By Harvey S. Keh With less than 10 months before the 2010 National Elections, it seems that any hope of uniting the reform constituency in our country is becoming slimmer as the days go by. Many of us all believe that without a united reform constituency backing a common Presidential candidate and a common reform slate then we might as well accept that we will have another traditional politician backed by oligarchic interests leading our country from 2010 onwards. Right now, we have overseas Filipinos and local government officials led by Ifugao Gov. Teddy Baguilat, Jr. and Sta. Fe, Nueva Vizcaya Mayor Florante Gerdan who are pushing for the candidacy of Pampanga Gov. Eddie “Among Ed” Panlilio. Just recently, we saw a group of youth leaders from all over the country together with peasant organizations and business leaders calling out to Isabela Gov. Grace Padaca to heed the call to lead our country out of our current state of rampant poverty. It’s a good thing that both Panlilio and Padaca, who along with Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo are co-founders of Kaya Natin, agreed not to run against each other and that only one of them will eventually run for President. Ang Kapatiran also announced that they will field their own candidate in the person of the youthful Olongapo City Councilor JC Delos Reyes while some environmental groups have declared their support for Nicky Perlas. Evangelist Bro. Eddie Villanueva, who lost badly in the last 2004 polls is also contemplating to make another run backed by his rejuvenated and reloaded Bangon Pilipinas Party. Add to this growing number is the fact that although some groups do not consider him a reform candidate, the Liberal Party’s Senator Mar Roxas is currently backed by highly-reputable civil society leaders such as former Department of Education Secretary Butch Abad, former Peace Process Adviser Ging Deles, former Department of Agrarian Reform Undersecretary Gerry Bulatao and AKBAYAN’s Joel Rocamora. Imagine if all of these groups can come together, set aside their personal differences, work towards a common vision for a better Philippines and eventually field a common slate for the 2010 elections then I would think we can have a strong fighting chance of finally electing effective, ethical and empowering government leaders for our country. Similar to the situation that we found ourselves in 1986, we find that many of our democratic institutions even the recent giving of the National Artist Awards have been bastardized by this administration. Similar to 1986, the 2010 elections will be a battle between those who believe in restoring our democratic processes and those who want to continue to usurp it for their own personal gain. Similar to 1986, we are also faced with the challenge to unite all of these well-meaning groups in order for us to come up with a formidable force that will give this current administration a run for its money in 2010. Similar to 1986, all of these reform groups have to eventually find it in themselves to be humble enough to sacrifice their own beliefs in order for us to unite for a cause that is bigger than all of us. Let us remember that in 1986, the strongest opposition party was Doy Laurel’s UNIDO but eventually for the sake of unity, Laurel agreed to run as Cory Aquino’s running mate. This ultimate sacrifice and act of humility that many have seem to have forgotten led to the bloodless People Power Revolution and the restoration of democracy in our country. Now as we again draw near the 2010 polls, I hope that the legacy and spirit of President Cory Aquino will again move all these reform groups towards a unified People Power reform ticket in 2010. Two weeks ago, the whole country mourned the loss of Tita Cory, a woman who gave everything until the last moments of her life for the sake of the Filipino people. I hope that we can all find inspiration in the humility and generosity of spirit that she showed when she was still with us. Let her legacy as a true icon of democracy continue to become our rallying point towards the unity that all of us seek. To Tita Cory, I hope and pray that you will be able to read this one last and final request that we have, please move our hearts so we can set aside our own personal ambitions for the sake of what is good and just for every Filipino. We hope that you will not allow us to put to waste all the sacrifices that you and Ninoy have so gallantly given for each one of us. Rest assured that like you, we will all continue to fight the good fight, finish the race and keep the faith. Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org ___________________________________________________________________________ Harvey S. Keh is Director for Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship at the Ateneo School of Government.
