The Best And The Worst Of The Campaign

Here they are, the winners and losers of the 2016 Elections.

Best Performance In A Leading Role- Rody Duterte.

Like Trump, Rody understood the dynamics of the news cycle, how any news is good news. His off-again, on-again decision to run, his outrageous statements and provocative style monopolized the headlines. He alone focused on Peace and Order while his rivals concentrated on Corruption, Poverty and Traffic which was a crowded space.

Worst Performance In A Leading Role- Jojo Binay.

Jojo’s early lead, war chest and network could have lulled him into complacency. He was disdainful of the debates. He was a one-trick pony “I will bring Makati to the Philippines”. The corruption charges hurt but had become stale: Jojo was still leading at over 30% for much of the campaign. Duterte basically ate his lunch: Rody had the same pluses as Binay –successful big city Mayor, protest vote- without the baggage.

Best Performance In A Supporting Role- Sen. Cayetano.

Alan was singly responsible for Marcos’ defeat in the VP race. He was relentless against Bong2 in the debates. Without Alan, Marcos might have been Rody’s VP, garnished the Mindanao vote and won running away. Leni owes Alan one.

Worst Performance In A Supporting Role- Sen. Escudero.

Chiz went from 30% in the polls to 11%. He was listless and disinterested in the debates. He was non-competitive in his bailiwick of Bicol. He appeared unconcerned but secure at the end. Heart, what happened?

Best Performance In A Non-Starring Role- Iglesia Ni Cristo.

If you ask why Sen. Osmena did not win, why Joel Villanueva was number two, and why Kiki Pangilinan and Leila de Lima almost did not make it but Ralph Recto did, the answer is INC. Exit polls showed 75% of INC voters followed the INC slate. These bloc votes put INC-backed candidates ahead of Serge, Kiko and Leila while boosting Joel and Ralph.

A close second is COMELEC and Andy Bautista for running a relatively smooth election.

Worst Performance In A Non-Starring Role- The Church, Makati Business Club leaders and the elitists for not getting Duterte right.

Lifetime Achievement Award- To Miriam Santiago for her body of work and for just hanging in there.

Best Screenplay From Original Material- The Leni Robredo Story.

Accepting the award were PNoy, Mar, Bam Aquino, Leni’s campaign manager, and Serge Osmena, her political strategist.

Worst Screenplay From Recyled Material- The Gringo Honasan Story.

Best Sequel- Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.:The Revenge of Ferdinand Marcos.

Bongbong correctly predicted he could combine his name recall, changed youth demographics, the northern vote, INC, his money and the dissatisfaction with the Aquino Administration; to run a competitive race for the Vice-Presidency. This equation would outweigh the legacy of his father and Martial Law. He was 263,000 votes short (0.5% of votes cast), not good enough but not bad for a shoo-in as Senator in 2019 and another VP or Presidential run in 2022. He is 58 years old.

Marcos should consult Mar whether to protest the results. It may appear sour-graping. It is expensive. Leni is genuinely popular: Excluding the obligatory INC votes, Leni would have beaten him by over a million. It will remain unresolved. I would not hold my breath.

Worst Sequel – Daan Matuwid: Part II.

Enamored with its macro-economic numbers, the Liberal Party failed to discern the underlying disenchantment with the income inequality, urban congestion and crime. The Administration focused on big time corruption when the man in the street worried about petty crime –cell phone snatching, drugs, low level bribes. Part II proved what Hollywood knows, that sequels are never as good as the original.

Best Campaign Slogan- Stop It, Just Stop It.

Worst Campaign Slogan- This was a tie between “ I will bring Makati to the Philippines” and “Daan Matuwid”.

Best Debate Question- Duterte to an ailing Miriam Santiago: “How Are You?”

At that point Rody was polling at 30%, Miriam at 2%.

Worst Debate Question- To the Presidentiables in the second debate: “Are you corrupt?”

Guess the answers.

Best Debate Answer- “I will copy the best programs of the others. I have been doing that since grade school” (Duterte).

Worst Debate Answers- “I inherited my wealth” (Binay) and “What hidden wealth?” (Marcos).

Best Legal Decision- The Supreme Court allowing Grace Poe to run for President.

