noynoy-aquino-picture1How do we elect Presidents?

We have so far elected a number of presidents from 1935 to 2004. What then is an outstanding trait of a candidate that makes us gravitate towards him and topping this off by installing him as our leader?

There seems to be a common thread among the elected presidents we had in the past. While it may all be lumped in the  too generalized gravitas, it seems that for the most part we choose our president on the single criterion of “exciting personality or character.” That said, a person has “exciting personality or character” when his personal life intrudes in the selection process.

Filipinos in whatever social strata are natural peeping toms. A great deal of their time is spent on gossips and rumours. Only in this country where a despot decreed that rumour mongering can cost one a lifetime in jail. Ferdinand Marcos knew the Filipino psyche inside out. As Malacanang tenant for 20 years, stories flew where he had separate “advisers” briefing him colourful information from all over the islands. One theory was advanced that it was not he who caused the evaporation of Primitivo Mijares, but a woman whom the Bard described as “hell hath no fury than a First Lady scorned.” In his book “Conjugal Partnership”, Tibo Mijares recounted a Tiger Woodesque parade of beautiful women in the life of FM. Tibo titillated the news cum rumors deprived Pinoys by dedicating a chapter on the love life of the dictator. Initials such as HK for Hilda Koronel, MR for Maritess Revilla, and GC or Gretchen Cojuangco were provided that made the thirst even more scorching. We saw the sales peaks of Xerox providers. Marcos was in stitches because he knew that even in entertainment, he was in the center of it all. But he miscalculated the fury of his significant other. She lost their fourth child in miscarriage in the thick of the Dobie Beams scandal. And now, this book for posterity in vivid description the dalliances and indiscretion of the genius from Batac? Truly, Bill Gates was right when he said that “success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”

Further, why was Marcos elected president? Remember he had the smarts? He took the bar while in prison for sniping to death one Julio Nalundasan who beat his father in the congressional elections in Ilocos fair and square, and topped the bar no sweat while awaiting trial for murder. A murder most foul occluding the person of a promising lawyer makes his character suspect. But his case was reviewed by a kindred soul, Justice Jose Laurel, who saw in the young man his violent youth in Batangas. Marcos was acquitted not because of his thick weepy legal brief but on the imponderous basis of his character and personality.

When Marcos ran for the presidency in 1965, he brought along a bandwagon of Who’s Who that matter in the Philippines. The Lopezes, the Tans, the Cojuangcos, the sugar barons, and the warlords of Mindanao. Surveys were done by Gallup Polls for the consumption of the Americans. The ordinary folks settled to their old reliable barberos.

We seem to install a president based on some imponderables of his personal affairs. Personal involvement may mean affairs of the heart, family tragedies, verboten or immoral relationships, or criminal associations.

While we reward excellence like stacking the Senate with intellectual wizards like Claro Recto, Lorenzo Tanada, Arturo Tolentino, Ambrosio Padilla, Wenceslao Lagumbay, Jose Laurel, Jose Diokno, and a slew of others who were either summa cum laudes or bar and board topnotchers in their chosen professions, either as barristers or CPAs, we stop short of mounting them in the ultimate pedestal of the Presidency. This is not to say though that those whom we chose as presidents were scholastic idiots. A great number of them were bar topnotchers and honor students as well. We have Quezon, Osmena, Roxas, Quirino, Garcia, Macapagal and Marcos as outstanding students and bar topnotchers. GMA belongs to the academic crème de la crème of Assumption College snatching an AB economics degree magna cum laude and Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service in Washington, D.C.

But there is something about Quezon and company that fascinated us. Traditionally, we seem to be not taking elections seriously.

No doubt, elections to us are one big fiesta. We can throw our economy to the waste basket just to have that cyclic democratic exercise.

Raul Manglapus agonized that fiestas seem to be the cause of our collective misery or why we remain a poor third world country while our neighbours were galloping to the finish line. He even proposed that we ban fiestas because we mortgage our prized possessions just to keep up with the rest of the community in one annual celebration. Soon after plunking our ballot in the box, we think about the next elections.

Much has been written about Al Gore’s painful defeat by George Bush in 2000 elections. While of course Gore won in the popular vote department burying Bush in California with almost half a million votes, it did not carry the day for the rest of the 49 states. Pundits ascribed the rout on Gore’s rancid personality. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd bewailed “Truth to tell, some of Mr. Gore’s own campaign aides don’t even like him because he’s so aloof and hypercritical. As one Democrat despaired before the election, ‘If his aides don’t like him, how can they possibly sell him to the rest of the country?'”

Political psychologist Stanley Renshon in his book, “High Hopes: The Clinton Presidency and the Politics of Ambition,” illustrates three core components of political leadership influenced by character and personality: mobilization — the ability to arouse, engage, and direct the public; orchestration — the organizational skill and the ability to craft specific policies; and consolidation — the ability to achieve one’s policy objectives.

Jennie M. Scott and Joshua Jipson of the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University observed:

Where the charismatic Clinton is a good mobilizer, skilled at energizing the public to rise up in his support, the meticulous, detail-oriented Gore is more adept at orchestration.

Neither is particularly well suited for consolidation, though the silver-tongued Clinton has a decided edge as a wheeler and dealer. Gore, on the other hand, will work fervently to accomplish his policy goals and will excel in establishing the policy structures and procedures necessary for implementation — but still may fall short because of his lack of interpersonal skills.

The ability to arouse or engage or direct the public is one telling criterion. When a bet for public office has it, the electorate feel the electric interpersonal skills. We value a politician who goes out to pump up in the hustlings compared with the granite who merely waves from his car. Or one whose image on the tube or sound on radio sends us some shock of awe. Or whose demons are visible beside him.

