With an IQ addition of 50 or more, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala could easily vault into the lofty perch of top LP contender for the 2016 presidential election. No kidding. Alcala is the only party major leaguer who appears to have a sense of humor, the only one who does not take himself too seriously. Despite being sidelined (and constantly bludgeoned) by Kiko Pangilinan and getting tagged as a pork barrel crook, Alcala has not lost his sunny disposition, his cool.
OK, here is why presidential candidates have to look cool. It is the age of “picture, picture.”
You can’t run for president these days with the look of one just out of a root canal procedure. These are the days of roaming paparazzi wannabes who giddily click and post with their smart phones. A presidential candidate is a primary target. The photo of a presidential candidate with a tortured look can go viral within seconds and that would turn off voters to a point of no return.
But here is the thing. Alcala could not possibly narrate. With an element of mastery, the transition from GATT to WTO, including the surprisingly low bounden tariff rates on our vital crops. (Were our trade negotiators busy shopping during the negotiations?) For a presidential candidate, that is too insurmountable a handicap. Alcala, despite his gift of a sunny face, needs propping up—a major propping up—in terms of policy smarts and size of cerebellum. Between now and 2016, you can’t equip Alcala with the needed smarts.
The LP has to draft its smart men for the pool from which it would draw its presidential candidate. Definitely, there is a trade-off, a problem rather.
The LP’s gallery of possible presidential candidates, lumped up as “presidentiables” by radio commentators who tend to improvise on the English language on the cheap, is a cast of academically-prepared men who all look like Leonid Brezhnev, an iconic face of the Cold War who vividly represented the stern, dour-faced Kremlin apparatchiks of that unlamented era. Men of my age cringed at that coldness and sternness, the look of a leader utterly incapable of showing human emotion. (Sorry millennials, you have to Google Brezhnev.)
You can’t look like old man Leonid, run for president, and win. No matter how academically smart you are.
Why is the LP stuck with these men who are long on ego and self-importance and short on charisma and sense of humor and capacity for self-deprecation? And whose demeanor makes Donald Sterling look charming. Does not the LP even realize that this is the formula for doomsday in 2016? And even though these dour-faced men have faltered in the surveys, the LP does not change course and overhaul its gallery of presidential wannabes. There are two possible reasons for this.
The main reason is this: the template of a desired presidential candidate is President Aquino. Always serious. Always hectoring us about “tuwid na daan.” The overwhelming sense of the President’s personal rectitude has rubbed off on the party and the consensus is to pattern the 2016 presidential candidate on the incumbent.
A problem with this. The year 2016 is different from 2010. People are tired, too tired, of lectures on integrity and good governance. The “tuwid na daan” spiels are by now grating to the ears, dated and worn out. The people want a human being, one who would feel their pain and hold their hands in times of trouble, for president.
Also remember that President Aquino won in 2010 not on his promise of efficient technocracy but due to the grief of a nation over the death of his mother. It was an outpouring of emotion that pushed more people to vote for him instead of his closest rival, a former president convicted of plunder and who was then seeking personal redemption.
Grief and personal redemption were the main themes of the 2010 presidential election and voters overwhelmingly snubbed the competence offered by Gibo Teodoro and Manny Villar.
Before the death of his mother catapulted him to prominence, Mr. Aquino was a middling senator, and before that, just one of the 200 members of the HOR. At least John F. Kennedy, who became president of the US after a lackluster stint in the US senate, wrote books and got solid grounding on foreign affairs and political economy.
The other is a feeling of superiority. The major LP contenders may feel that they are better than the competition in terms of both academic and professional achievements and that has vested them with a sense of entitlement. But, even if true, does that license them to act as insensitive and cold technocrats?
The remoteness and sternness of the LP hopefuls are striking when compared with the perceived authenticity of the competition.
JCB and APC, the two political figures seeking the presidency, act and talk like authentic figures. They appear approachable and not distant, humans and not technocrats. For all we know, they might be putting on an act. But on the surface, they appear more genuine and legitimate than the Brezhnev clones in the LP.
The LP hopefuls, truth to tell, make JCB and APC look like people oozing with humanity.