Worst Legal Decision- The Supreme Court not ruling whether Grace Poe is a natural-born citizen.

Best Political Advice- From PNoy and Mar: “Leni, you can be Vice-President”.

Worst Political Advice- From Chiz and the polls: “Grace, you can be President”.

Best Electoral Decision- Leni’s to run for VP.

Worst Electoral Decision- Grace’s to run for President.

Had Grace accepted PNoy’s offer for the Vice-Presidency, she would have been a slam dunk and the leading candidate for President in 2022.

Most Debated Question- Will Leni be President by 2021?

And lastly,

The Overall Winner- The Filipino People.

They thumbed their nose at the elite and sent word they are tired of being ignored and oppressed. They rejected the corrupt, the carpet baggers and the fake. They chose a President who has vowed to shake the Establishment and realize their dreams while electing a reliable back-up if he does not.

Rody Now Needs To Be The Adult In The Room

Congratulations to President Rody.

I did not vote for him but he is now our leader and all Filipinos regardless of creed, religion or gender inclination should rally behind him.

Rody captured the broad swath of frustration and anger of a nation. People also liked it that, unlike at least two other candidates, he was not obsessed with the Presidency. Hillary Clinton, listen up.

It has been a divisive election and it is time to heal. Rody has called so himself so it is surprising that at this early stage he should seek to unnecessarily alienate certain quarters. I refer to his very pointed attacks against the Catholic priest leaders. The accusations –the hypocrisy, the entitlements, the cover ups- are true but what is also true is the good and unheralded work the Church does for the poor. More to the point, politics is addition which is important since Rody is technically a minority President. Rather than highlight the issues that divides him with the clergy, why not seek those that unite them like helping the marginalized and enhancing our national values?

Tell me who your men are and I will tell you who you are. As a provincial mayor Rody comes from a relatively small circle. This explains why his Cabinet is composed so far of senior citizen classmates (Rody is the oldest Philippine President ever elected), Davao businessmen, donors and recycled politicians. Time will tell whether they meet the standards of “a powerhouse of the best and the brightest” but never mind. He did select a young man, Mark Villar, scion of a property developer, for the only position he should not have -Public Works-which talks to us about either his naivete or his judgment. Was it a “trapo’ decision or a rookie mistake? Mark should not accept out of propriety. With all the flak he would be ineffective anyway.

As for the absence of women, who knows? Pia Cayetano is reportedly eyeing Foreign Affairs after her compulsory one year ban.

Rody should cast a wider net but will the truly qualified join his Government? Will “the best and the brightest” risk their careers, family, and regulatory liabilities to join a team of insiders where access to the Man will be blocked, where decisions are made instinctively rather than thoughtfully, where the marching orders are unclear, where everybody is off on their own, and where they must be apologists for the President’s run-and-gun style? The President elect has said he will allow his Secretaries freedom of movement but they must prove themselves without listing how performance is defined.

In Silicon Valley start-ups, the founder is complemented by a professional Chief Operating Officer who will nurture the business from an idea to maturity. Apple’s Tim Cook was such a person for Steve Jobs.

The Rody Administration touts itself as a political start-up. Although you would not see it yet from his Cabinet, it wants to be transformational, innovative, and disruptive of the traditional and feudalistic politics of the past. Rody will be the visionary and the public face of the enterprise but there must be a person who can realize the vision. Sen. Alan Cayetano offered himself for that post –the”bastonero”- but he is instead likely to be kicked upstairs. It is complicated.

It is said the Rody team is currently divided into two factions similar to the Samar and Balay wings of PNoy: There is the original Davao group composed of the local associates of the then Mayor and the new Manila based faction personified by Cayetano and his band of money men (including the famous Z brothers). The former offered trust and comfort, the latter the national experience and seed funding. The (literally) old guard reportedly preferred Bongbong Marcos as Rody’s running mate while the new wing favored Alan. The latter successfully argued a Rody/Marcos ticket would be dominated by human rights issues which would cloud the bigger message of peace and order. With Rody now in power there is a struggle for the ears and mind of the President elect. With time, as Cayetano’s value-added wears thin, the President could well fall back on his trusted cadre of Davao buddies with whom he shares age and memories.

