By Harvey S. Keh
As the deadline for the filing of candidacies draw near, realignments are now happening left and right with the Liberal Party (LP) and the Nacionalista Party (NP) being the main beneficiaries. Many administration stalwarts have left the so-called political giant, Lakas-Kampi, mainly due to the perceived weakness of their current standard bearer, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro. Even within the ranks of the opposition parties, many have transferred from one camp to another with Bukidnon Rep. TG Guingona leaving Sen. Manny Villar's NP to be part of Sen. Noynoy Aquino's People's coalition as the Kaya Natin Movement-backed candidate and former Senator Serge Osmena leaving the Nationalist Peoples Coalition (NPC) to also be part of this LP-led Senate slate.
As these realignments continue, more and more civil society groups who are actively supporting the candidacy of Aquino and his runningmate, Senator Mar Roxas, are becoming wary of the possible political accommodations and transactional politicking that may occur. So far the LP has done well in selecting local and national candidates that represent the kind of new politics and good governance that Aquino personifies but there are persistent rumors that certain politicians with very shady backgrounds and are known to be corrupt are now trying their best to be part of the LP-led People's Coalition Senate slate and be openly endorsed by Aquino. This is no longer surprising given that Aquino has continued to lord it over the field of current Presidentiables in the recent surveys that have been conducted. As we grow closer to the deadline set by the COMELEC for filing of the certificate of candidacies, you can expect that there will be more of these "highly-experienced" political operators and politicians who will try their best to wiggle their way inside the inner circle of Aquino and Roxas. They will offer Aquino and LP their political machinery and wide network of supporters in exchange for a formal endorsement as an official candidate.
On one hand, the challenge for the people around Aquino is to ensure that these traditional politicians or "Trapos" are kept away from him and LP. They must never forget that the current strength of the Aquino campaign rests on his and his family's unquestionable integrity and character. If and when political compromises happen and become the norm of his campaign, he would've fallen into the trap laid down by his enemies who want him to fight them in their old game of patronage and money politics. In this kind of a game, Aquino will be at a disadvantage given that his current adversaries are savvier, more moneyed and more experienced in this kind of playing field. Aquino has a unique chance of bringing the campaign and politics in the country to a higher playing field that is primarily led no longer by the trapos but by ordinary people like you and me who will proactively work with him in bringing good governance and ethical leadership in our country. His national campaign manager, Former Department of Education Sec. Butch Abad hit it right in the head when he said that this is no longer just an Aquino campaign but it is a people's campaign. This kind of belief has made Aquino the runaway leader in all the surveys thus, his campaign must continue to be anchored on this if they want to ensure victory by May 2010.
On the other hand, the civil society and people's organizations that are supporting Aquino should also realize that it is also important to create alliances with politicians and political parties as long as these alliances do not compromise the core values of Aquino and the people's campaign. These alliances are necessary to ensure that Aquino's votes are counted properly and protected from the cheating machinery that is expected be in full throttle again come May 2010. Moreover, these alliances are important since if Aquino wins, he will have an easier time governing and implementing the necessary reforms if he will be able to have enough allies in Congress and the local government units. In the field of politics today, we cannot be purists and say that we despise all politicians and political parties since we have seen that not all politicians are engaged in patronage politics and corruption. These icons of good governance and ethical leadership are exemplified by the likes of Isabela Gov. Grace Padaca, Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo, Ifugao Gov. Teddy Baguilat, Jr., San Isidro, Nueva Ecija Mayor Sonia Lorenzo and Pampanga Gov. Eddie Panlilio. The real key for Aquino and his campaign team is to find that unique balance between the ideals and values that he represents with the realities of Philippine politics. If he is able to find this balance and sustain this growing momentum until the elections, he will have the unique chance of making it to the history books by being able to get more than 50% of the votes, something that has not been achieved by any winning President in recent Philippine electoral history.
Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Harvey S. Keh is Director for Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship at the Ateneo de Manila University-School of Government.