Jojo A. Robles

Missing Gibo

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These days, I really miss Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro. And I wonder if we’ll ever see such a combination of brains, competence, experience, personal integrity and honesty and yes, even charisma, seek the highest position in the land again.

 

I remember Teodoro in the continuing back-and-forth between Vice President Jejomar Binay and Senator Grace Poe, the two supposed early frontrunners in the presidential election next year. And I worry that the current debate between the two about honesty and competence means that these two virtues are really, as the two camps seem to want us to believe, mutually exclusive.

After all, having a track record and experience shouldn’t mean that one is dishonest. And being a greenhorn in politics mustn’t necessarily lead to the conclusion that one is incompetent.

But that is exactly what Binay and Poe seem to be debating about in their serial, punch-and-counterpunch media statements. And in the scorched-earth campaigning that has become de rigueur in Philippine politics, the protagonists of the day apparently want us to understand that there is no possible room for coexistence between honesty and experience, attributes which, by no stretch of the imagination, cannot dwell in one person.

Of course, as everyone and his taxi driver knows, Teodoro fared miserably in the 2010 elections. So perhaps the people themselves have bought into the belief that first started polarizing Filipinos in the battle between the accomplished, experienced Ferdinand Marcos and the honest and sincere Corazon Aquino in 1986, that inexperience means incompetence and that having a track record is synonymous with corruption.

But I certainly wish that this long-held belief is debunked in some future election, perhaps when the country once again seeks out the best and most honest from a field made up of candidates who will trumpet their personal qualities without using them as weapons to bludgeon their rivals with.

Why should we have to choose between fake polar opposites, after all? Why can’t we have competent people who are also honest, just like we demonstrably have incompetent people who are also corrupt?

This country surely deserves better than more of the same politics that divides rather than unites. And that will certainly not happen if we choose our Presidents on the basis of exclusionary political belief systems.

* * *

As the old Tagalog proverb tells us, Mar did all the planting, harvesting and cooking. And Grace seems about ready to do the eating.

As things stand, the surveys tell us that Binay and Poe are the frontrunners and that the “third force” appears to be Rodrigo Duterte of Davao City. In such a scenario, where is the longtime presumptive – as they call him – candidate of the administration Liberal Party, Interior and Local Government  Secretary Mar Roxas?

When last heard from, Roxas was visiting the scene of that disastrous fire at a slipper factory in Valenzuela City, performing his usual routine of going where the hottest story of the day takes him. And like always, Roxas appeared to have lost even more popularity by going to the fire scene than if he had just stayed at home in Cubao, never mind if his demeanor was suitably somber and his jeans were appropriately dusty and covered with soot.

More telling for me than Roxas’ usual “epal” efforts is the statement made by LP top honcho and Senate President Franklin Drilon, who demanded that the secretary declare his intentions for the presidency this early, presumably so the party can act immediately to “preserve the gains” of the Aquino administration, as the Malacanang mantra goes. I have taken this to mean that Drilon is forcing Roxas to decide immediately, so that the Senate president and his fellow LP members can a) proclaim that they’ve always wanted Grace Poe to be their party’s standard-bearer anyway, in case Roxas declares that he’s not running; or b) leave the LP to Roxas and move en masse to Poe’s camp in a new group, if he still decides to run.

In any case, Drilon’s impatience seems to be informed by the widespread belief that Roxas simply cannot win in 2016. And that if the LP (or at least Drilon and all the other notorious turncoats like him) is going to stand any chance of remaining in power, its bet will have to be Poe.

And it certainly seems like Roxas doesn’t even have the option of “sliding down” to the vice presidency in a ticket led by Poe. Any number of palace-friendly running mates of Poe – led by Senator Chiz Escudero – seem to have better chances of both winning and helping Poe win.

If Roxas has any sense (and if he stays true to his “segurista” nature), he will probably not seek the top two positions next year and go for a Senate seat instead. He can seek the presidency or the vice presidency – but even he knows that he doesn’t stand a ghost of a chance.

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