President Rody has proffered some big dreams to the Filipino people and a short timeline. With the nascent problems of an Administration and the internal emasculation of competing interests, he could be hard pressed to deliver. To assuage the public he needs some easy wins, some plug-and-play directives on crime, SSS pension increases, income tax reform and free college and health for the poor.

In the meantime he needs to sort out his management and find common cause with detractors like the Church. He must move from Election mode to Chief Executive mode. He is now the President of the Philippines so he can be statesman-like and magnanimous, be the bigger person, be the adult in the room. He must show he is the leader not only of the reds but the yellows, blues and whites of the nation.

All The President’s Men (Literally)

President Rody is assembling his crew.

It is, we are told, to be an inclusive Cabinet. Labor, Social Welfare, Agrarian Reform and Environment will be given to male leftists, preferably Communists; the “Economic” portfolios (Finance, Trade, DPWH) to male business types;  the technical positions (Education, Health and DOST) to male specialists; and Defense and possibly Interior to male ex-generals and police. If one excludes Muslims, LGBTs and women (Leni is in but she is elected, not appointed) Team Duterte is indeed diverse, a blend of left-wing ideologues, centrist capitalists, right-wing military, classmates, donors or off-springs thereof, recycled politicians and technocrats; all headed by an instinctive and emotional leader who shows little interest in policy or management. His idea of a good time is to shoot criminals. His style is to allow you to deliver and fire you, figuratively, if you don’t. Sounds like fun.

The dynamics will be interesting. Can the Trade Secretary convince investors a Communist-led Labor department is cool? Can  erstwhile guerrillas and ex-military kiss and make up? Will the Finance Secretary give up his credit rating  to fund leftists’ call for a wider safety net?. Who will mediate the arguments?

A short word on Communist Cabinet Secretaries: Better to invite them into the fold. As they say keep your friends close but your enemies even closer. Let them experience life in Government. After the wringer of a bourgeois-dominated Commission on Appointments, the frustrations of the bureaucracy and the rigors of media scrutiny, they will yearn for a return to the hills.

Forming a good Cabinet is hard, forming a good, diverse Cabinet raises the degree of difficulty. Do you assemble as the new Administration is touting “a powerhouse of the best and the brightest” (it is their cliché not mine) or do you gather a team of like-minded, hard-working men and women with little flash? Should the Cabinet encompass the full ideological spectrum or just focus on a band of talented managers who will get the job done? The announced Cabinet appointments are partial. Already at least one has disappointed and, I am afraid, there will be others.

To the Transition Team some thoughts on recruitment:


  • Do not hire anybody who applies for the position, has political ambitions or who is conflicted.
  • Select team players, not individual stars. You want the Golden State Warriors, not Team USA.
  • Hire people who are smarter, more honest and harder working than you.
  • Select people who listen rather than talk.
  • Choose leaders not geniuses. A Cabinet position is not rocket science.
  • Favor executive competence over ideology. Can Communists make good managers? They are used to dictating orders.
  • Appoint from within whenever possible. The Bangko Sentral is an example of how good career people can be.
  • Have Secretaries who, when the stuff hits the fan, will fall on their swords.
  • And, oh, no egos please but, yes, a sense of humor.

As for organization here are my suggestions: Value people, work smart, think strategy.

Government is the country’s largest service provider. As of 2010 it employed over 1.3 million excluding teachers and military: 900,000 in National, 300,000 in Local and 100,000 in Government controlled corporations. Its delivery is only as good as its people. Yet Government does not value human capital. Civil servants are the least paid, least motivated, least trained and least impassioned. The President should convert the Civil Service Commission to a Human Resources Department with Cabinet rank. Its mandate will be to upgrade technical and leadership skills through continuing education, streamline the bureaucracy and use the savings to raise salaries, expand college community work to compulsory government work, and promote from within. It should bring back pride to public service.

Government should work smart. It needs to strengthen its management information systems through technology and retrain its staff to the new thinking. It cannot fly blind.

One of the failings of the PNoy Administration was its strategy or, rather, its lack of it. It grew the economy without regard for the impact on infrastructure, urban congestion, income equality, public services and the environment. The result is a Duterte Presidency. To avoid this (the economic and social consequences, I mean, not the political one) President Rody should form a high-level Office of Strategic Planning and Research and Development.

