• Presidential character


    A FELLOW senator before once told me that every senator in the Senate wants to be president. “But you really have to want the presidency to have it; you should be willing to go to the extent of doing things you won’t normally do,” he said.

    I never thought of it as a joke even then, though I myself never had any presidential ambitions despite serving two terms in the Senate.

    Jaded enough by the experience of Martial Law, I saw his point about doing things to the extreme just to keep the presidency.

    Time and again, election after election, my cynicism about politics has been renewed if not amplified. Some people really would do everything to become president and to stay being president.

    This early, Senator Grace Poe has been one of the easy targets for character assassination simply because she is emerging as the frontrunner in the presidential race, although much like Noynoy Aquino, she seems to be a very reluctant presidential candidate. She has been thrust into a winnable position more than she has sought it.

    The presidency is more destiny than anything else, I’ve heard it said. There is a lot of truth to that too.

    I don’t know Grace Poe that well. But I did run under the senatorial ticket of her father in 2004.

    Looking back, I think Fernando Poe Jr. did not want to be president so bad he was willing to change his character or compromise his principles for it. He didn’t really covet the presidency as much as Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo did.

    When FPJ lost, I mean when the Comelec said he lost, he didn’t raise hell on the streets. He most certainly could have but he didn’t. He didn’t take matters into his own hands, as he did in his movies when the legal system failed him.

    Maybe he didn’t fight for the presidency hard enough because it wasn’t him. He was a quiet, honest and decent man and remained such until his death.

    He never became president, but his soul remained intact.

    After he died, his widow Susan Roces, in the midst of her grief and righteous anger, did not ask people to storm the gates of Malacañang.

    She even called for calm and sobriety when the late Sammy Ong came out to say he had the “mother of all tapes”, the unedited wiretapped version allegedly proving GMA conspired with Comelec Commissioner Garcillano to defraud citizens of their votes.

    Susan only called on GMA to resign, and resignation by the President is constitutional, under Section 8, Article VII of the Philippine Constitution.

    FPJ is dead and buried. GMA’s term is over. She is no longer President but congresswoman of Pampanga, and she in in jail, or some sort of jail anyway. In the words of Macbeth, what’s done is done.

    Finding the truth, the real winner of the presidential elections of 2004 would be, as they say, moot and academic, only for the sake of public interest and for the history books.

    As it is, you don’t need to take a survey to find out how many Filipinos believe the sanctity of the ballot was compromised in the 2004 elections and to find out who they believe really won the presidency.

    Some people still believe we would have been worse off with a Poe presidency.

    I guess we would never really know, would we? But this I believe, a legitimate President is always a better President.

    The perception of fraud had been as damaging to the Arroyo presidency as the actual fraud itself. GMA served her term always with that cloud of doubt hovering over her and she went on to become the most unpopular President this country ever had. Her administration had to operate with the gnawing perception that what held its legitimacy was only deft political and legal maneuvering.

    Some of his critics say FPJ didn’t know what he was getting into, that he was being led astray by people who have vested interests in his presidency. Those who say that are belittling the man.

    I think FPJ fast appreciated the kind of environment (politics) he found himself in, as well as the people he was up against and was dealing with. He was not a fish out of water for long.

    He accepted the reality that there was no way he would come out of the presidential race shining like the roles he played in his movies, heroes with no dark sides, whose virtues are so rooted in lore. He accepted that his reputation at some point would surely be besmirched, his character and competence questioned. He knew the perils ahead, and yet he ran anyway. Even when he didn’t have to, he willingly put everything he had at stake.

    During the campaign he found himself consistently outflanked and humiliated. He was too busy swatting off continuous assaults on his character that he could barely advance his positions on issues facing the country. The spin doctors of his main rival tried to use his candor to sink him into ethical quicksand.

    But the truth, as we’ve come to see from the many testimonies after his death, was that although FPJ was not ethically unimpeachable, he was, after all, better than most political candidates, indeed, better than most of us.

    Filipinos loved him not because he was perfect but because he regretted so sincerely that he was not.

    FPJ just wanted to be of service. He quietly helped many in his life, and he wanted to help more. It was as simple, noble and innocent as that.

    Before he died, he was busy managing the distribution of relief goods to flood victims in Quezon province, goods that he bought with his own money and yet he wanted them donated anonymously, contrary to the inclinations of any self-serving politician who would do the opposite—make sure to get his or her picture in publicity photos while giving away goods bought with people’s money.

    There was a real person behind the myth of FPJ, like I said, a simple, quiet, honest and decent man whose belief in honor and whose love for God, family and country truly made him a heroic figure in life and in death; a man who wouldn’t sell his soul for politics.

    Grace Poe would do well to follow in his footsteps.


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    1. GMA won the 2004 presidential race because the citizens has no other choice but to stop undeserving, unqualified FPJ from managing the country. GMA in all her flaws is 1000X better than FPJ in every angle of logical equation. It was the candidacy of FPJ that forced the citizens to vote for GMA…… Now, here comes another undeserving and unqualified “Adopted, G. Poe”.

    2. Stop beating around the bush, Mr Herrrera. Just say it – Grace Poe for President. O, di ba?

      You may want to write a book about your hero, FPJ, too. So, as Juan Flavier would say, “just do it!” Tapos!

    3. I still won’t buy the idea of just because FPJ is a good-hearted man and will do anything good just like what he does in the movies , AND HE DIED, it is ok to vote for Grace Poe.. =)

    4. Grace Poe, heed your heart…its not the presidency at this time 2016…but the vice presidency. Grace Poe, you will be better off and well seasoned by being the vice president of an action man, with leadership and vision for a prosperous, peaceful and orderly Philippines. This surpise candidate ready for 2016 presidential battle is the battle tested, corrupt free and pork barrell free……PANFILO “Ping” LACSON. You all will see it. And if Grace wont run for higher office, you all will see Bong Bong Marcos will run as VP in 2016 with Panfilo “Ping” Lacson as the President, supported by NP and NPC, ” meron basbas yan ni Uncle ???” . Sorry Mar (you are decent, intelligent and honest…but not at this time).

    5. All this hallelujahs for FPJ is utter hogwash. We need a learned president for the horribly run Philippines! Enough of wannabees, artists and dynasties. Enough of posers and vested interest TUTA candidates.