo De Manila, a Jesuit school. 8 of those years was at a time when we felt the full force of Martial Law. Contrary to current popular thinking, there were many heroes who resisted (debunking the saying at that time that the Philippines was composed of 40 million cowards and a son of a bitch). As the article states, during those dangerous years, even our Jesuit mentors could not fully grasp the heroism of these 11. The Jesuits were teaching us to become "men for others" not realizing that practically right beside them were former students showing us how to live that lesson.

Ateneo’s 11
By Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

Human Face

That is what we are about .… It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning …. We are prophets of a future that is not our own.—Martyred El Salvador Archbishop Oscar Romero (1917-1980)

IN REVERSE ALPHABETICAL ORDER: MANNY Yap (1951-1976), Nick Solana Jr. (1949-75), Lazzie Silva (1952-75), Ditto Sarmiento (1950-77), Dante Perez (1951-72), Eman Lacaba (1948-78), Edgar Jopson (1948-82), Sonny Hizon (1952-74), Jun Celestial (1950-74), Billy Begg (1959-75), Ferdie Arceo (1952-73).

All so young and so committed. Will there be another generation like theirs? (Yes, like ours, if I may interrupt and interject.) Will there be another call such as they had heard, will there be another harvest such as this special crop?

The book “Living and Dying: In Memory of 11 Ateneo de Manila Martial Law Activists” by Cristina Jayme Montiel tells the story of these young men’s individual lives and deaths. It is about the process of their becoming, their journey into the wilderness, and the final shedding and pouring out of their substance—so that others may live abundantly. Their dying was not only a physical one, it was, and more importantly, a dying to self even while they were alive.

Yap who disappeared in 1976 remains missing to this day. Sarmiento, a campus journalist and activist, died at home after suffering in military detention. The nine others died from bullet and torture wounds in the hands of their military pursuers or captors, separately and at different times, far from home, in remote places the faint of heart would fear to tread.

As the poet Lacaba had written:

The road less traveled by we’ve taken—/And that has made all the difference:/The barefoot army of the wilderness/We should be in time. Awakened, the masses are Messiah,/Here among the workers and peasants our lost/Generation has found its true, its only home.

Captured alive, Lacaba was shot twice—in the mouth and the chest—and tied by the ankles then dragged to a mass grave. Arceo was shot on a seaside in Iloilo. Begg, born an American but who chose Filipino citizenship, met a brutal death in Isabela.

Writes Montiel: “Bill was captured alive. Before killing him, however, the soldiers mercilessly tortured him, leaving him with 17 stab wounds, 11 gunshot wounds, a broken rib cage and smashed hands. The day Bill died marked his third month in the Isabela area, a short five months after he joined the struggle in the countryside. He was 24.”

But it has to be stressed that while the moment of death may look dramatic and climactic, it was the trajectory of their lives that provided the substance. This was reflected by the choices they made early on. This was distilled in their thoughts, ideas and ideals (as gleaned from their letters, poems, journals and from the recollection of family, friends and comrades) and, most of all, in the way they lived.

All 11 stories move in almost parallel ways, chronologically, that is, from birth to death. But as a story progresses, one gets tempted to jump pages to get to the heart of things and on to the climax. The uniform, predictable progression makes the stories easy to follow and allows the reader to compare the stories. This must have been deliberate on the part of the writer.

Still I wish the writer had provided some surprise beginnings, rapturous peaks or throat-grabbing denouements at the most unexpected places. Well, simply because the subjects’ lives must have been full of cinematic if not dramatic twists and turns. The setting was the worst of times, remember.

But this is not to say that the life stories are bland. They are not. And credit must indeed go to Montiel, professor of Peace/Political Psychology, who bravely embarked on the project. Montiel is coordinator of the doctoral program in Social Organizational Psychology at the Ateneo.

I use the word “bravely” because for Montiel, a known activist during the martial law years, writing the stories meant wading into a difficult past. “I cannot separate myself from this book,” Montiel says, “not only because of past personal friendships shared with two of the featured activists, Edjop and Dante, but also because of land mines in my heart that come alive whenever I remember martial law days.” At the time she wrote the book, Montiel was just recovering from a long string of both painful and healing experiences. Yes, she bravely enumerates them.

“I was afraid that old psychological and political scripts in the shadows of my heart still battered by martial law would take on life again. Hence I could not go too near the fire, afraid of ignition. I apologize if these 11 stories may lack the personal or political intensity so befitting martial law lives and deaths.”

Yes, Tina, I understand and appreciate.

“Living and Dying” is the second in a series of “truth-telling” book projects of the Ateneo. (The first is “Down from the Hill.”) And so Montiel so rightly “truth-tells” and takes on this Jesuit institution by pointing out in the stories how several of the Ateneo 11 had been sanctioned, even unceremoniously dismissed, because of their ideological causes.

Well, that is why the book launching was also called a “coming-home ritual,” with families of the martyred alumni coming home on behalf of their departed sons, praying and lighting candles with kindred spirits, singing songs and sharing precious memorabilia.

All 10 names, except that of Solana Jr. (data still lacking), are inscribed on the memorial wall of Bantayog ng mga Bayani. But somewhere on Sacred Heart Hill, near the Church of the Iesu in the Ateneo campus, is a marker shaped like an eternal flame. It is in memory of these special young men who gave all. Ad majorem Dei gloriam.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

No One is Without Sin

Addressing some 6,000 people in Paul VI Hall, the Holy Father dedicated his weekly address to focus on three of St. Paul's closest collaborators: Barnabas, Silas and Apollos.

The Pontiff explained that on occasions Paul had confrontations with them, at least with Barnabas, because of differences of opinion on specific questions.

"Hence, also among saints there are oppositions, discords and controversies And this is very consoling for me, as we see that the saints have not 'fallen from heaven,'" the Holy Father said.

"They are men like us, with complicated problems. Holiness does not consist in not making mistakes or never sinning," Benedict XVI continued. "Holiness grows with the capacity for conversion, repentance, willingness to begin again, and above all with the capacity for reconciliation and forgiveness.

"And we can all learn this way of holiness."

from Zenit