Strategy will address questions like is our growth equitable, balanced and sustainable; is our progress intertwined with our values; is everybody in the party; are we globally competitive and, if not, where and why; what is this all costing us and who is picking up the bill? On the R&D side, are there better and cheaper ways to deliver public services, how does Government re-invent itself and innovate, what are global best practices, how do we engage the public and private spaces, can we expand Public-Private Partnerships beyond infrastructure to human capital and the soft side of development e.g. education and health? The answers involve long-term thinking outside the daily grind of governance.

We are in interesting and uncertain times mainly because so little is really known of our new President. Who is this man who speaks in so many, often conflicting tongues? Is he a political Messiah, an Anti-Christ or just a media savvy, unconventional provincial mayor who cannot quite believe he made it this far? The complexion of the men and, hopefully, women of his Cabinet should give us a better clue.


A Socialist Government? No Problem


President Rody is a self-confessed Socialist and this is scaring many. At one point the peso dropped 2%. A video went viral of him skyping with Communist head Jose Maria Sison, addressing the latter as “Sir” and “Po” as one might a guru or a person of higher authority.

Not to worry. Joma was apparently his teacher at the Lyceum and so a certain deference was in order.

As for Socialism let’s take a moment. Wikipedia lists China as the top socialist country but, guess what, it is followed by Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Holland, Finland, and Austria; so we would not be in bad company. Singapore and Canada are borderline socialist. Bernie Sanders, the popular contender for the presidency of the world’s most capitalist nation, is a Socialist.

Socialist economies are characterized by an active private sector, progressive taxes, a strong middle class and a wide safety net- free health and education and affordable housing. How bad can that be? Hey, Scandinavians are reportedly the happiest people in the world.

Socialism has morphed over the years. It was originally defined as an economy where the State owns the “basic” means of production i.e. utilities, banks and major industries (compared to Communism where the State owns “all” the means of production). Today Socialism is more a social term than it is a political or economic one: It is a society that is caring, that promotes income equality and social justice. It understands that the market place is the most efficient allocator of resources, that desire breeds enterprise, that jobs come from innovation and hard work, and that competition is what creates better products at lower prices. At the same time Socialism believes that man’s animal instincts must be tamed, that unbridled markets lead to excesses and instability, and that the quality, distribution and costs of growth are as critical as its quantity. In Socialism every citizen has the same opportunity to excel, the wealthy pay their way, and success is achieved by perseverance and creativity, not by entitlement. We may not all end as equals, but we all start as equals.

The closest parallel to a socialist Rody would be ex-President Lula of Brazil. Lula was a Marxist union leader. He came into office in 2003 at the height of the country’s financial crisis. He spooked the markets concerned South America’s largest economy would devolve into a Chavez-type Venezuelan Communism. Yet Lula paid in full Brazil’s IMF debt, weathered the 2008 global scare and elevated the country – together with Russia, China and India (the so called BRICs)- to among the fastest growing nations in the world. U.S. President Obama once said of Lula: “I love this guy”. Brazil was chosen as the site of the 2016 Summer Olympics. Since Lula’s departure, Brazil has fallen back on hard times but more on this later.

President Rody has laid out an Eight Point Economic Program which is fine.The key, as always, is in the execution. With a 39% vote, Rody does not have a majority –technically 61% of Filipinos voted against him- but with the dispersal of candidates and his lead over the next closest, he has a mandate of sorts. This is where things get sticky.

Our President elect is in an unaccustomed time and place. He is now steering a battleship instead of a tugboat. Midnight rounds to patrol the streets of Gotham are no longer an option. Unlike a Mayor who has unfettered command and control powers, a President has to deal with the checks and balances between the Executive, the Legislative and the Judicial. There is the cumbersome, corrupt and indolent bureaucracy. There are side issues which will engulf his attention. There is a media looking to chronicle every stumble. The elite and the establishment he will displace will be watching.There are the people’s expectations. As reality sets in he will be tempted to over-reach to maintain his popularity as what happened in Brazil.