Quezon, who married his first cousin Aurora, was a political giant in pocket-sized physique. Yet he can deliver a wallop in any town plaza sending the hacienderos and the sacadas alike in frenzy in his fiery oratory or mean fox trot. He had the reputation of being a ladies’ man compared with the bland Sergio Osmena and the pontificating Gregorio Aglipay. Manuel Roxas, the 1913 bar topnotcher, had his own share of personal controversies with his inamoratas to the discomfiture of Dona Trinidad de Leon Roxas. During World War II, he figured in collaboration controversies with the Japanese. He easily recovered from the stigma as he was later on elected Senator and soon the first Senate President after the war. He was succeeded by Elpidio Quirino who suffered untold personal tragedy when during the Battle of Manila in WW II, his wife, Alicia Syquia, and three of his five children were killed as they were fleeing their home. His election in his own right could be attributed to the tragic deaths in his family and in contrast to the acerbic Jose Laurel Sr. Ramon Magsaysay loomed large from the political horizon as a swashbuckling Huk exterminator, undoubtedly a fresh brew never tasted before by the electorate. Carlos Garcia was a lawyer-poet, with quite interesting monikers as the “Prince of Visayan Poets” and the “Bard from Bohol”. And of course Diosdado Macapagal, another academic genius who suffered his first political debacle when he ran and lost for senator in 1955 and personal tragedy when his first wife Purita de la Rosa died of malnutrition during the war. A grieving widow, Cory Aquino bested the ailing Marcos. The first military general to be promoted by the people as Commander-in-Chief, FVR, was into the maelstrom of infidelity and a son-he-never-had with his wife with a conspicuous socialite mistress. Monching Mitra, who left a trail of bearded issues as well, paled in contrast with the General. Miriam Santiago, who has never outgrown her juvenile UP conceit, projected herself as the alternative whom we’ll never ever understand.

Who’ll miss Erap?

Compared with JdV, the Speaker, while he famously squired the likes of the legendary local Marilyn Monroe, Rita Gomez and the widow of Virgilio Hilario, Armi Kuusela, he failed to hurdle the number of mistresses of Asiong Salonga! JdV looks like a pawning pet behind Erap. These images captured the voters’ mind and catapulted Erap to the presidency.

Jovy Salonga dipped his foot into the fray but he was a poor tailender. Who wants him President? Jovy has enviable educational record, a writer-lawyer, a consistent number one in the senate race, author of notable laws, a deeply religious and family man. But Jovy does not approximate the Pinoy’s idea of a President. He is high-brow and unfortunately disfigured by the politics he wanted to reform. Who else wanted to be top honcho? Marcelo Fernan, the Chief Justice with the perpetual bonhomie. And of course, Edgardo Angara, as tasteless as an artichoke, the Philippine Al Gore who made money using the lawyer’s professional confidentiality. And the least, FPJ, a Glen Ford look-a-like, was a re-run. We reached our satiety with these clowns and notwithstanding the Garci tapes, all is forgiven.

Is Noynoy it?

By all indications, Noynoy as a mobilizer wears it up his sleeve. He has a share of tragedy. In his interviews he said that his great grandfather Servillano was incarcerated in Fort Santiago as a revolutionary against the Spaniards; his grandfather Benigno Sr was jailed by the Japanese and  the Americans; his father Benigno Jr suffered imprisonment courtesy of the dictator Marcos. He didn’t mention the bullet still lodged in his neck from the rebel guns of Gringo Honasan. All these is topped by the recent death of his mother, Cory, who was at odds with the sitting President.

In his acceptance speech in Club Filipino he recounted an encounter with a boy who engaged him in a conversation and whose one question brought the house down, “asan ho si Kris?” While at it, his three other siblings with striking hint of Cory were beside him, and, just a little oblique to the right obscured by yellow boys, was his pretty La Valenzuelita. The LP bet is a 49-year old bachelor and he counts media personalities Bernadette Sembrano and Korina Sanchez, among others, as ex-girlfriends. His current flame a local public figure, Shalani Soledad, is a 2-term councillor of Valenzuela City and is rumoured to be gunning for a congressional seat.

Lastly, this senator is an economics major and a 3-term congressman. As the man to beat, Ernie Maceda threw the muck autistic kitchen sink at Noynoy. All told, Noynoy is in the middle of the Pinoy fiesta. He is the Hermano Mayor, the Big Brother who makes the celebration worth our while.

Manny Villar, Gibo Teodoro, Dick Gordon, Bayani Fernando have one thing in common: they are tasteless as cream, puffy and immaculate.

They project themselves as family men. No scandal here, no mistress there. Like Al Gore and Ed Angara and Jovy Salonga, they look like tin soldiers trying to stop the bulldozing Noynoy. Right, they’re intelligent, outstanding scholastics, lawyers-CPA-engineer, broadly experienced, the smartest men in the room, Miriam incarnates sans the lucid intervals. They can orchestrate no doubt but everything stops there because they’re far from mobilizers and consolidators. Villar is a good husband to the billionaire Cynthia Aguilar. It looks like Manny has never turned his gaze or groin at any other gender. His fidelity is more on the side of a business decision because he does not want to go the way of Paul McCartney whose estate was diced to pieces by his second wife who cuckolded him. Gibo is too anti-septic that even the barangay captain of Baseco would have second thought of shaking his hands or his wife’s. Ditto to Dick and Bayani. These candidates, like Jejomar Binay, were so successful for the last two decades as chiefs of their local dynasties that they mistake the loyalty accorded to them by their constituents as true all over.