Wednesday, May 5, 2010

For your consideration: Richard Gordon

No, I am not campaigning for Richard Gordon. I am not campaigning for Manny Villar either, although I gave space to his piece here. I am still woefully undecided. I just came across this well-written piece in Facebook that I thought worth sharing with readers. Let the piece speak for itself. I must admit it is good reading, after reading that diatribe of Pat Evangelista. It is written by one Kenzei Yonzon.

For your consideration: Richard Gordon

I put down my thoughts today with much regret for the time I had let pass. Time I have lost. Perhaps, if I'd made up my mind sooner, I could have done more. But here we are, five days to go before we, the Filipino people, are given an opportunity to steer our nation. In five days, we will let our voices be heard and brace ourselves for a change in leadership that we all hope will bring this troubled country some relief. By this time, most of us will have decided on whom to support. I write in the faint hope that my verbosity might help at least one person decide.

This note is borne partly in response to an article written by the young and brilliant Patricia Evangelista which is certain to sway many minds. In her piece entitled 'People call me Dick.' (you might have read it or will find it with relative ease), she delineates her dislike for Richard Gordon and questions his character. She gives as an example Gordon's dismissal of UNO editor Erwin Romulo as a "nobody" during his interview on NU 107's RockEd Radio.

But she is disingenuous in that she fails to mention how Romulo relentlessly goaded Gordon into committing slander and, in failing, calls the Senator 'chickenshit' on live radio. To subvert that context in a powerfully worded piece is rather irresponsible. Perhaps, in Evangelista's perfect world, no statesman will lose their cool in the face of such blatant disrespect. Alas, Gordon fired back as he is wont to do. That is his character. He won't take any bullshit and he won't give it, either. Richard Juico Gordon is about as straight a shooter as you can possibly imagine.

Humility is not merely spoken. It is not in reticence to say what needs to be said. Humility is also found in action. And let me tell you that giving about two thirds of your life in volunteer work is humility that speaks greater volumes than presenting an affable face in front of the cameras.

Let me address that Cojuangco issue to you now, Patricia Evangelista, and to you, Erwin Romulo, so that you may understand what it means and why there are such insinuations and why it gets Richard Gordon's goat. Because it gets me incensed just thinking about it, too.

The lynchpin of Benigno Aquino III's campaign is the tagline, "Kung Walang Corrupt, Walang Mahirap" (If there is no corruption, there is no poverty)

The question Gordon asks -- and which I also ask as a voter and Filipino citizen in response is, "so why are there still poor people in Tarlac?" We all agree that there are poor people in Tarlac, right? I hope nobody will deny this.

It is a logic argument, simply. That either means Aquino's campaign slogan is a fallacy, an outright lie, or it could be absolutely true. In which case, well, you can draw your own conclusions.

I would like to think that the statement is pure political bombast, cooked up by Aquino's crack team of political strategists and advisers, and not an honest statement to be taken for fact. That is better than the alternative, which Romulo was so intent on getting Gordon to say. There is dishonesty in either case, because obviously there are still poor people in Tarlac, for one reason or the other.

I don't want a leader whose campaign is based on an outright lie. This is why "Tapusin ang kahirapan" (End poverty) is an equally false promise. A capitalist, of all people, should know better. This is why Gibo's "Galing at Talino" (Skill and Intelligence) appealed to me. But Gibo doesn't have a monopoly on that -- Richard Gordon has galing and talino in equal measure.

It boiled down to those two candidates for me: Gilbert Teodoro and Richard Gordon. To many who will vote for either man come May 10, it comes down to preference. In order to proceed to my choice of Richard Gordon, I must first explain why I didn't choose Gilbert Teodoro.

My brother explained to me that he supported Teodoro because he was willing to work with everybody as opposed to Gordon and VP bet Bayani Fernando's often criticized method of 'my way or the highway'. Teodoro is envisioned by many to be a unifying leader, someone who will galvanize opposing forces under his vision for a better Philippines. They point out his refusal to participate in mudslinging and tearing at opponents, focusing instead on the positive. The message certainly sold well to my hippie parents.

The flip side of such passivity, unfortunately, also reeks of transactional politics and compromise. There is much to be said about Teodoro and his wife, Congresswoman Nikki Teodoro's withdrawal of support for the RH Bill after championing it staunchly. The timing -- at the cusp of the elections -- is suspect. It's not as if Teodoro hadn't deliberated well on the issue before endorsing it. His 180º turnaround hints of compromise and political maneuvering.

It was gravely telling to me that the Ampatuan massacre happened so shortly after his tenure as Secretary of National Defense. It stands to reason that the position is privy to the most sensitive military information including, but not limited to, the accumulation of firearms by private armies. That there was no effort to de-escalate this accumulation at all during his tenure is baffling. He claims that disarming private armies in Mindanao was difficult due to the volatile conflict in the region. But private armies exist in Luzon, too. Just ask Chavit Singson. In April, Teodoro curiously declined to discuss the issue of private armies when invited by the Human Rights Watch to air his plans.

When typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) hit in September 2009, there was a clear lack of preparedness for the event. While a disaster of that scale can reasonably be considered something out of left field, to rationalize the inadequacy of relief efforts to the lack of a budget for rubber boats falls somewhat short of credible. Especially in a country that sees flooding and typhoons on a regular basis, the efficacy of the government's response -- Teodoro's domain -- was underwhelming.

On a personal note, it also doesn't sit well with me that Teodoro's seven year tenure at the EP Mendoza law firm, the same firm that defended Joseph Estrada during his impeachment trial, was spent mostly on the defense team of Lucio Tan and Danding Cojuangco in their ill-gotten wealth cases. While not passing judgement either way, his political leanings are demonstrated here, and I am not inclined to side with it.

Galing at Talino are both excellent qualifications, but so is Gawa (Action). I would love to believe that Teodoro is the right choice for our nation as he certainly exudes a most stately demeanor on top of his obvious intelligence, but his performance in my opinion leaves much to be desired.

So. Richard Juico Gordon.

I will address here first the perception that a vote for Gordon is a wasted one because he has no chance of winning.

I believe that the purest vote is a vote cast in a vacuum, cast without regard for probabilities and surveys. We vote for whom we think is best for the position and not for whom we think has a chance to win. This is not the Lotto. The moment we allow surveys to dictate our voice, or if we decide to play kingmaker and cast our votes as a preventative measure, then we will have been compromised. The integrity of our vote will have been diminished. No, the only wasted vote is one that isn't cast. You don't second guess 50 million Filipinos.

On May 10 I will vote for Richard Gordon because of his platform, his accomplishments, and yes, even his oftentimes overbearing personality. One big difference between Gordon's platform and those of other candidates is that Gordon calls upon the Filipino people -- you, me, every one of us -- to work hard to change this nation.

Gordon's record speaks for itself. Olongapo, SBMA & Subic, Department of Tourism, and six years in the Senate with numerous bills authored and passed. He has already come under fire for flaunting his accomplishments, almost rubbing it in his opponents' faces, so I don't think his record is in question. However, out of all his accomplishments the one that stands out for me is his over forty years in service with the Philippine National Red Cross. It's all voluntary.

In fact, if anything jumps out at me from all his media interviews and reading his work, it is the fact that he engenders volunteerism. He demands it. His work in Olongapo, Subic, and the Red Cross are all driven by volunteerism. Gordon understands that the Philippines will not rise on the power of its President alone but on the efforts of every Filipino. It will take hard work to make this happen. Bawal ang tamad (No room for the lazy).

Gordon runs at the end of his six year term in the Senate. This means that if he loses this election, he will have no position in government. Villar and Aquino were both elected in 2007 and will return to the Senate if they don't win the Presidency. In other words, Gordon has thrown all his chips in the pot. He's gone all in and stands to lose everything. Well, everything except the PNRC, which I can guarantee you he will continue to volunteer for even if he doesn't win.

That's the point. Gordon has been at this longer than any other candidate. He's been serving the Filipino people with or without public office, volunteering his time -- and many of those who have worked with him will tell you of his long hours -- and his life to the people of this nation. Because he loves this nation and its people. Boy, does he ever.

Richard Gordon wears his heart on his sleeve, vacillating between teary-eyed sympathy and vein-popping lividity even under the watchful eyes of the media. He is who he is. What you see is what you get. If Richard Gordon is abrasive it is because he knows nothing else but brutal honesty, and I appreciate that more than duplicitous timidity and tactful restraint. I appreciate honesty and straight shooting because so few politicians are capable of it.

If Gordon is angry it's because his passion to change this country is so overwhelming that it tears at his very core to imagine the Filipino people, out of sympathy and nostalgia, so willing to hand over the keys to an ineffectual public servant bankrolled by the country's oligarchs. If you truly love this country and want to effect change, you'd be offended, too. I know I am.

This is why Gordon's strong personality is endearing to me. I don't want compromise. I'm sick of it. I'm tired of politicians spinning lines and making this a morality play. The heart of the issue is that the country is sick. The Philippines is in the mud and we need to get up. One person won't be able to do it, and Gordon knows that.

We know that. At the back of our minds, we know that in order to actually change this downtrodden archipelago, we have to get off our lazy asses and work hard. Some of us will hide behind the thought that if we vote for this or that candidate, our involvement can end. More than a few of us will gladly hand the keys over to the nation and be happy to ride in the back seat.

That's not going to get it done.

Our involvement doesn't end on May 10 after we cast our vote. It only just begins there. The most telling of Gordon's traits is that, no matter the outcome of these Presidential elections, I know that Richard Gordon will continue to devote his life to serving the Filipino people, working with the PNRC. That speaks volumes to me.

What this country needs isn't a change of men, Gordon says, it needs a change IN men.

I have never been so inspired by a leader as I have by Richard Gordon.

At the end of the day, even if none of these words manage to sway your vote, understand that I am hopeful that this country is moving in the right direction. We have a new automated election (thanks to a law authored by Gordon), the emergence of social media as an alternative and complement to traditional television and print, and the most informed voting population in history. Voter education will only continue to get better, and I'm hopeful that along the way, we'll continue to make the right choices.

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