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Friday, June 20, 2008

Yes, it can happen

Ang Peryodiko - Newspaper for overseas Filipino in Canada
Street talk by Greg Macabenta

The template of the Obama campaign poses intriguing possibilities in the Philippine presidential contest that, hopefully, will happen in 2010.

At the Honolulu airport in April, while we were preparing for the inaugural Honolulu-Manila flight of Hawaiian Airlines, I had a chance conversation with Dick Gordon. Because there have been rumors of his presidential aspirations, I asked him if he had any plans for 2010.

Gordon admitted that he was seriously considering a run for the presidency, adding that if he were to do so, he would take a page from the Obama campaign in planning his strategy.

Frankly, among all the “presidentiables,” Dick Gordon appears to be in the best position to replicate the Obama phenomenon. No one else, to my knowledge, has succeeded in harnessing volunteerism as a force for change, a major element in the Obama formula. What Gordon did in Subic remains unmatched in this respect. The magnitude, efficiency and impact of the Subic Naval Base transformation is all the more impressive alongside such crude, though fruitful, efforts as those of MMDA chairman Bayani Fernando, and Noli de Castro’s claim to vice-presidential achievement, the relocation of squatters.

In theory – all right, okay, in dreams and fantasy – a presidential candidate with the charisma of Obama can tap into the pocketbooks of millions of overseas Filipinos, especially those residing in the US, to provide backbone funding for a viable presidential campaign. Backbone funding refers to seed money impressive enough in size to persuade the traditional campaign funders (the vested interests) to place their bets on a candidate.

In theory, such a backbone fund can make the candidate less beholden to vested interests and more committed to the cause of good governance.

In theory, it is possible to reach out to these global Filipinos through the New Media, again, in the pattern of Obama.

In theory, the millions of wealthy and enlightened, the jaded and cynical, and the disinterested youth, just like Obama’s supporters, can also be galvanized in the Philippines by a candidate who can offer “change they can believe in.”

In theory, a worthy presidential candidate can overhaul the edge of heavily-funded Manny Villar, meticulously nurtured Mar Roxas, pang-masa Noli de Castro, doble-pang-masa Erap Estrada and pang-drama Loren Legarda.
If I seem facetious, I am not. These are, in fact, the qualities that our voters look for in a candidate for political office, including the presidency. In the months leading to the last senatorial elections, I was flabbergasted to learn that among the reasons given by respondents in a survey on why they intended to vote for Francis Escudero was the perception that he was “mabait” and “magaling magsalita.” I don’t recall anyone saying that it was because of his sterling performance as a member of Congress, crowned with numerous meaningful bills.

Given these criteria, one can hardly imagine Dick Gordon being a “favorite of the masses.” He has the charms of a drill sergeant. I’ve often said that Gordon, with his know-it-all attitude, is not difficult to dislike. But, hell, he gets things done and, as far as I can tell, he does know it all.

Am I endorsing Gordon for the presidency? No. I think that’s premature. He certainly has many of the qualities that I would like to see in a president of our country, including his no-nonsense approach to doing things, which I think is infinitely more desirable than the ability to sing, dance or look “mabait” (ironically, Gloria Arroyo has been bludgeoned by the media because of this quality, calling her “masungit”).

Who knows, maybe there is someone out there who will emerge between now and early next year who will demonstrate and display the qualities that can inspire our cynical voters, the way Obama did, and even motivate the masses enough to make them refuse to sell their votes.

Is it an impossibility? No.

Remember Cory Aquino? It happened in her case though, sadly, she allowed Kamaganak, Inc. to spoil her historic term. Remember Miriam Defensor-Santiago? It nearly happened in her case (although, mercifully, it did not). Remember Ramon Magsaysay? It happened in his case, with a little help from the CIA.

In other words, IT CAN HAPPEN. The people out there in the Philippines just need to believe in it hard enough.

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