Wednesday, November 15, 2006

My 2007 Senate Wish List

Still sore from their People's Initiative defeat, the leadership of ULAP (Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines) is said to be mulling over the idea of "boycotting" the senatorial race - meaning they will ask their local leaders and constituents not to vote for any of the senatorial candidates. Apparently, ULAP is not only mad at the Supreme Court for junking the PI but is also sore at the Senate (particularly Senator Joker Arroyo who argued on behalf of the Senate in the Supreme Court) for opposing their plans. ULAP was instrumental in the gathering of millions of signatures for the Sigaw ng Bayan-led PI petition.

ULAP boycott notwithstanding, I have drawn up my own wish list of outstanding Filipinos I would like to see in the Senate. So without further ado, here is my 2007 Senate dream team:

1. Washington Sycip (business)
2. Winnie Monsod (economics)
3. Jesse Robredo (local governance)
4. Lea Salonga (performing arts)
5. Conrado de Quiros (media)
6. Randy David (academe)
7. Miss Joji Bian (Mindanao/business)
8. Jesus Tambunting (SME banking)
9. Jaime Galvez-Tan (health/alternative medicine).
10. Mrs. Sonia Roco (women's rights)
11. Congressman Herminio "Miniong" Teves (economics)
12. Tony Meloto (Gawad Kalinga/community service)

I decided to come up with my own Senate list after seeing the "uninspiring" list of senatoriables that Erap announced to the media. And if the opposition slate is uninspiring, I do not have high hopes that the administration slate (which has not revealed its list to date) will be any different. In fact, I suspect the administration Senate slate may be downright depressing.

The fact that none of my senatoriables figure in the surveys (read: "unwinnable") speak volumes about the state of politics in this country. It is easy to dismiss the problem and say that it is because the voters have gotten dumber. But I think the problem is not that our voters have gotten dumber but rather that our politicians have gotten more obsessed with winning. I have no doubt that in the 1950s/1960s, the moviestars of Sampaguita Pictures would have been swept into office if they ran for the Senate. But moviestars then never misconstrued the people's adulation as a mandate to govern. They knew their place and their limitations and the political powerbrokers then put more weight on one's credentials rather than winnability (because back then it is party resources and backing which determines electoral victory). I surmise that some of the Sampaguita stars were egged on by sycophants to use their celebrity to launch careers in politics (Rogelio dela Rosa, a movie idol, indeed was convinced to run and even won a Senate seat). But in general, most simply did not have the "gall" to run for the Senate. Today, those who obviously have "walang K" think nothing of running if surveys show that they will win.

Ultimately, the solution I think lies not with the voters but with the party elders. The political parties should sit down and discuss ways how to tone down the prevailing "politics of celebrity" and how to "level the playing field" so to speak for better qualified but virtually unknown aspirants. If the parties all agree to field highly-qualified but virtually-unknown candidates, Filipino voters will now be forced to really find out and study the life stories, qualifications, achievements and policy advocacies of the individual candidates. During campaign stops, voters will now be forced to really listen to the speeches to understand what issues these "unfamiliar" faces stand for. As a campaign veteran, I know it is hard enough for a candidate to get his/her message across what with the heat, the noise and the crowds let alone sharing the stage with Pepeng Agimat, Panday or Leon Guerrero. If you are a candidate, how do you compete with that? How can you capture your audience's minds when you cannot even attract their attention? Even in progressive, "sophisticated" countries like the US for example, celebrities enjoy a built-in edge over their non-celebrity opponents (i.e. how do you distract attention away from Arnold "The Terminator" Schwarzenegger aber?) .

If we keep sending unqualified individuals to the Senate, I am afraid that the institution will continue to lose its luster and eventually its reason for being. Baka ang Senado maging Iskul Bukol na lang. Our people will ask: why maintain a Lower and Upper House when there are no difference in the quality of discussion and debate between the two? I also suspect that our people are tired of seeing the same old faces dominating politics and are pining for fresh faces. As they say in the political PR business: "Pag bagong mukha, madaling pagandahin at make-upan. Pero pag ubod na ng kapal at sapin-sapin na ang make-up, mahirap na iretoke yan!"


Chabeli said...

It is an interesting wish list, however from what I understand an American citizen cannot run in the Senate (Washington Sycip, I mean).

mong said...

nakakadisappoint din ang mga reelectionist. si mr. noted may commercial pa ngayon ng lucky me

Anonymous said...

i may not like all the names in your wish list, but it's a good combination... i personally know mr tambunting and i know he'll be a good servant...