Brazil is a commodity economy. When commodity prices fell globally, Lula undertook increasingly populist initiatives and piled on debt to finance a growing public deficit. The economy has tanked. This week his hand-picked successor, Dilma Rousseff, was suspended and to be impeached (Lula was also charged) not for enriching herself but for the rather innocuous crime of fiddling the budget. Rody could learn from this.

Our new President’s biggest challenge is how to deliver on his promises. The good news is he has broad powers to do this and a relatively strong economy to work with. The bad news is he is now subject to constitutional limits, public scrutiny and the slog of daily governance that will test his fuse (already in short supply). He cannot just lock down Congress and the courts whatever he has said.

He has six months before his political capital starts to diminish. He should start from the bottom up, focus on the low lying fruit –there are some-, bag immediate and tangible victories however small while laying a foundation for the long haul.

And The Winners Are…

So RoRo it is. As I wrote over a week ago, Rodrigo is our President and Robredo our likely Vice.

The results both proved and disproved the polls and the pundits. The surveys got the order of preferences right for the top two positions but were way off for the Senate race. They underestimated the popularity of Duterte (low 30% vs actual high 30’s) and overstated that of some of the VPs especially Chiz. They captured most of the Senators elect but missed many  outcomes notably Joel Villanueva (10-11 position vs #2 actual) and Osmena ( 6-7 vs #14 actual). The sampling process was less rigorous for the Senate than the President and VP and the final numbers are subject to externalities like voter turn-out, vote buying, last minute air and ground support and incomplete filling of the Senate slots; but to be wrong by such a margin seriously questions the reliability of polls.

As for the pundits, they under-appreciated the extent of voter anger and the gut issue of these elections. They touted corruption, jobs and traffic as the drivers when the overriding issues were personal safety, job security (ENDO) and political “machismo”. Only Duterte got these right and this is where he made the difference.

Pundits identified authenticity and change as critical issues but they were only partially correct. Digong is authentic but so is Poe. Except for Mar, all the candidates advocated change but only one resounded because he did not advocate change, he advocated disruptive change. Digong was the only truly anti-establishment candidate whose call for upheaval of the system and take-down of the financial, social and power elite and their political correctness; matched the intensity of voter dissatisfaction.

There is still the unanswered the question of why the President remains popular (only FVR left with a higher rating) and his Administration not. He could not carry Mar and is struggling with Leni.This must weigh on him and his place in history.

The VP race is not over with Sen. Marcos and Rep. Leni in close contention. Sen. Marcos had to endure the legacy of his father and martial law. That he has done as well as he has especially in the NCR re-affirms the depth of voter disenchantment with Daan Matuuwid. For her part, Rep. Leni had to overcome the association with the current Administration and her lack of name recall. That she is likely to be the presumptive Vice-President is testament to her persona. She has a brand that will only get stronger with weather and time.

Leni’ last minute surge from high 20’s in the polls to 35% was at the expense almost entirely of Chiz whose numbers dropped from the high teens to the low teens. This outcome was the only way out for Leni –she could not take from Marcos and Cayetano whose numbers were steady- and could well lead to the speculation there was, unbeknownst to Grace, a hidden deal somewhere between the LP and Chiz’ camp not dissimilar to the Noy-Bi combination of 2010. Thus


  • There were rumors Chiz was at odds with the Grace camp over the allocation of campaign funds so he was running out of gas.
  • Chaz was surprisingly low-energy in the VP debates. This was about the time when his numbers started to drop from the high 20’s when he was leading with Marcos.
  • The “step-down” would release the Bicol vote to Leni: For the record, the latter outnumbered Chiz 65/20% in Albay despite the support of Gov. Salceda for Grace. Leni beat Chiz 86/5% in Camarines Sur, Leni’s home province while the latter beat Leni by only 59/30% in Sorsogon, Chiz’ bailiwick.
  • PNoy and Chiz are good friends and the President was vehement about denying Marcos the Vice-Presidency; so a conversation could have taken place.
  • Chiz was not particularly unhappy in his concession speech but then again he has Heart.
  • The only missing element would be what would have motivated Chiz to ease up on his campaign.

