Let the contest begin

When taxi drivers start talking passionately about politics, that is a clear sign that election fever is already upon us.

This is exactly what happened to us of all places, in Guam. During a weekend trip to the island, this Filipino taxi driver, when he found out that we were visiting, started to give an impromptu discourse on Philippine presidential politics, including the bad and good points of all the leading presidential wannabes. He also told us whom he will vote for.

It was both surprising and encouraging that overseas Filipinos are keenly following political developments here. With politics hogging the headlines, the contest has indeed really begun even if the certificates of candidacy have yet to be filed.

Senator Grace Poe finally did what everyone had been expecting. She declared her intention to run for president with Senator Chiz Escudero as her running mate, as well as her 20-point agenda on how she intends to govern the country if elected president. She did this even if she is embroiled in a disqualification case before the Senate Electoral Tribunal. It is a case she is well advised not to take lightly.

A lot of media space has already been devoted to the citizenship issue of Senator Poe. Opinion writers of this paper and others considered as opposition papers, are clearly against the senator. My view on this issue, however, is not legal. I will go to the extent of conceding that she is a natural-born citizen and could therefore run for president. But more important in my estimation is her motivation. It would seem that in running for president at this time, she is more opportunistic than the patriot that she is claiming to be.

This is what is disturbing. Can we for instance trust a person who can change citizenships so easily to be our president? After finishing her college education in America, she got married to her American-born husband, and eventually became a naturalized American citizen and would have been contented living and working there. Things changed for her, however, when her father Fernando Poe Jr., the king of Philippine cinema, beloved by all, passed away in 2004 after losing the presidential election in the same year.

When this happened, opportunity beckoned. She came back to the Philippines, got appointed to a government position, ran for senator and won. Now, she is a heartbeat away from the presidency. Will the Filipino electorate, knowing this story, vote for someone who has forsaken her country once to live in the land of milk and honey to be their president?

This may be hard for a lot of people to swallow especially those who see her as an upstart who came from out of nowhere to become the frontrunner in the race to become President. Fortunately, however, these people will not decide on who should be president. The Filipino electorate will.

This drama will undoubtedly be played further but should be decided with finality as quickly as possible for the good of all.

The two other declared candidates, former Secretary Mar Roxas, and Vice President Jejomar Binay, have their own serious problems to contend with. Both cannot seem to be able to convince people to run as their running mates. Mar Roxas, if the reports are true, had to bamboozle Leni Robredo to agree to be his running mate. VP Binay, on the other hand, has been saying that he has a running mate but up to this time, the persons that he has been mentioning have been denying that there is such a deal.

The VP up to now is also still being hounded by allegations of corruption and there is no sign of this dying down. If at all, it will probably pick up as the campaign season gets nearer. The principal strength of VP Binay, however, in spite of all the accusations against him, is his ability to relate and identify with the masses who constitute majority of the voters. This is the reason why he is still there, fighting strong.

The latest Social Weather Stations survey showed the VP sliding down to third place with Senator Poe and Mar Roxas occupying first and second. But a lot of questions have been raised about the methodology used in this survey. Suspicions abound that the reason it was done this way was to favor a certain candidate.

Experienced pollsters tend to agree with this. After all, people will be asked to vote for one president and one vice president. Voters will not be ask to list down their three preferences and whoever get the highest number of firsts become the president and vice president, respectively. It simply is not done this way and the explanation of the SWS does not wash.

For Mar Roxas it has always been a question of winnability. Can he win? Many believe he cannot. This is because he cannot seem to connect with the masses; in fact, reports have it that the INC has turned against him. He has a reputation of being an outstanding macro manager and this is touted as his strength by his allies. He, however, has not been able to dodge effectively all the accusations of failures as DOTC and DILG secretary. He must therefore find ways to convince the voters to believe that he is the man best suited to be their President.

In spite of all these alleged weaknesses and failures, however, that taxi driver in Guam said that he would vote for Mar Roxas. This shows that he does have his own supporters among the electorate; there are still those who believe in him.

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