No to posers this 2016

For a people who have been brought untold shame, disappointments and hardships by a self-styled superhero and saint for the past six years, the search for the next president and vice president should seem like a déjà vu.

Some insist on doing it again, arguing that they are only choosing the “least evil,” or the “good over evil”.

Take Leni Robredo as an example. Many embraced and lionized her at the debate for being “her own person” supposedly different from either President Aquino or Mar Roxas. They were amazed that she was “clean” and allegedly projected that aura in the debate.

Anyone could do that if you’re standing in between Bongbong Marcos and Sonny Trillanes. It is like standing between Jun Abaya and Butch Abad. Who wouldn’t pick anyone who’s neither Marcos nor Trillanes, or neither Abaya nor Abad?

But seriously. What absolutely unimpressed me about Robredo was her refusal or failure to apply her “reformist” ideas on the present — to the company that she keeps.

If she’s  really for the people in the margins, she is under obligation to condemn the non-inclusive “growth” for the past six years, the anti-corruption campaign that was directed only against this administration’s foes, the refusal to give up pork barrel and the policies that keep many people poor.

Many were proud she raised the Freedom of Information Bill and yet she and her fans very conveniently forget how this Daang Matuwid waylaid it in the House where she is a member. It is a matter of fact that the Senate passed the bill sponsored by Grace Poe. It is deceptive not to mention that the counterpart bill in the House was killed by Robredo’s own party, on instructions of the President.

For someone who prides herself as being a commuter, Robredo dos not apply her “reformism” on Abaya and on all the awful things he represents. While it is now an article of faith to demand the ouster of this hopelessly-inept DOTC secretary, why does Robredo find it difficult to come out boldly for the removal of an official who presides over the near-total breakdown of public mass transportation and this administration’s absolute ineptness at improving the same nationwide?

Robredo’s husband fought the jueteng lords, but his wife who now runs for the nation’s second highest post does not raise a peep about being endorsed by a suspected jueteng lord.

To be honest, if Robredo ran in the opposition, she would be leading the race by now. But she isn’t. She is running with Roxas, and with the avowed goal of continuing the deplorable present. Wittingly or unwittingly, she is being used as a deodorant to the rotting carcass of Daang Matuwid. And if she knows what’s best, she will distance herself from this regime and be true to what she claims to be by having the moral courage to condemn what needs to be coodemned.

If we ourselves cannot stand these questions, we cannot get answers. Ansd we cannot stop the vicious cycle of political accommodation that makes our politics a broken vessel of our hopes.

The same political accommodation made it possible for Bongbong Marcos to reach that rostrum. The exclusive club that is the Senate never held him accountable for airbrushing his academic credentials or for his complicity in the Marcos dictatorship. (Philcomsat chairman, Ilocos Norte Vice Governor and later Governor — all before his father was ousted and his family flown to Hawaii.)

For while it sounds good that the candidates are now raising the Marcos dictatorship’s record of thievery and terrorism, it sounds too late and prone to Bongbong’s self-defense that the issues are all merely campaign politicking.

If these vice presidential candidates really thought that holding the Marcoses accountable was important, why did they forget all about it until now? Isn’t too late now when Bongbong has already cornered a P200-million portion of the supposed loot, rehabilitated himself in politics with no small help from partymates and fellow politicians, and already prepared to take over the vice presidency?

The campaign-period bashing of Bongbong, as we have seen in the debate, provided fireworks. But the shallowness of the criticism from fellow senators and the rights lawyer-turned-politico, the hyperpartisan use of a collective national experience, the inability to remember the simple facts, and the failure to completely eviscerate Bongbong –they mirror the many acts of political accommodation and culture of impunity that made him possible in the first place.

Bongbong survived the attacks not because he was as brilliant as his father. (He isn’t.) He weathered the attacks because of the disinterest in justice by all regimes and leaders that succeeded his father’s dictatorship, and that the very system it was part of, remained and coddled him.

Cayetano’s brilliance meanwhile apparently blinded him into not seeing anything Marcosian in his tandem’s own plans. Go figure.

Robredo herself is part of this climate of impunity. By her silence, she missed her chance to hold high the clients she served as a rights lawyer, and what it meant vis-a-vis the Marcos dictatorship, the fraud that is Bongbong, and the clever permutations of thievery and terrorism under a second President Aquino.

Some will say: Aren’t we asking too much? No. We simply want upright leaders. We’ve had enough of the sophistry and double talk. We want the real deal. We want to move on from the dictatorship that our people ousted in 1986, but we want it done in 2016 with justice, not merely campaign-time politicking. We want change, but we can’t depend again on the made-up aura of fake superheroes and new saints.

We’ve done all those before. We’re under one such superhero and saint for the past six years and despite our wishing that it ain’t true, we’ve found out what it’s like to have a poser as a leader.

Taking down posers in politics could be the same as online and in real life. We have to ask the toughest questions. We have to inquire and to remove the marketing glitz. We have to do more than depend on blind faith, on good feelings and on prayers.

We have to ask questions. We have to pit these candidates against each other, to fight among themselves, and amid the intramurals, we will find some sense of clarity.

As Election Day approaches, my list is getting shorter. And it is getting clearer that I would be choosing candidates who are the best champions of change – by program and by actual record. Not just lip service. I most probably would not vote for 2016 versions of superheroes and saints.

Because our national problems are real, our challenges great. They demand real solutions and great leaders. Posers have made it worse, and so posers should not be allowed again.

First appeared in the Manila Bulletin on 12 April 2016. This is an edited and revised version of what came out in the Bulletin’s print and online editions.