Saturday, January 17, 2009

Supreme Court Chief Justice Puno as Philippine President?

Thank God he nixed it.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno turned down an offer to be a Presidential Candidate in 2010 and said that he would be content to be the catalyst for the creation of a "moral force" movement to help solve the country's problems rather than seek the presidency in next year’s elections.

Yesterday, Senator Panfilo Lacson was on DZMM saying that he would gladly step aside and abandon any Presidential ambition he had if Puno would run for the Presidency in 2010.

Puno, thanked Lacson for his endorsement but said:

"I don't want to be pretentious. I will be happy if I will just be a catalyst of this movement. I am willing to be one of the foot soldiers. But perhaps it may not be appropriate to take leadership while I am in the government acting as Chief Justice."

Fine, except for his use of the word 'pretentious' instead of the more correct 'presumptious'.

Nevertheless, what he said may be indicative of the Supreme Court Chief Justice's view of what will be best for the national interest. Perhaps he knows that it takes more than morality to lead a country as morality can always be questioned. Also, if you want strict morality in government, you'd be in the same basket as Islamic fundamentalist states -- think Afghanistan before the US invasion.

Perhaps, also, he saw through the political gimmick pawned and pumped through the media by Senator Lacson. After all, it was Lacson who donned the image of Mr. Clean when he ran against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo after refusing to relinquish his Presidential bid in favor of supporting actor Fernando Poe Jr. The ploy (if it is a ploy) would have been aimed at making people remember what Lacson stands for -- anti-corruption, an end to criminality, etcetera.

This comes at the beginning of the year before the 2010 elections when Presidential Candidates (declared and undeclared) are now all trying to place themselves in the minds of people.

If the SWS survey results on choices for Presidential Candidates are to be believed, Lacson is fifth (with 14 percent drafting him as they choice for President) from pole position which is currently owned by Vice President Noli De Castro. Coming in second and third were Senators Loren Legarda and Manny Villar with 28 percent and 27 percent, respectively, followed by Senators Francis Escudero (19 percent), former President Joseph Estrada (11 percent), and Sen. Mar Roxas (10 percent).

Going back to Puno and the idea of a moral Presidency, Cory Aquino was the moral choice in governance, but the years that followed her rise to power proved that mere morality will not cure all that ails our government. It takes so much more.

We've had moral choices offered to us too in the 2004 elections. When Lacson ran in 2004, there were other moral choices including Raul Roco and Eddie Villanueva. The immoral choice was Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the popular choice was Fernando Poe Jr., and the insane choice was Eddie Gil.

But were these choices really choices? Did they represent real options and real directions for governance?

I am not saying that morality has no place in politics, the romantic ideal of a benevolent and powerful leader still appeals to me. However, morality ALONE does not make for effective political leadership.

If you asked me, I'd rather go for a candidate with a track record for being a builder of new beginnings rather than one with an image of a destroyer or preserver of a status quo. I'd go for a candidate with a clear plan, a vision, for the country's future.

That's Dick Gordon.

Sure, he isn't in the surveys and the Pedestrian Observer may chide me -- as he or she already has for comparing Gordon with Obama.

Was it a story in the Bible or a often quoted phrase that says he who can be trusted with a portion, can be trusted with the whole.

Gordon began his political career as a Constitutional Convention delegate in 1971, the youngest ever to be elected. He had no political backing (which should have come from his mother, Amelia Gordon) and no funds, but he won and became the youngest delegate.

He didn't run for his own sake. He was actually part of the generation that led the First Quarter Storm and in the Con-Con, he opposed a term extension for then President Ferdinand Marcos. This was apart from introducing the idea of the Philippines sharing control over the US Naval base in Subic, which in those times was considered visionary.

He became Mayor of Olongapo and everybody knows about how his small town became a model for city governance. If New York City had Rudolf Giulliani, the Philippines had Richard 'Dick' Gordon in the very real sense of transforming a filthy and crime infested town into a model city that had color code jeepneys, effective neighborhood anti-crime patrols, a garbage collection and segregation system that was the first in the country, a good samaritan program where all the rich citizens of Olongapo generously gave to the needy, and other city programs that were emulated all over the country.

He became Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority Chairman. When he was put in charge of Subic, it was a wasteland with almost nothing in it. After a couple of years of hard work with no guarantees, he turned the former Naval base into what then President Ramos called a new engine for growth and a magnet for investment in industry and tourism.

He became Tourism Secretary with no promotion budget and all sorts of negative news about the Philippines. Instead of saying 'Kawawa naman tayo', he shouted 'Wow Philippines' in almost every major tourism marketing event there was and brought in a whopping 2 million tourists a year by the end of 2003-- straight up from less than 1 million a year in 2001.

Right now, he is a Senator who is known for a couple of important things --

He is the father of Automated Elections in 2010. He virtually dragged his colleagues at the Senate to amend the existing Automated Elections law to make it work and dragged a couple more people in the Comelec to make sure we will no longer have Hello Garci in 2010. He is working to make sure that every body's vote will be counted in the coming elections.

He is also the author of the Text for Change bill, a proposed law that will get 10 to 50 centavos out of every peso earned by Smart, Globe, and Sun and pour these funds into public education. At the current P 2 Billion text messages a day, this will generate as much as P70 Billion in funds that will be added to the budget for public education. This means an end to classroom and teacher shortages, better books, science and computer laboratories in all public schools, higher teacher salaries, free food all year round for students, free medical and dental services, and to top it all off, scholarships for 100,000 college students -- 10,000 of which will be sent abroad to study in Ivy League Universities.

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