Where is Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro (no relation) getting the audacity–the sheer cheek — to run for President of the Philippines? And what led the Lakas-CMD-KAMPI executive committee to endorse his nomination?

It’s certainly not from the results of the surveys. Every poll ever taken since a year ago and until the other day puts Teodoro among the least preferred successors to Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo, together with sidewalk vendor terror and footbridge builder Bayani Fernando. Teodoro is in fact running neck and neck at last place with Fernando, Jamby Madrigal, “Don’t know,” and “No preference.” In some surveys his name doesn’t even appear because no respondent mentioned him at all. So scratch the surveys out as a source of Teodoro’s and the Lakas-CMD-KAMPI executive committee’s optimism.

Could it be his background? Teodoro is a graduate of Harvard. But so was George W. Bush a graduate of Yale, and the country hasn’t lacked for alumni as far as those two US schools go. If that were the only basis at least a hundred members of the UP faculty would run for President.

Teodoro’s also a lawyer. But so are tens of thousands of other people in this lawless country–and so are the scores of officials who have run this country into the ground and who’re still at it at this very moment. Ferdinand Marcos was a lawyer too, so that can’t be much of a recommendation– although being an economist like Arroyo doesn’t mean the country’s going to prosper either, just as having a lawyer for president hasn’t made the country any more lawful.

It’s certainly not his personality and charisma. Teodoro’s about as interesting as the results of the last week’s Lotto draw, and as capable of generating as much excitement as the latest economic growth statistics from NEDA.

It can’t be his record as a public servant either. Malacanang spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo says Teodoro’s track record in public service beats that of Benigno Noynoy Aquino III. No, Fajardo wasn’t referring to Teodoro’s record as a congressman or even as chair of the Tarlac Kabataang Barangay, but to the economic policies Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has put in place. In Fajardo’s parallel universe, that somehow counts as part of Teodoro’s track record.

It’s actually a no-brainer, however. Many people think that Teodoro is running, and will be nominated by the (still contested) Lakas-CMD-KAMPI merger, because Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has promised him her full support, which they believe should offset Noynoy Aquino’s popular base. As Interior Secretary and master political operator Ronaldo Puno, who’s also running as Teodoro’s vice president, puts it, enthusiasm no matter how vast isn’t enough.

In a fit of understatement, Puno said there’s “some discontent” among the people because of “miscommunication about what the government does or intends to do.” As a result, there’s “a lot of confusion and when our people are confused, they tend to get very negative.” Ergo, “we will have to explain to the people how they will deal with the hurts they feel, problems they experience every day, the poverty they have been mired in.”

In other words, it’s a matter of “communication” — of convincing people that their “hurts” and “problems,” as well as “the poverty they have been mired in,” is not the Arroyo government’s doing.

How to do this? Puno wasn’t saying, but we all know what the answer to that question is. Christ is not the answer, but money and lots of it: money to fuel a huge media campaign, cobble together and buy the allegiance of as many groups as possible, and to make sure that the actual voting and counting of votes will go their way has been the standard trapo tactic to defeat the people’s will.

Sure, there’s automation, which the Commission on Elections and its rah-rah groups are touting as the solution to the many creative ways the pols have devised to subvert elections. But as the US experience in Florida during the 2004 elections among others has shown, automation doesn’t guarantee clean elections, and could even make fraud and disenfranchisement so much easier. As the critics of the system the Comelec has put in place have pointed out, the possible areas where fraud could be committed now run into the dozens, and what’s more would be mostly undetectable.

In short: the Teodoro-Puno team, which for what could be understandable reasons its rooters have been lately describing as “formidable,” are in this in the certainty that not only can it offset the popularity of other candidates through the sheer power of incumbency and its control over money, resources, and even certain Comelec commissioners. It can also prevail over popular choice itself through whatever other devices Le Clique Arroyo can put in place before election day.

If there will be elections. A power failure, the regime’s Angelo Reyes has repeatedly warned, is possible next year, and would wreak havoc on the Comelec system. After all, if the airport itself didn’t have a single back up generator for the radar system last September 13, what’s to guarantee that the Comelec will have them in place all over the archipelago on May 10, 2010?

The Lakas-CMD-KAMPI choice of Teodoro and Puno isn’t as crazy as it seems. Teodoro’s choice also makes sense from another perspective, and that’s US approval. Like a number of other countries, the US has supported candidates its analysts think can further its interests, and is likely to be supporting other presidential candidates for 2010. Teodoro, however, has the advantage of having a track record in the Department of Defense (you didn’t mention that, Lorelei) that has consistently been in tune with US interests in this part of the world, and what’s more has pledged the same allegiance to those interests that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has demonstrated since 2001.

As carefully thought out as the choice of Teodoro-Puno may be, however, it’s only one of several options Le Clique has put in place to assure continuing control over the Philippine government after 2010. A failure of elections, which would prolong Arroyo’s rule, is still among those options– as are others, including charter change after the elections, which would scuttle the results should they, despite the regime’s best efforts, prove unacceptable anyway. No one should write off the Teodoro-Puno team. But no one should write off the other, equally dire possibilities the regime has lined up for this country either.



Luis V. Teodoro

Prof. Luis V. Teodoro is a former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, where he used to teach journalism. He writes political commentary for BusinessWorld.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *