The picture of the 2010 presidential election in the Philippines is becoming clearer, as a dozen probable candidates for the presidency came out wearing sneakers, as if they were ready to run during an early morning road race organized by broadcast firm GMA Network at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig, Metro Manila on August 28, 2009. They signed a manifesto bearing their commitment to observe clean and honest election next year, witnessed by no less than the chairman of the Commission on Election or Comelec.
Former President Joseph Estrada, Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay of PDP Laban, Senators Francis Escudero and Loren Legarda of Nationalist People's Coalition, Bayani Fernando of Lakas-Kampi CMD, Senator Richard Gordon, Senator Jamby Madrigal, John Carlos delos Reyes of Ang Kapatiran, Senator Francis Pangilinan of Liberal Party, environmentalist Nicanor Perlas, Eddie Villanueva of Bangon Pilipinas, and Senator Manuel Villar of Nationalista Party joined the run-for-a-cause campaign called "Eleksyon 2010: Tatakbo Ka Ba?"
Conspicously absent were Vice President Noli de Castro who was in China and Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro who reported sick. De Castro is reportedly being groomed to be the standard bearer of the Kampi-Lakas CMD alliance, but he has to clear this with Teodoro, another administration bet and Fernando, who is a stalwart of the administration party.
Other politicians who were invited but were not able to attend the event were Pampanga Governor Ed Panlilio, Isabela Governor Grace Padaca, and Interior and Local Government Secretary Reynaldo Puno.
Noynoy Aquino of Liberal Party did not attend the event, as he was still trying to make up his mind on whether to run for president, according to the event organizers.
Officially, nobody has filed a certificate of candidacy for president yet. Deadline of filing is on November 30, 2009.
But infomercials, featuring presidential aspirants, have been aired as early as the start of 2009. Certain aspirants have spent hundreds of millions of pesos, long before the campaign season begins.
"Sana huwag nang maulit ang 2004 election, tulad ng Hello Garci at I am sorry," said Erap, referring to the alleged fraud and vote rigging in the past presidential election, where his friend and the late actor, Fernando Poe Jr. lost to incumbent President Gloria Arroyo.
Estrada, who won by a landslide in the 1998 presidential race, also cited the need for a law that would punish cheaters during election.
"This is for clean election," said Manny Villar, of his participation in the activity.
Eddie Villanueva, for his part, said a clean election is the key to democracy. He said a wider choice of presidentiables would strengthen democracy in the country.
Nic Perlas, who counts on the support of the civil society and non-government organizations, said he decided to run for president to offer reforms for the country, which "has suffered from traditional politics."
Bayani Fernando described himself as an action man who belongs to the largest political party.
All the political personalities, except for Kiko Pangilinan, said they would run for the presidency. Pangilinan said he is eyeing the seat of the vice president. Dick Gordon said he considers himself a "presumptive" presidential candidate at the moment.
Commission on Election chairman Jose Melo administered the oath taking of the 12 personalities who committed to shun cheating and fraud during the campaign and election period.
The personalities committed to their pledge by signing a notarized document.
Melo, a former Supreme Court justice, said the document was a pledge "to observe the rules of law and observe gentlemanly and ladylike campaign."
GMA Network chairman and president Felipe Gozon said the success of the activity showed that Filipinos were desiring for a more peaceful election that will lead to a better condition of the nation.
Madrigal used the occasion to criticize Villar for allegedly using public funds for a controversial road project while Gordon urged the public to look beyond personalities and see the track record and capability of candidates.
Gordon, one of the authors of the automated election, said he found it "indecent" for politicians to spend large sums for commercials ahead of the campaign period, obviously hitting at Villar and Roxas.
Political analysts see a political showdown among major political parties in 2010, including Lakas-Kampi CMD, Nationalista Party of Villar, Liberal Party of Roxas, Nationalist People's Coalition of Escudero and Legarda, PDP Laban of Binay, and Partido ng Masang Pilipino of Estrada.
Estrada's fate as a second-time presidential candidate rests on the Supreme Court's decision on whether he could have another term as president after his first tenure was cut in January 2001 by a military-backed people uprising.
Among the candidates, Gordon probably has the best track record, although Fernando and Binay could also boast of their own accomplishments. These three are action
-oriented politicians who just might have ideas on what the presidency means.
Erap, who stayed in power for almost three years, still seems at a loss on what a president should be doing or more importantly should not be doing. Villar is an influential politician and businessman, who has to explain clearly why he wants to become a president, now that he is already a billionaire.
Escudero and Legarda are both good speakers, who might do good jobs as spokesmen, but not as the leader of the nation. Mar Roxas, in his attempt to depict himself as a strong leader, resorted to cursing in a rally in Makati, which is a sign of weakness, than anything else.
Villanueva, JC delos Reyes and Perlas push for reforms, but exactly what these reforms are, need to be elaborated, scrutinized and determined carefully.
Unfortunately, none of the candidate has disclosed his or her political platform yet and said anything about critical issues such as family planning, foreign direct investments or FDI, employment generation, mining, trade liberalization, infrastructure development, peace talks with MILF and CCP, human rights, poverty alleviation, agrarian reform, renewable energy, and climate change.
More importantly, none of them could cite any major infrastructure project that they would implement, if elected. Cory had flyovers at EDSA, FVR had power plants, and GMA had Roro ports to brag about. But what would these presidentiables want to be known for, if they occupy Malacanang Palace in six years.
The Philippines needs roads, bridges, expressways, subways, trains, modern ports, state-of-the-art airports, broadband networks, sewerage systems, water treatment plants, dams, irrigation canals, water systems, anti-flood control projects, wind mills, solar powered plants, ocean wave or tidal powered plants, new cities, new commercial business districts, well planned urban settlements, school buildings, hospitals, mass housing, industrial zones, Freeports, food terminals, distribution networks, etc.
Yet, these presidentiables do not even have the initiative or will to mention a project that they would like to see completed, if they are elected to the highest government office. We just hope that a more knowledgeable and capable leader would soon emerge.