What it takes to be presidentiable

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva1 (The Philippine Star) - December 17, 2015 - 9:00am

It’s ceasefire for now on the word war between presidential candidates Mar Roxas and Rodrigo Duterte.

Retreat it is not. Both feuding presidential rivals have proven their respective points without each losing face.

He may be a soft-spoken man but Roxas demonstrated he is no weakling and certainly no pushover, especially when push comes to shove from a notorious bully. Mar turns out to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing, so to speak, when a bull crosses his path. Roxas’ fighting statement is something that is a far cry of him as a technocrat.

A tough-talking Duterte, on the other hand, has proven again he never backs out from a good battle, especially when he fights for the right cause. But the Davao City mayor should know when enough is said.

In this word exchange, the net benefit goes to Roxas, as he is down to fourth in the latest survey of the Social Weather Stations (SWS). In this survey, commissioned by a supporter of the Davao City mayor, the results of the mock polls showed Duterte dislodging Poe from top spot among the presidentiables.

In effect, Duterte gave Roxas a favor. It pulled up cellar dweller Roxas to the level of Duterte. In the heated exchange, Roxas came out as a tough honcho after all.

But, thank goodness, Duterte blinked. The public wouldn’t like any incident that is physical in nature.

This is the presidency, after all. Let words fly, not fist nor bullets!

To borrow the favorite line of President Aquino, at the end of the day, reason prevailed on Roxas and Duterte. Obviously, their bitter exchange of words is not doing the race for the presidency any good. Such was demeaning and shaming the presidential campaign altogether with their juvenile bitch-slapping dares on each other.

Had Roxas and Duterte continued with this antic, it will turn the presidential campaign – and mind you we are not even into the official campaign period – into a contest between two macho men in a slap fest, or slugfest, or a shootout.

The other presidential candidates – Vice President Jejomar Binay and Senators Grace Poe, Miriam Defensor-Santiago – are just watching from the sidelines as Roxas and Duterte engage each other in this kind of “killer” bout.

At the Kapihan sa Manila Bay at Luneta Hotel last Wednesday, Sen. Vicente C. Sotto III who is running for re-election in May 2016 polls half-amusedly related to us the semblance of the Roxas-Duterte word war to his late uncle Oscar Castelo’s aborted gun duel with then Manila Mayor Arsenio Lacson, who was also known for his Duterte-like temper.

Sotto recalled his uncle Castelo was then the defense secretary of former President Elpidio Quirino when he almost confronted ex-Mayor Lacson. Sotto was then a young boy when told about the incident that happened in Luneta Hotel (previously called Shellborne Hotel) in the 1950s.

Lacson came to the hotel with police security escorts when he chanced upon Castelo. Their feud stemmed over the libel case filed by Castelo against Lacson’s ally, the late Sen. Claro M. Recto, Sotto recalled. Seeing the presence of armed bodyguards of Lacson, Castelo called up his office at the Defense Department to ask for rescue by Army personnel. Neutral groups prevented what could have been bloody, if not tragic end for the two officials. But the near shootout landed in the front pages of all national dailies, Sotto said.

This is why I completely agree with former President Fidel V. Ramos when he called upon the two warring gentlemen to rise above their pricked egos because the presidency is not for those who are into petty nitpicking endeavors. In a media forum the other day, Ramos told reporters how he faced his opponents during the May 1992 presidential elections and parried insults with dignity.

But what worries more “senior citizen Eddie,” as he fondly calls himself now, is the prospect of the  May 2016 presidential contest being reduced to elimination and not by election process. Ramos particularly echoed his grave concern on the disqualification cases hanging over the heads of Poe and Duterte.

“There were seven of us in 1992. You may end up with only one candidate if we follow this process of elimination. This is not the way our people want it. Give the benefit of the doubt to the person most concerned,” Ramos exhorted.

Ramos minced no words to say Poe and Duterte should be allowed to run based on the people’s mandate. Having choices would allow the voice of the people to be heard, Ramos pointed out.

This is the same sentiment echoed by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. who warned the disqualification of one or two of the leading candidates for President would not sit well with Filipino voters. Ironically, Poe and Duterte who have topped the most recent surveys on voters preferences are both facing disqualification.

Actually, even President Aquino himself was the first to express in no uncertain terms he would also like to allow Poe to run for president and let the people decide her fate, that is if he had his way. President Aquino said he would not want Poe to be disqualified from the presidential race, whether on the basis of her questionable citizenship by being a foundling, or her residency issue.

“At the end of the day, sovereignty resides in the people. Let the people decide,” P-Noy stressed. Incidentally, P-Noy is the Liberal Party (LP) chieftain who much earlier anointed Roxas as its presidential standard-bearer.

Indeed, in a democracy the power to govern should come directly from the people, not through the force of arms, or virtual force of arms, which in this case would be served through a legal coup if Poe or Duterte is disqualified. In democratic countries, the presidents are chosen through free and open elections by their citizens, with the question of eligibility settled by the very people who would cast their votes.

Those who are aspiring to be president of a country are supposed to be its more enlightened and respectable citizens. People vote for them because they have supposedly distinguished themselves by their abilities and virtue. They are supposed to have a reputation for integrity that inspires and merits confidence from people.

They supposedly best understand our national interests and they promote those interests to the best of their abilities.

They are supposed to exercise wisdom, discretion, discernment and statesmanship. This what it takes to be a presidentiable.


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