Wednesday, March 31, 2010

How's the Campaign Going?

Whenever I am invariably asked how the campaign is going, I first remind everyone I’m not simply part of a campaign but part of a mission to take our country back. I didn’t leave my medical practice in the US, my five young children including an infant whom I got to hold for just one day, my daily round of golf with my wife and cronies Dr. Paul and Dr. Todd for a traditional Philippine electoral campaign. I resolutely put my life on hold for a noble cause much, much bigger than all of us.

Yesterday, 5 of 12 Senate candidates choppered to Victoria, Oriental Mindoro where we spoke to an audience of 250 people. You need 15 million votes to win this kind of an election but we needed to make a point to everyone assembled that we were out to change a system, to reform heavily damaged institutions and perhaps to serve as an example to a couple of children in the audience, and let them remember 40, 50 years hence that one morning, 5 national candidates descended upon their village to tell them about hope.

Winning a Senate seat has never been my principal objective. Going around the Philippines with little sleep and rest, spreading a message of transformative, peaceful revolutionary change is a dream come true. This is my generation’s last chance. In 1978, Senator Noynoy Aquino’s father participated in an election he had no chance of winning. I would have placed my life on hold for that as well but I was only 15 years old. Nobody remembers the winners in that farcical exercise, but let it be known, a few continue to honor the gallant sacrifice of those 21 men and women: Ninoy Aquino, Jerry Barican, Alex Boncayao, Felicisimo Cabigao, Juan David, Jaime Ferrer, Neptali Gonzalez, Teofisto Guingona, Trinidad Herrera, Priming de Leon, Chito Lucero, Ernesto Maceda, Antonio Martinez, Ramon Mitra, Aquilino Pimentel, Charito Planas, Napoleon Rama, Alejandro Roces, Francisco “Soc” Rodrigo, Ernesto Rondon, Emmanuel Santos.

It will always be my honor to fight alongside Noynoy Aquino and Mar Roxas, Sonia Roco, Danny Lim, Neric Acosta, Alex Lacson, TG Guingona, Yasmin Lao, Ruffy Biazon, Risa Hontiveros, Ralph Recto, Frank Drilon.

Wherever this journey takes me, I know began in a noble manner.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Why Mar Roxas Leads All Surveys

It doesn't take a professional political analyst to explain why since the launch of his candidacy, Mar Roxas has led in all published and unpublished surveys without exception.

The reason is simple. Filipinos from all economic and educational strata recognize the qualities of mind and heart which anyone aspiring for public office must possess. In a word, character.

If you compare the viable vice presidential candidates with Mar Roxas, you see a stark contrast.

1. Loren Legarda is a talented woman with a great deal of energy. But her personal and political history shows that she is totally unprincipled. She turned her back on her Catholic faith and embraced Islam for a marriage of convenience. In the Senate she led the fight against President Erap, shed tears at his impeachment trial and then joined him as FPJ's vice president. Only months ago she denounced Senator Villar as a corrupt politician and is now running as his vice president. This is blatant opportunism.

2. Jejomar Binay has no moral credibility. He recalls the poverty of his boyhood, how he raised pigs in their backyard and poked for coins under the ashes of their burnt house. Now he is a multi-millionaire, which is impressive, except that he made his fortune while he and his family controlled the Makati local government. Hardly a sterling example of unselfish dedicated, service to the people.

3. Edu Manzano is a professional actor who opposes nothing and proposes nothing. He is shockingly unfamiliar with the nuances of public policy and relies chiefly on his movie star charm. It appears that in the campaign he himself is not convinced that he should be taken too seriously.

Then you have Mar Roxas. His credentials as a worthy candidate for the presidency are beyond question. Yet when faced with a crucial decision that would affect not only his future but the future of the Philippines, he distinguished himself. With a single act he demonstrated his core political beliefs- that personal aspirations must be subordinated to the needs of the nation,
that elective office no matter how high is not a business enterprise that must be gained at any price, and that an inordinate desire to win an election to public office by any means is by itself a moral disqualification to hold such an office.