As of writing, Leni is leading Bongbong by just over 200,000 votes in the unofficial count. There are still about 900,000 untallied votes comprising 400,000 Overseas Absentee Voters (OAV) and 500,000 unaccounted local votes. Assuming a 80% turn-out ratio (720,000 real votes) and Leni and Marcos make up 70% of these (the national average) there are about 500,000 in play between the two. To overcome the current gap, Marcos would have to secure 75% of these votes to beat Leni which is difficult. OAV votes tend to me female, employed, more educated and not endure traffic; which favors Leni. The OAV votes will be canvassed manually which again might favor Leni.

As I said, RoRo it is.

How I will Vote

This is how I will choose my President.

First, I will take a deep breath. I cannot let my emotions affect my decision. When I am sitting in traffic cursing the Administration I must tell myself there are many good things about Daan Matuwid that should outweigh my hysteria. When I hear Duterte’s rape comment, I must remember he has other redeeming qualities.

Second, I will screen for who are statistically winnable and (probably) honest. The former cuts my choices to 4, the latter to 3. It is between Rody, Mar and Grace.

I will then choose my President based on judgment, leadership, values, executive skills, vision, predictability and longevity; approximately in that order of importance.

Judgment is what makes a good President. He must correctly assess issues and people. He must be cool under pressure and read human behavior. He must keep his perspective in a crisis and notice the nuances in a negotiation. He must sense the national pulse, distinguish the flake from the substance, the signal from the noise, and smell a rat not all the time but only when it is there.

Lacking enough data, I have used their choice for running mate as the measure of the candidates’ judgment.

A President is as good as his team. He must choose people not based on loyalty, shared hobbies, family, business, political leverage or charm; but on integrity and results. I want a President who stands on the shoulders of giants, who understands his personal limitations and is kind on messengers. A good leader listens.

Leadership is tough to define, you just know it when you see it. It is about passion, trust,  vision, political will and charisma. A leader understands the human condition. He/she motivates with carrot and stick. He knows how to wield power, when and how to seduce, cajole and instill fear. He is steadfast, focused and unafraid to stay the course. He understands the potential but also the limits of authority. Leaders inspire.

A leader makes you bigger than you are, a great leader makes you better than you are. In this sense Duterte is a leader but can he be a great one? I might want him as my President but not as the husband of my daughter or as an icon for my grandchildren. Mar needs to trust to earn trust. Grace needs an occasion to lead.

We want a President with values, one who truly cares for Filipinos at a human level and not as an intellectual or moral imperative. A caring President frets not just about the size of the pie but about the distribution of the pie. He worries about the quality of growth, not its dimensions. He is concerned about the costs of growth –urban congestion, the environment- and its impact on the social fabric. Like the Bhutanese he seeks the highest Gross National Happiness.

Executive skill in a President is nice albeit over-rated as a quality. This skill can be delegated. Ronald Reagan had minimal administrative skills but was effective. Jesus Christ assigned the building of his Church to Peter and the Apostles. An Executive is like a traffic cop, he need not know how to drive, but he understands ebbs and flows, how to untangle a jam, and how to get others to follow.

Again executive skill is a double-edged thing, it can be used for bad as it can for good. Hitler was efficient at ethnic cleansing. Duterte and Mar have executive experience which is different from executive skills.

A vision is part guide, part dream, part motherhood. If you need one you can google it. It should be in a leader’s wardrobe but like fashion it is not about the dress but about how you carry it off. Daan Matuwid was laudable but disappointed because it was too narrow, too crowded and cracked under the seams.

The visions of our three candidates are undistinguishable from one another.

National progress is a marathon, not a sprint. It requires consistency in leadership and programs. To invest businesses must be able to determine outcomes over time. They abhor uncertainty. Mar is the most predictable of the candidates, Duterte the least. Poe is untested.

Longevity is a factor in this year’s elections. Which of the candidates is most likely to stay around? Mar has the best probability of lasting 6 years. Grace could still be disqualified. Digong is old. One could be impeached for over-reaching.

As for VP, do not choose the one who cannot wait to be President.

So there you are. Each candidate has his/her strengths and weaknesses: Duterte represents authority, provocation and quantum change. He is high risk, high return, a growth stock. Mar is continuity, consistency and predictability, a value stock. Poe really cares, a green stock.

I have decided my vote and so, I believe, has the nation.


I bet you don’t know the names of our last six Vice-Presidents*. That is how obscure the position is.

