CHICAGO – Filipino voters should rejoice that they are being offered an alternative presidential candidate in the person of Senator Grace Poe, who can pull even with, if not get ahead of, faltering Vice President Jojo Binay in the race to Malacanang.
But the voters should be reminded that a presidential election is not a popularity contest because the presidency is unlike any other elective position.
Take the case of the late President Marcos. He was a nino bonito, a new kid on the block, when he got elected. The people were so impressed that he was re-elected. But eventually Filipinos lost their love for Marcos, who misapplied the Filipino family value of utang na loob (sense of gratitude). Marcos would give an arm and a leg to repay his cronies at government expense.
Instead of saying no to their entreaties, Marcos gave his cronies he key to the government’s bank vault!
Despite the shameful overthrow of Marcos, his predecessors — namely, my friend former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada, former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and President Noynoy Aquino – found themselves in the vicious cycle Marcos had invented.
They repeated the mistakes of Marcos by appointing their Cabinet officials based on connections, not competence. They did not look into the records of the officials to find out if they have skeletons in their closet.
While Erap’s popularity catapulted him to the presidency, serendipity and guile or double-talk extended Arroyo’s stay in Malacanang.
If Senator Poe is elected president in 2016, could she be expected to do her job well? Does she have executive experience? She was once chairperson of the Board of Censors for Motion Pictures and was employed by a United States private employer, but could she apply her administrative experience in a government bureau and stateside private employment to solve the problems of her country?
What would she do if her Cabinet officials stray off the tuwid na daan (straight path)? Would her officials be like Executive Secretary Paquito “Jojo” Ochoa and Secretary Florencio Abad, who would re-invent an outlawed PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) and DAP (Disbursement Appropriations Program) declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court?
In such scenarios, would “President” Poe keep the erring officials or fire them?
Among the feathers in Senator Poe’s cap in her junior years as senator was getting the top cop, General Alan Purisima, to shape up. Her persistence paid off when Purisima was suspended by the Ombudsman for his allegedly anomalous deal with a courier company, Werfast.
But Purisima’s misstep is just a tip of the iceberg. There are more challenging executive decisions that she would make.
For example, if Mayor Estrada were to use his political clout – his charisma among the masses – and help Poe secure her presidential victory in 2016, what would she do if Erap asks her to return the favor by granting his son, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, a pardon, in case, Jinggoy is convicted of plunder? Could she tell Erap that if he helps her, would there be strings attached?
As president, she is expected to do a lot of balancing acts, and one false step could be fatal. Would Senator Poe be able to do her presidential job if she gets what Hillary Clinton calls a “3 a.m. call”?
Poe could get credit for topping the senatorial election, but two former senators – Marcos and Macapagal-Arroyo – also topped the senatorial elections and were both elected Presidents. But Marcos was removed from power, while Arroyo is in detention.
I know if given enough time, Poe could give my candidate a run for his money and become the next president of the Philippines. But that would happen only on two conditions: 1) If Poe can prove that she has never become a U.S. citizen; and 2) She will get my support if she is agree to my proposal that she undergo a DNA test to prove that she is not the daughter of her aunt, former matinee idol Rosemarie Sonora, by President Marcos.