This is what Mar Roxas showed the Filipino people when he gave way to Noynoy Aquino. He valued the nomination for the presidency, but not at the cost of a principle he valued even more: the opportunity to transform the political environment of our country and render authentic, effective, ethical service to the people he truly loves.

Filipino voters have seen this act of self sacrifice and partiotism and they have not forgotten. They have affirmed it in their positive response in every survey and it is not likely that they will soon forget.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Why I Can't Vote for Manny Villar

Our country is in critical condition. It’s been in bad shape for many years. Most Filipinos know what the problems are but we can’t seem to try a different approach, much like treating a febrile patient in a lot of pain with the same medications again and again.

Manny Villar can only continue the status quo. It is not within his nature to change his razor-sharp business instincts. He engineered his political power similar to the methodical, ruthless and unscrupulous manner he amassed his multi-billion peso fortune.

There is no doubt about his superior business acumen and he has been slickly packaged without regard to cost.

In the US, Villar would not have lasted the first primary because of the C-5 scandal. Public service is a sacrifice. It is neither a way to make a living nor accumulate a fortune. Since 1992, when Villar first became a Congressman, his wealth has geometrically progressed. This to my mind, is singular proof that he exploited his political power towards becoming the “Brown Taipan” he proudly calls himself today.

Politics is exceedingly personal in the Philippines. The most traditional of these politicians are thoughtful, generous, caring and friendly. I know of a city Councilor who has received small Christmas and birthday gifts without fail from Villar since she was elected in 2004. There is nothing illegal here, Villar supporters call this “doing homework” and it is commendable, under different circumstances.

If 100 Filipinos do not die from TB daily, or 18 babies do not die from infectious diarrhea every day, or our best teachers, doctors, nurses have not gone to other countries because of the chronic drought of opportunities, or there is no widespread hunger and demeaning poverty, or there is no systemic corruption that has sapped our moral character as a People, then Villar’s defense of the status quo would be acceptable and he should have every right to defend and continue this form of political culture.

But not like the US and other developed nations, where there is also corruption, Philippine society today is broken. Hardly anyone cares about the welfare of other Filipinos because most of us are on survival mode. It makes perfect sense to overthrow this transactional system prevailing in our country and replace it with an order that promotes justice and genuine compassion for the poorest and weakest Filipinos.

Unlike the Count of Monte Cristo or Simoun from El Filibusterismo however, who built their fortunes in other lands to force a day of reckoning, Villar attained everything he acquired from the blood, pain, sacrifice and loneliness of his fellow Filipinos without just a little help from the established political dispensation he has learned to master.

And this is why I cannot vote for Villar, for it is in his nature to continue and even strengthen the traditional patronage politics in our country that benefits the very few and mollifies the enfeebled masses with scrap and morsel.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Philippine General Hospital Controversy

The PGH Director controversy exemplifies what is wrong in our country. What should have been a simple matter of respecting the results of an election has been turned into political travesty once again. I’d like to think UP President Emerlinda Roman and CHED Chairman Angeles mean well but should they be reminded that they are answerable to the Filipino people and not to whoever appointed them?

Before the Board of Regents voted for the next PGH Director last December 18, 2009, a vote was taken to determine whether the Student Regent was qualified to participate. She was deemed qualified and the result favored Dr Jose Gonzales. Regent Abraham Sarmiento subsequently lodged a protest.

I have profound respect for Justice Sarmiento primarily because of the ultimate sacrifice his son Ditto willingly bestowed upon us fighting the corruption and cronyism during the Marcos dictatorship. We honor our Martyrs when we defend with all our might, their integrity and idealism.

Perhaps by coincidence, the battle cry of LABAN UPPGH was written by Ditto Sarmiento more than 30 years ago: Kung hindi tayo ang kikilos, sino ang kikilos? Kung hindi tayo ang kikibo, sino ang kikibo? Kung hindi ngayon, kailan pa?

I am bitterly disappointed with Dr. Roman. I expected more fairness and independence from her. Instead, she has acted just like all the other Gloria Arroyo appointees. She should resign.