The Long View
By Manuel L. Quezon III
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 22:08:00 02/17/2010
FOR PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGNS, THE BASIC foundation of a campaign is the party or coalition platform, or what non-political types might be more familiar with as mission and vision statements: the shared goals that unite leaders and followers. The candidates basically had three options with regard to providing a mission and vision – or a platform – for their campaigns. Refer to an existing one for their party or movement, or present a new one either at the time they formally filed their candidacy papers in November last year or when the campaign formally began last Feb. 9.
Richard Gordon, for one, was prepared for a presidential bid with or without the nod of Lakas-CMD. His Bagumbayan Movement’s “Manifesto for Change” was unveiled as far back as Dec. 30, 2007 and is the core document of his campaign. JC de los Reyes subscribes to Ang Kapatiran’s “Passport to a New Philippines” which has been the party’s platform for years. Joseph Estrada undertook all the rituals of nomination and acceptance though curiously has never publicized the platform he announced he was adopting during his Tondo rally last year. Nicanor Perlas unveiled his “Six Pillars” platform when he announced his bid for the presidency, and Jamby Madrigal announced her “Reclaim and Regain the Wealth, Sovereignty and Dignity of the Filipino People and Nation” late last year as well.
As I have pointed out previously, Benigno Aquino III published his “Social Contract with the Filipino People” platform on the day he formally filed his candidacy papers, and he has put forward the operational details of his platform before various audiences, including a 10-point basic education program and a four-point anti-graft and corruption strategy.
His main rival, Manuel Villar Jr., has opted to put forward a platform that is purely symbolic because it doesn’t actually exist unless you confuse references to it with the existence of an actual platform.
In mid-December, the Makabayan Coalition announced it had entered into an agreement (“In Response to the People’s Concerns”) with the Nacionalistas. At the time, the NP hadn’t published a platform, whether for itself or its presidential candidate, and this document could have been put forward as the broader coalition platform for the whole campaign. And yet Makabayan itself carefully insisted it was strictly a document to formalize its alliance with the Nacionalistas, while the NP refrained from publicizing the document in its own or it’s candidate’s websites. However, the statements of its campaign spokesmen made references to a “platform,” most recently in connection with the Calamba, Laguna, launch of the NP campaign proper on Feb. 9.
The NP said, “Others will read their platforms from teleprompters. We’d rather recite ours from the heart in front of the statue of Rizal. The NP platform of government is anchored on winning the war against poverty. The party believes that this war can be won with a platform of equality for all and the sharing of responsibilities as well as opportunities.”
It added: “The program of governance to be pursued will be anchored on issues such as preventing rapid increases in prices of basic necessities, eradication of graft and corruption, reducing poverty, creating jobs and livelihood among others.”
Still, whether at the time its standard-bearer filed his candidacy papers for the presidency or the formal kick-off of its national campaign, an actual platform the public can read and point to, before and after the elections, hardly seems to exist outside of references to it in press releases.
This presents concrete political advantages, of course. On one hand, while its coalition partner, Makabayan, can say it clearly understands the parameters of the electoral partnership, the NP itself, by keeping its own platform (if it exists) close to its chest, can give itself wiggle room later on down the line. The public, too, cannot seize on any specifics but has to rely, instead, on the party and its candidates’ commercials and statements to piece together what, if anything, the campaign really stands for or hopes to accomplish. This also provides wiggle room: no categorical statement, potentially embarrassing down the line, has to be given concerning things like the affiliation with the NP of local candidates like “Joc-joc” Bolante.
Since Aquino published his platform on the day he filed his candidacy, those without published platforms can harp on what they put forward as that platform’s shortcomings without their own bluff being called. Three days before the campaign formally began, Alex Magno intimated in his column that Gilbert Teodoro’s platform was a “work in progress,” and sniffed that Aquino’s was “hollow, superficial and a mere restatement of the 1987 Constitution.” Yet the start of the campaign came and went and no Teodoro platform has been unveiled. So at best it leaves such negative assertions hanging – and raises this question: Outside the close advisers of the candidates who have so far refrained from publishing and publicizing their platforms, who can say, either from the point of view of their committed supporters or the voting public at large, what the candidates really stand for or hope to accomplish?
I have heard it said that Teodoro played a central role in formulating the NPC platform and he himself has been saying things that suggest familiarity with a draft platform. This has been particularly true in recent weeks, coinciding with the period work on a platform has been taking place, as Magno mentioned. The term “subsidiarity” that he mentioned at a recent forum is a vintage Christian Democratic one and is, surely, a hint of what the Lakas-Kampi-CMD platform might put forward. This inability to publish a platform means the ruling coalition believes Prospero Pichay’s statement that their candidate will win because of party machinery and not public sentiment.