But you better think about it for in the next 6 years there is a betting chance our President will either die or retire of old age, sickness or mental incapacity, be impeached for over-reaching, be disqualified, or be otherwise taken down; more or less in that order of probability. The likelihood of any of these will be enhanced by the persona of the VP: Thus, we are more likely to impeach an undesirable President if the next in line is desirable. As for being taken down, with the ambition of some of the aspiring VPs I would as President have cause for concern.

Yup, your VP vote is important.

The race for VEEP is down to two, Bongbong Marcos and Leni Robredo. With Sen. Marcos you either get it or you don’t. He is officially wedded to Miriam Santiago to whom he still professes unconditional love but, in a twist of history, he now sleeps with Binay with the consent of Gringo, Jojo’s partner. I realize it is confusing. To tweak Bismarck, in politics there are no permanent enemies, just permanent interests.

Congresswoman Leni is worthwhile knowing. She was born on April 23, 1964. She is the widow of erstwhile DILG Sec. Jessie Robredo. She has three girls Jillian, Janine and Jessica. She is a UP lawyer and social activist. She has devoted her professional life to defending the marginalized and creating livelihoods for rural women. She has represented the Third District of Camarines Sur since 2013.

Leni is a force. She is honest, competent, diligent, caring and intelligent; the qualities one seeks in a public servant. She is the only one among the VP candidates who has worked with communities and walked the walk. She is direct, stubborn and tough. In the VP debates she did her homework, accounted for herself well and was composed. She was not shrill as one would expect of a woman in a man’s political world. She is authentic and, oh, did I say she is attractive?

She is the Administration’s candidate without its baggage.

She is the only one with no ambition to be President.

She is genuinely liked by PNoy who I suspect will go all-in for her. The President must take the prospect of a Bongbong Vice-Presidency (and potential Presidency) as an affront on his family’s legacy. This is personal. He must believe, at some level, Ferdinand Marcos was involved in the murder of his father. Can he fathom the idea of a Marcos offspring undoing or, worse, benefitting from his work? If PNoy devotes the vast powers of his office to deliver Leni, in a close race it could seal the deal.

Leni has the the Big Mo but she has hurdles. As the Administration candidate, she has to tow the party line even as 37% of voters are disenchanted with Daan Matuwid. The disenchantment is strongest in NCR –urban poverty, glaring economic disparity, traffic, tanim bala, atpb- which explains the large Marcos lead there.

Unlike Bongbong who has the North and Leyte vote to himself, Leni shares her bailiwick of Bicol with two other VP native sons, Chiz and Honasan. She has had to rely on Mar’s Visayan connection to get to where she is. To win Leni has to work for a large voter turn-out in Camarines Sur and Visayas and hope for a switch or low turn-out in Ilocos, Leyte and NCR.

Grace Poe is still competitive for the Presidency which hurts Leni. Unfortunately Filipinos are unlikely to choose a women tandem to run the country so Grace’s supporters will not vote for Leni and vice versa.

If Duterte is President and Leni Vice, what will be their chemistry? Leni says she cannot work with him but that is just her being loyal to Mar. Digong seems fond of Leni albeit possibly as “hija” and not as equals. How will Leni react when Digong denigrates women at Cabinet meetings, even in jest, as he is wont to do? What will their personal conversations be like, will it be about China policy and inclusive growth or will it just be chika-chika stuff, you know, like raising children and the nuances of differing bra sizes? Duterte would be well advised not to pander to Leni for the woman is no wilting flower.

“ One breath away from the Presidency” is the over-worked and under-appreciated description of the Vice-Presidency. This time it has new meaning. It is therefore important we vote wisely for that position because we could on May 9 be indirectly electing a future President of the Philippines.


* The answer is Doy Laurel (Cory Administration), Erap (FVR), Gloria Arroyo (Erap), Teofisto Guingona (GMA), Noli De Castro (GMA) and Jojo Binay (PNoy).

May 9: The Revenge Of The People

Hang on, it’s almost over.

In a week we shall be electing our leaders for the next 6 years. In that period your high-schooler will be looking for a job, our population will have surpassed 120 million, temperatures will be approaching 40 C, and Metro Manila will be one large parking lot. It will not be pretty.

