The Next President We Want

By Dean de la Paz, originally posted at Philippine Online Chronicles/Blog Watch

Past is prelude and recent controversies compel us to extrapolate events well into 2016’s presidential derby, not so much because they might have a relevant bearing, but more because that is what occupies most of our idle Filipino time in front of the sari-sari store as we are perhaps the most rabidly political animal in this part of the world, attempting to solve the world’s problems over a case of beer albeit oftentimes ending such endeavor with nothing more than discourse.

From the trivial to the telling, we are political. Look at how divisive politics and feudal family ties entered the apolitical discussion on how to best respond to Typhoon Yolanda where a presidential wannabe quite stupidly infected relief efforts with partisanship. Does divisive and dysfunctional real politik have to be so intrusive that it is topmost in the mind of a 2016 wannabe?

Look also how partisan politics tarnished and criminalized Malacañang’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) where multi-millions were disbursed in the aftermath of the decidedly political impeachment of a public official.

By coinciding the release of a fiscal catch-up program with a political exercise and then having the disposition of multi-millions of public funds determined by salivating solons sitting as judges in the Corona impeachment trial, did not Benigno Aquino III wallow in the same stinking slime we thought he was not a part of?

Try as hard as we might, shedding as much of our persistently interfering political genes as we can, it is impossible to discuss the qualities we seek in the next president without somehow inadvertently factoring-in the two obvious front runners who linger in our cranial corners.

The dominant Liberal Party (LP) hierarchy has declared prematurely that their front runner is their erstwhile losing vice presidential candidate in 2010 and now current secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Governments (DILG).

Arrayed against the LP bet, also as a result of the 2010 campaign, is the winner of the vice presidential contest and a long-time fiercely loyal friend and defender of the late Corazon Aquino. Such quality is important. Corazon Aquino’s omnipresent  spirit in 2010 was a singularly effective driving force so potent that, lest he lose complete party support, it effectively led to Mar Roxas’s junking as a presidential standard bearer.

Vice President Jejomar Binay, running then under the PDP-Laban banner, was a dark horse, but the unlucky Roxas seemed grossly myopic and miscalculated.

Where the Corazon Aquino factor was profoundly a potent catalyst in 2010, Binay’s credibility was not only invariably linked to Tita Cory’s presidential survival during her presidency, but, perhaps more important, Binay, the ever faithful friend of the late Tita Cory and Ninoy Aquino, and not Roxas, was the Aquino family’s choice as the more competent vice president for Noynoy Aquino.

Where Aquino’s might be a fragile presidency victimized by inexperience and more, Binay was seen, as not only a profoundly competent and proven administrator, but one who would protect Aquino as fiercely as he did Tita Cory.

The choice to junk and change racing steeds at the much larger LP hierarchy made sense. Roxas was determined by the LP gamesmen as un-winnable and thus un-acceptable to replace Gloria Arroyo whom he served before he flipped over, turned turncoat and quickly abandoned her floundering ship at the first sign of trouble.

Roxas consistently ranked fifth outside the winner’s circle. Never mind that a fluid and motley menagerie of wannabes played musical chairs and inter-changed ranks from first to fourth in the surveys before Aquino sprung from nowhere prodded by handlers.

Try as we might, historical and present-day realities will be factors.

It is tempting to divine what we want against what we have. The next president we want succeeds the president we have. Incumbent and successor will always be coefficients. The voting public has always been reactionary even where it imagined it voted on the basis of principles. Even where we want principles to overwhelm, realities are what we address, whether we currently benefit from the present or are afflicted with it.

Look at our history of constant compromise as we would, without fail, quickly shed  our complex ideal and subsequently surrender and settle for the simple if not simplistic “puwede na”.

In 1986, we rallied behind Cory Aquino, the housewife, in a polarized morality play because she was seen as the exact opposite of Ferdinand Marcos, the inveterate political gamer. As we would reprise in 2010, we junked Salvador Laurel, a seasoned politician, perhaps because he was not “winnable”.

To succeed Cory Aquino we chose Fidel Ramos not so much for his empowerment platform which many don’t remember but more for his persona where he exuded professional competence and drive. More important, Ramos was an achiever. Our criteria then, borne from knee-jerk reactions from Cory Aquino’s administration, were simple. We wanted unqualified and uncompromising competence. During Ramos’s term, the economy poised for a take-off alongside the emerging dragon economies of the region.

Politically immature, the Filipino constituency does not separate personalities from personas, and together those, from political ideals. Down the social pyramid, the failure to make distinctions and discern worsens. As Ramos’s term ended, and as we sat comfortably assured of a stable economy, we decided to stupidly gamble our gains. We next wanted the president who many of us had dreamt of, whether in our waking hours transfixed as most of us usually are on the boob tube or larger-than-life silver screen, or in deep sojourn, sleep, siesta and slumber.

Both are respite moments when the brain lulls and yields to unthinking fantasy.

Enamored with movie stars and star struck, we gave Joseph Estrada one of the largest mandates ever vested on a president. We wanted a jeepney driver turned hero. We wanted an endearing lovable rogue who would sacrifice himself for the greater poor. We wanted someone who personified everything machismo and ideal, unable as we were to differentiate suspended reality from dark reality.

After rudely awakening from that dream (or nightmare) we conjured from celluloid imagery, we next wanted competence and a firmly-educated lettered and pedigreed president who, this time, would be a rabid workaholic if nothing else. We did not know then that with those came the controversial “lying, stealing and cheating” presidential model that would infect the office far longer period than did a previous 20-year dictatorship.

Note how, in defining our wants in a president we continually ride the intellectual roller coaster, peaking with ideal thesis, and falling to diametric antithesis, as each we vest power on is vested on the basis of unthinking reactionary impulse. As in a roller coaster, the velocity needed to rise to a peak is the speed and force generated by an immediate fall. Ideals do not enter the equation. Hardly, if ever. Benigno Aquino III is, in many ways, the antithesis of Gloria Arroyo, who was the antithesis of Estrada, the antithesis of Ramos.

The manic-depressive cycle is indeed vicious.

By 2016, given our cycle of wants and the inclusive economic growth that persistently escapes us, as the antithesis of Aquino, we will perhaps be desperate for a president with proven and undeniable administrative competence, a non-inept non-bungler who genuinely cares, is not given to bipolar mood-swings, laziness or self-inflated egos, false imagery and publicity stunts, divisive politics and clandestine subterfuge.

Between the front runners today, pray tell, who might he be?


Dean dela Paz is an investment banker. He is a consultant in the fields of finance and banking and has packaged some of the most prolific public offerings in the Exchanges. He is a member of the Executive Committee and sits in the Board of one of the oldest financial institutions in the country. He is likewise an energy consultant having served on the Boards of several foreign-owned independent power producers and as CEO of a local energy provider.

He is currently the Program Director for Finance in a UK-based educational institution where he also teaches Finance, Business Policy and Strategic Management. A business columnist for the last fifteen years, he first wrote for BusinessWorld under the late-Raul Locsin and then as a regular columnist for the Business Mirror and GMANews TV. He also co-authored a book and policy paper on energy toolkits for a Washington- based non-government organization. He likewise co-authored and edited a book on management.


Photo by Noemi Lardizabal-Dado. Some rights reserved.