Lacson candidacy could shake, rattle and roll the 2022 presidential race [Manila Times]

From Yen Makabenta’s column in The Manila Times: Lacson is a plausible alternative candidate because he has chalked up a long and creditable record of service in the legislature, the executive and the police force. The exercise of power will not be foreign to him.

Lacson candidacy could shake, rattle and roll the 2022 presidential race

By Yen Makabenta
June 10, 2021

First word

THE story, as relayed first by Senate President Vicente Sotto 3rd, was cryptic and iffy, not even news. But it was significantly interesting and different from the wishful and humdrum tales churned out by administration and opposition circles, which either hyped another scheme to continue a Duterte hold on Malacañang or an opposition fantasy that their time is finally at hand.

Sotto said only that he has urged Sen. Panfilo Lacson to run for president in 2022, and that he has offered to be his running mate. There are no firm plans yet for a serious run.

Senator Lacson himself is non-committal about plunging into the race. He said he’s thinking more about retirement from the Senate and not of a run for higher office.

In a virtual meeting with reporters, Lacson said: “Senator Sotto appealed to me not to close the door on my political plans. Ang usapan namin, at a proper time dalawa kami sasabak (Our agreement was at a proper time, we will both join the race).”

Lacson earlier said those who decide to run for the country’s top post should prepare for the job by consulting experts in various fields while helping the electorate become more mature.

“To me, the decision to go for it is as sacred as going to the poll booth to vote. Since the vote is sacred, there is a bigger responsibility on the part of potential leaders to decide and prepare to be a leader of this country,” he added.

Duterte succession

The Lacson teaser is intriguing because up to now, most of the news about the 2022 elections have been tired and predictable.

Some names that were hurriedly floated as potential presidential candidates have wilted in the vine and are hardly talked about now.

The fantasy of a Duterte-Duterte slate for 2022 has been withdrawn as President Duterte realized that running for vice president would only throw away on the one hand the legacy of his presidency and risk on the other probable defeat at the polls.

The Duterte succession centers now on the presidential daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, running for president. This has rapidly become the heart of Palace messaging because administration communicators are now hard at work creating a credible spin for Sara as a potential president of 110 million people.

The announced offer of Gilbert Teodoro to serve as the running mate of Sara lends some credence to her candidacy.

This may also have been the object of the curious call of the siblings Bongbong an Imee Marcos on the Davao City mayor. It seemed to suggest a Duterte-Marcos, north-south alliance for 2022.

President Duterte and the administration have also worked extra hard to repair the rift within the ranks of PDP-Laban, by dimming the lights on Sen. Manny Pacquiao’s stint as party president and his plan to throw his hat into the ring.

The fantasy of the boxing champ as our next president will end much sooner than his boxing career.

Meanwhile, there is the opposition, led by the Liberal Party and Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo.

The opposition has gotten some traction from the 1Sambayan coalition led by retired Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio. The West Philippine Sea (South China sea) dispute with China is the rallying cry of the alliance. But it will not be enough to propel the opposition into serious contention in the presidential election.

The opposition needs a credible and serious presidential candidate. The jury is still out on the question whether Vice President Robredo is finally ready to run for president. I do not believe the vice president will choose this course. The opposition will instead try to find its candidate elsewhere.

This is where the possible candidacy of Senators Lacson and Sotto in tandem could become possible and viable. They could become a viable alternative to another six years of a Duterte as president.

A vision of the future and the nation

I think Senator Lacson can quickly become a credible and potentially winning candidate if he can mold a vision of the nation and the future that the people can believe in.

Lacson is a plausible alternative candidate because he has chalked up a long and creditable record of service in the legislature, the executive and the police force. The exercise of power will not be foreign to him.

As a longtime student and observer of the Philippine presidency, I have long wondered and researched on what a candidate must bring to the office in order to succeed as chief executive and commander in chief.

It is well said that “an election is about the future, not the past.”

A presidential candidate must bring before the people a vision of the future and the nation, which he will strive to realize if he is fortunate enough to get elected. That vision must be personal, shared by his party and supporters if he is lucky. He cannot substitute for this the vision or record of his family or ancestors; in the end he must lead alone.

I think Senators Lacson and Sotto could quickly become serious and viable candidates for the two highest offices of the republic if they do two things when they announce their candidacy in the 2022 elections.

First, they should run on a platform of conviction politics – of their fundamental values as politicians, and what they believe will best serve the nation and its purposes.

Second, they should go against the grain of the entrenched political culture of dynastic politics, pork barreling, money politics, parasitism on the public payroll, cronyism and patronage.

Conviction politics

Conviction politics is the practice of campaigning based on a politician’s own fundamental values or ideas rather than attempting to represent an existing consensus or simply take positions that are popular in polls.

The term was adopted by politicians and leaders like Margaret Thatcher, who declared “I am not a consensus politician. I am a conviction politician” in 1979, a few months before her election as prime minister.

There are a number of arguments for conviction politics. One is that it is more honest; conviction politicians simply say what they believe rather than shading their opinions to be more palatable to their audience. Another is that by voicing strong opinions, they push public debate forward and promote a genuine discussion of political issues. Even if the candidates lose, they will have promoted their particular political ideas and persuaded some voters of their value.

There are also more instrumental reasons. By arguing forcefully for their positions during the campaign, politicians are more able to pursue the goals once in office. Also, proponents argue that conviction politicians are more likely to win. When he was a candidate, Tom Perriello stated: “More often, the deepest connection with another person comes from when I disagree with them and admit it, because at least they know I will tell the truth. While some strategists focus on positioning candidates on issue after issue, I believe most voters focus more on whether the candidate has integrity and character on the whole, demonstrated by the conviction to take a stand.”

Thatcher, like her contemporary Ronald Reagan in the United States, argued that her leadership should be a time for big, bold changes, grounded in the central principles of her ideology. “It was not a set of policies cobbled together from minute to minute, begged, borrowed or stolen from other people,” she said while describing her government. “It was successful because it was based on clear, firmly held principles.”

Political culture

Reform of the political culture is a second challenge our next president must address because Philippine politics has been disfigured by practices and false values that have festered for generations.

Political culture is defined by the International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences as “the set of attitudes, beliefs and sentiments which give order and meaning to a political process, and which provide the underlying assumptions and rules that govern behavior in the political system.” It encompasses both the political ideals and operating norms of a polity. Political culture is thus the manifestation in aggregate form of the psychological and subjective dimensions of politics. A political culture is the product of both the collective history of a political system and the life histories of the members of the system and thus it is rooted equally in public events and private experience.

Philippine politics will never mature for as long as we are unwilling to end dynastic politics, reject cronyism and check money politics in our elections.