The MANILA ENVELOPE – An Introduction to Philippine Politics

MAKATI, Philippines – With my first appointment at 11 am, I (unintentionally) got the chance to brush up on current and past happenings in Philippine politics. The big news on that front was the announcement by Senator Mar Roxas that he was suspending his candidacy for the presidential election next year and stepping aside to support the potential candidacy of fellow Senator, Noynoy Aquino. The clamor for Sen. Aquino to run for president started when his mother, the late President Cory Aquino, passed away recently. In his press conference today, however, he did not definitely say whether he planned to run for president though his words seemed to imply that he would make and announce such a choice by next week.

The persons whom I have spoken to about this look favorably upon Noynoy’s becoming a presidential candidate. He does not (not yet anyway) carry the burden of being labeled a “traditional politician” and he does sound and act like an honest to goodness public servant. I don’t want, however, to be too quick at assessing how he would be as president given his relatively thin political resume (9 years as a Congressman, 2+ years as a Senator). Second, his legislative record has not been one that stands out or points to him being anything special (other than being Ninoy’s and Cory’s only son).

The bottom line is, I don’t know how he would be as a leader of a nation that badly needs one and be the force to push a sincere and effective effort at fixing all that is wrong with governance in this nation. Maybe he’ll end up the lesser evil among all the other candidates, maybe he’ll use the time until the election to really build himself up as a credible leader…maybe you don’t have to take my word for any of this. After all, I thought Gloria would be a great President!@#$%^&*().

The other big political news event working its way around was the interview of Congressman Mikey Arroyo, also the son of President Gloria Arroyo. The interview was his attempt to clarify the growing controversy over the substantial increase in his net worth within his Statement of Assets Liabilities and Net Worth that all public officials file very year. It was just his luck that one of the interviewers was the ever feisty and persistent Solita Monsod who tore into (in her motherly way) Mikey’s bumbling and feeble attempts to answer Mrs. Monsod’s pointed questions. WHAT WAS HE THINKING? Why would he choose to be interviewed by Mrs. Monsod who is not known for lobbing softie questions? He had the temerity to say the following:

“As far as I am concerned, here is my Statement of Assets and Liabilities (SAL) and it is self-explanatory,” and,

“If you are in doubt, sue me in court.”

To which Mrs. Monsod replied, ”The law is very clear, if there is a question of unexplained wealth the burden proof is with the government employee.”

To which Mikey answered…”…”

…I guess Mikey didn’t answer.

At some point, he must have figured out he wasn’t going to get away with his amateurish answers and Mikey started to use the ”…ask my lawyer…” cop-out. Uh-oh, he’s in deep doo-doo. One comment I got was that Mikey just committed Suicide by Media – political suicide, that is. Hala lagot ka kay Mommy…

This reminds me of the phrase by former Manila Mayor Arsenio Lacson, ”…so young yet so corrupt”.

I also finished reading this book, Trial of the Century by Earl K Wilkinson (at that time a retired Australian businessman living in the Philippines). The book is about the impeachment trial of former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada. It was a very interesting and engaging read. I particularly liked his insights into the demeanor and often-times comical actions of the Senators who served as judges during that trial. It also saddened me that we still have some of the same senators serving in the current Senate who clearly put the interests of one person above that of the whole country. Sigh…

That book should serve as a reminder of the consequences of electing the wrong person to the highest position in the land. With Erap pushing himself as a presidential candidate again, I hope our memories aren’t too short and maybe remind ourselves that we don’t necessarily share the preference of former President Manuel Quezon for a ”…government run like hell by Filipinos…” otherwise we would get – to paraphrase national hero, Jose Rizal – a government that we deserve (in the negative sense).

So in the last 24 hours we have gotten the best in Philippine politics (Mar Roxas’ selflessness) and the worst in Philippine politics (no description needed). Just another day in the life of the bagong salta

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