2013 elections: Who to Trust?

Elfren Sicangco Cruz

Posted on April 30, 2013

A PROMINENT UNA leader said, at the weekend, that voters will choose between Team PNoy and UNA based on their trust in and the performance of President Noynoy Aquino on one side and that of Estrada, Ponce Enrile and Binay on the other side. I can only fully agree.

During the Estrada presidency, the Philippines continued to be the economic sick man of Asia. Ours was a country that even other Southeast Asian leaders, like Lee Kuan Yew viewed with a mixture of condescension and pity. It was an administration plagued with scandals and corruption. The political environment was clearly far from stable with talks of coups and internal struggles within the administration.

Finally, after the president was removed by the EDSA ll People Power Movement, he was convicted of plunder.

The other UNA leader, Juan Ponce Enrile, became a major political leader by becoming the martial law administrator of the Marcos regime. He was Minister of National Defense during the entire period of Marcos rule. His record as Senate President is also plagued by scandals if we are to believe his fellow senator Miriam Defensor Santiago.

Then we have the third person in the triumvirate, Jejomar Binay, my good friend and kumpare. Right now he only has his record as Makati mayor. In fact, his only national credential is as the housing czar of PNoy.

On the other side, there is the performance record of the leader of TEAM PNoy. In less than three years of his presidency, President Noynoy Aquino has turned the economic sick man of Asia into the economic “rising star” of Asia as acknowledged by virtually all major international economic organizations.

While almost every nation in the world, including superpowers like the United States and China, have seen their credit rating downgraded, under this present presidency, the Philippine credit has been upgraded until it has finally reached investment grade for the first time in the economic history of this country.

The recent figures on poverty covered the early part of 2012. It was no surprise that the poverty levels were still virtually unchanged from previous years. Firstly, the 2011 economic growth rate was still fairly low and the government infrastructure spending had not yet kicked in. However, the 2012 GDP growth rate was 6.2%, the second highest in Asia, next only to China. This year, 2013, it is again expected to grow anywhere between 6% and 7%.

There is also clear evidence that there is a construction and tourism boom going on. These are two industries which are labor-intensive. Government spending in public works and education has also increased. More important these are real spending. There are no more budgets for roads and bridges that do not exist or classrooms that exist only on paper. There will definitely be improvement in poverty incidence in 2013 and even more so in 2014.

The other issue brought up by the UNA leaders is the question of TRUST. Who can we trust to continue the needed reforms in government and, more important, the continuous struggle to stamp out corruption in the government bureaucracy and even in the private sector? On this issue, let each voter examine the record of integrity of PNoy on one side and the record of Estrada and Enrile on the other.

TEAM PNoy is led by a president who has not only maintained his personal integrity but whose family has remained -- like Caesar’s wife -- personally free from any taint of scandal or corruption. More than that, he has had the courage and foresight to appoint government officials who have become icons of the rule of law like Henares of the BIR, De Lima of Justice and De los Reyes of Agrarian Reform. And officials who pursued structural reforms in their respective departments, despite strong opposition from vested interests, like Luistro of Education and Purisima of Finance.

But it is not only the record of trust and performance of the leadership that we should look at. We should look at the contrasts of the respective candidates.

Let the voters compare Koko Pimentel and Migs Zubiri. Who can you trust to pursue electoral reforms in the Senate and ensure that the result of every election is truly a reflection of the will of the people?

But the candidate, in this election, that best reflects what a senator should be -- ethical, effective and a true believer in the democratic system -- is Ramon “Jun” Magsaysay, Jr. His educational background makes him stand out from the rest of the cast of lawyers and movie stars and traditional politicians.

He has a Mechanical Engineering degree from De La Salle University and took up post-graduate courses at the New York University Graduate School of Business and Harvard Business School. Aside from being a legislator and statesman, he can also claim to be a blue chip technocrat.

It is this background that can explain his outstanding Senate record. For example, he authored a law, the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act, which is still considered as the most comprehensive statute on the development of Philippine agriculture. He also authored the Electronic Commerce Act which is perhaps one of the most complex and difficult piece of legislation because of its revolutionary and highly technical content. The law provides for the legal recognition admissibility and evidential weight of electronic data messages and electronic documents. He is considered as the “Father of E-Commerce Law” in the Philippines.

In 2006, the then Magsaysay committee submitted its findings on the Bolante-fertilizer fund scandal hailed then as one of the most courageous acts of legislative inquiry.

Another senatorial candidate that has become known as a defender of the rights of the marginalized and a symbol of integrity in public office is Risa Hontiveros. She served for two terms in the House of Representatives as the party-list nominee of Akbayan.

She is also well-known, locally and globally, for her work as a peace advocate. In 2001 she received the TOYM Award for Peace Advocacy from the Philippine Jaycees; and a Nobel Prize nomination in 2005 for her work in the peace talks with the National Democratic Front. In the Senate, Risa Hontiveros will be a principled leader, a staunch human rights advocate and an excellent and competent lawmaker.

The UNA leadership has said that this should be an election based on trust and performance and not name recall and celebrity status. This is a challenge that TEAM PNoy should readily and happily accept.

Dr. Elfren S. Cruz is a professor of Strategic Management at the MBA Program, Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business, De La Salle University. Please send comments or questions to elfrencruz@gmail.com