The election has been unprecedented. Leading the Presidency is a man who was not on the original ballot, a reluctant, replacement, rogue candidate with no national recall, apparent funding or organization, a foul-mouthed womanizer, and an avowed killer of bad people.

Leading the Vice-Presidency is the son of Ferdinand Marcos.

Why is this happening after a PNOY Administration acknowledged for its integrity, economic performance, and transparency?

Clearly, despite the accolades, all is not well in the Middle Kingdom. Our 6 % annual GDP growth accrued only to the rich. Specifically, by one account our economic growth went to 40 families.

The number of Filipinos below the poverty line has increased. Unemployment has “officially” dropped but underemployment –the number of those without a fulltime job- is over 20 percent. Our growth has been restricted to the urban centers, to real estate and construction, to the stock market, the banks, the businesses of the rich. Agriculture which accounts for over two thirds of our population improved by only 1% in 6 years. Rising property prices have put decent home ownership beyond the reach of the middle class, not to speak of the poor.

The Government attended to growth and our credit ratings without addressing the costs or distribution of growth. It trumpeted the increase in car ownership while forgetting the resulting traffic, infrastructure and urban congestion. Big Business did well while the small entrepreneur is plagued with endless lines, bureaucracy and corruption.

The massacre of 58 innocents in the fields of Mindanao on Nov. 23, 2009 is still unjudged, that is over 6 years and counting. Six thousand farmers victimized by El Nino in Kidapawan, North Cotabato were shot at rather than cared for. Dirty coal plants proliferate. Islamic terrorism is nearer than we think.

The popularity of Duterte reveals how the Administration just did not get it. Dazzled by its own numbers, it endorsed a message of continuity for Daan Matuwid unaware that beneath the shine lay the pain of the ordinary man, six hour commutes, unreliable public transport, depleted fishing, drought stricken farm lands. Is this, people ask, what an investment grade gets us?

The popularity of Bongbong Marcos is less easily explained: It is a combination of demographics (the solid north and Leyte), protest vote, name recall and money. Give him credit for figuring it out.

There is no commonality to the rise of Duterte and Marcos. They come from different backgrounds, political leanings, values and behavior. What they do share is voter disenchantment and, increasingly, anger. One sees it in the rabidness of Duterte’s supporters in social media. Following the last Presidential debate, Karen Davila and her family were threatened by Duterte fans who accused her of bias. As for Bongbong is this the people’s personal thumb-nose at PNoy and the assassination of his dad?

It is said there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. Unlike his rivals, the Duterte phenomenon is bigger than a single persona, it is a movement defined as an ideology (Federalism, anti-establishment, right-wing solutions to crime, left-wing solutions to the economy) with critical mass and energy. This explains the passion of his supporters and why outrageous comments on the Pope and rape victims have failed to stem his tide. It explains the breadth of his support across economic classes.

Sen. Trillanes’ revelations on Duterte’s bank accounts –the mayor was initially dismissive of them- raises questions about Digong’s integrity. Trillanes is a supporter of Poe but before we shoot the messenger, let us see the message. It may answer the question of how Duterte has been financing his campaign without accepting donations from the big boys. There is talk of foreign funding interested in the natural resources of Mindanao.

The masses are angry at a system that has left them behind. With little to lose they are ready for a scorched-earth, disruptive cleansing of the political landscape. Many Filipinos will vote for Grace Poe to channel their frustrations but with her gender, connections to the establishment and good manners she is seen by more not to have the ruthlessness to get the job done.

Barring some earth-shaking revelations on his bank accounts and this may not even be enough –voters assume all politicians are more or less corrupt- on May 9 Digong will be our President. He is Filipinos’ revenge on the political, social and financial elite. He is a self-confessed socialist, the anti-thesis of capitalism, so Big Business beware. He is tough on criminals, so human rights activists beware. He is short on political correctness, so politicians and the judiciary beware (He is long on females, so parents with daughters beware).

The good news is Filipinos are channeling their disenchantment through the democratic process. The bad news is their pain is real. If the next President is unable to assuage their hurt with meaningful reforms, the people may vent their frustration in more physical terms. Imagine not 6,000 farmers in N. Cotabato but 6,000 urban poor in the streets of Manila; and you will see what I mean.