August 2009 Archives
By Harvey S. Keh Amidst the nation's mourning over the passing away of international democratic icon and former President Cory Aquino, the Supreme Court decided to rule against the appeal of Pampanga Gov. Eddie Panlilio to stop the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) from proceeding with its decision to start the recounting of votes casted during the last 2007 Gubernatorial Elections in Pampanga. It will be recalled that in 2007, various civil society, church and peoples organizations bonded together to support Panlilio against two of the closest allies of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, then Board Member Lilia Pineda and then incumbent Governor Mark Lapid. Despite having very meager resources and no political machinery to bank on, the support of thousands of ordinary Kapampangans led Panlilio to victory over his two well-financed rivals. This inspiring victory of Panlilio in the home province of the President gave hope to millions of Filipinos worldwide that people power is still alive and well in our country inspite of the numerous political and corruption scandals that many of our current government leaders have been involved in. Despite having no prior experience in politics, Panlilio has since tried his best to govern effectively and ethically, recently leading his province to win the prestigious Gawad Galing Pook Award for Outstanding Local Government Units in 2008. Now, two years after Filipinos all over the world celebrated this momentuous victory, we are now in danger of losing it because of a pending recount which was filed in the COMELEC by Pineda. While every losing candidate has the right to file an electoral protest, what is surprising is the undue haste and attention that the COMELEC has been giving to this particular case against Panlilio. Currently, there are several other earlier electoral cases that have been filed but have not been acted upon by the COMELEC, doesn't the COMELEC think that these cases should first be resolved before the Panlilio case? Also, Chairman Jose Melo of the COMELEC even said on record that instead of the usual 4 teams that will conduct the recount, the COMELEC will be forming 21 teams to hasten the recount process. Why single out the Panlilio case again? Could there be a hidden hand from Malacanang moving behind the scenes and influencing officials of the COMELEC? In addition to this, many ballot boxes that have been transported already to the COMELEC main office were found to have been tampered or missing their locks, how can we trust that these ballot boxes still contain what is the true mandate of the people of Pampanga if their contents have already been altered prior to the recount? Finally, the COMELEC has already said that it will spend millions of pesos for this recount, given that Panlilio has less than 10 months to serve before he finishes his term, wouldn't it be better for COMELEC to focus its attention to ensuring the automation of the 2010 elections and to spend this amount for other more worthwhile expenditures such as providing better pay to poll watchers and public school teachers? As we continue to celebrate the life that former President Aquino lived in the service of every Filipino, we must also realize that it is now our main duty and responsibility to protect the democracy that she and Ninoy Aquino worked and ultimately died for. One of the main pillars and gifts of this democracy is our duly-mandated right to elect and choose our leaders, this right is again being threatened by politicians whose only aim is to promote their own self-interests at the expense of millions of poor Filipinos. Let us remember that this is not just Panlilio or the Kapampangan's battle but this is a battle that must be fought by all Filipinos who believe that we can still elect honest and upright leaders in our government. This is a battle to protect the democratic gains that ordinary Filipinos like you and me have made against the politics of guns, goons and gold that continues to be perpetuated by many of our traditional politicians. Finally, this is a battle to prove once again that the true power in a democratic and free society resides in the people and not in the hands of the wealthy and powerful elite. Let us all remember the wise adage that the only way for Evil to Prevail is for Good men to do Nothing. Will the Filipino people do nothing and allow our hard fought democracy to be usurped once again by a few? I hope not. Comments are welcome at email@example.com ________________ Harvey S. Keh is Director for Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship at the Ateneo School of Government. He is also the Lead Convenor of Kaya Natin, a national movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership.
By: Harvey S. Keh Last Saturday, the country woke up to the sad news that former President Corazon Aquino has passed away more than a year after she was diagnosed to have colon cancer. Millions of Filipinos have expressed their grief as our country has lost not only a former leader but more importantly, an international icon of freedom, democracy, good governance and ethical leadership. Until the very end and even when she was already experiencing so much pain, former President Aquino continued to tell all of us to not only pray for her but to pray for our country. She was a loving mother not only to her children but to each and every Filipino. Never since the time of the death of her husband, Ninoy Aquino, have we seen such massive outpouring of love, adulation and support from the Filipino people. Once again, our country that is often ravaged and divided by political scandals, bickering and insatiable greed by our leaders has been united by former President Aquino as she did when she led the restoration of democracy through the EDSA People Power 1 Revolution. Yet, I believe that the sacrifices of Ninoy and Cory Aquino will all be lost if we as a people do not do our own share in helping move our country forward. Ninoy died so our country may have freedom yet we still have millions of Filipino families who continue to be bound by the bondages of poverty while many of our present government leaders live in expensive mansions and travel in style using luxury vehicles. Until her very last gasp, Cory fought and prayed for Truth, Accountability and Good Governance in our country. We saw how she stood by NBN-ZTE Star witness Jun Lozada when he was besieged by the forces of our present administration after he revealed the details of the corruption-laden deal. We saw how she marched with thousands of Filipinos to oppose moves by this present administration to push for Charter Change as a means to continue to stay in power beyond 2010. We saw how she took a firm stand in asking for the resignation of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2005 when Arroyo couldn’t explain her involvement in the Hello Garci scandal. Despite leaving the Presidency and facilitating a peaceful turnover of power in 1992, Cory continued to remain active in ensuring that the evil forces that continue to seek to destroy our democratic institutions will never succeed. Now that she has passed away, we are challenged to not let these sacrifices go to naught as now more than ever, the Filipino people should continue to fight the good fight that Ninoy and Cory Aquino started. As the 2010 elections draw near, we celebrate another legacy of Cory, the restoration of our right to vote for the leaders that we believe will effectively and ethically govern our beloved country. Let us not put to waste this right by not only voting for the right leaders but more importantly, volunteering our time, resources and energy to support them. The problem with many Filipinos is we often choose to stay in the sidelines and remain non-partisan in the elections and just let the candidates slug it out with each other. When we let this happen, the candidate which has more money and political machinery will more often than not win over the one who has less. We have seen this for the past elections where the corrupt and greedy politicians continue to win while those who have the better track record and the best intentions to serve the country lose out. Let us not let this happen again in 2010, people power was a legacy that Cory will forever leave behind to the Filipino people, I believe that in the upcoming elections we will have a golden opportunity to honor this legacy and sacrifice made by Ninoy and Cory by uniting ourselves to unceasingly volunteer, campaign and support the kind of leaders that our country needs today. Leaders that will embody the kind of effective, empowering, selfless, courageous and God-fearing leadership that both Ninoy and Cory so generously gifted our nation with. Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org. ______________________________________________________ Harvey S. Keh is Director for Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship at the Ateneo School of Government and is the Lead Covenor of Kaya Natin.