I knew I wanted him for President the first time I heard him speak. He’s known to be a very charismatic person, true, but more than his flair for rhetoric and big ideas, his promises have turned to largely substantial actions. In short, he’s a doer and he has his track record to prove it. I like leaders who put their words into action. In a country that has been ravaged by a storm of empty, fleeting promises in exchange for votes, the challenge after every election is to translate poetic speeches into prosaic policy –and for the candidate to live up to the principles they have so impressively articulated during the campaign, whether in TV ads, prints of forums. I expect no less from him. Banking on his track record and his character, I will say among all the Presidentiables, he is the most qualified.
His name is Richard Gordon, incumbent Senator of the Republic of the Philippines. According to the Senate’s website, and may I quote, “his track record in public service is one for the books.” His leadership started very early on during his school days. He was a student leader who was consistently president of his class. He topped the 1969 UP Student Council elections leading to the First Quarter Storm (and yes, we were not born yet). He completed his Law studies at the University of the Philippines in 1975. Fast forward to 2008, he was awarded the Ateneo USA Award for Public Service. He has been the Administrator of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (shouldn’t we thank him we have a clean, top class tourist destination?), Secretary of the Department of Tourism for two years, Chair of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, and perhaps his most favourite position, Chair of the Philippine National Red Cross.
He is known for his active role in disaster rescue, relief, and rehabilitation efforts. We were very young then but he was there during the 1990 killer quake in Luzon. He was Mayor during the 1991 Pinatubo eruption that left Olongapo in devastation. As a Mayor of Olongapo, he brought back peace and order to the city, proving once again that he can lead people to recovery. And isn’t that what the Philippines needs now? Very recently, during the onslaught of typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng, he was again at the helm of rescue efforts. And I would think he doesn’t do this just because he is the chairman of the Philippine Red Cross. No, he chose that, because volunteerism runs thick in his blood. That, and love for country and fellowmen.
I met him during the Talakayan Forum that the Movement for Good Governance sponsored last July 2009. I must say I was converted, not to mention he blew away the competition right then and there (although Chiz obviously had the greater star quality). But there was something in the way he presented himself, the way he talked and engaged the audience that captivated me. And it wasn’t just me. The forum had tongues wagging with his vision and passion for our country. And you know, he was never coy about his plans to run, which impressed me. Right from the start, he had a vision for our country.
As he was leaving the forum, I dashed towards him to say a quick thanks for being, hmm, him. And he entertained me and another friend. For five minutes, he told us how we should do our country proud by volunteering and he encouraged us to love our country in our simple ways. And I now have a line just like the one in Jerry McGuire. “You had me at 5 minutes.”
Well, those 5 minutes changed how I looked at him, but it was only the tip of the iceberg. Hundreds of careful research and news articles later, I was decided. This is the kind of leader I want to vote for. He can transform our country. He is passionate, compassionate, driven, focused and strategic. Taking it from the Senate’s website, “he is a leader with a vision for the future of his people, and a clear strategy to get them there.”
So I write this because I want people to understand that voting for somebody requires us to know who and why we are voting for them, and not just because he is the likely winner. Don’t bank on winnability. If everybody thought that way, then we will never really have our President.
Unfortunately, for many Filipinos, all they get is five minutes, even less than that, to be converted. Politicians shake their hands, wave at them, give them ‘kabuhayan showcase’ (nyarks) and they’re already on cloud nine. They are sure they will vote for this candidate, never mind the mountains of controversies. I wish I could tell them to do their research, but how can they when they cannot even read, and read between the lines?
So then I’m going to address this to the readers. Pay close attention to what candidates say, and balance that by looking into evidences. I’m a first time voter, so I’m being careful with my vote. Sure, the possibility he might not win is big, but here’s to doing my little part in loving my country: I will vote for who I think the Philippines deserves, regardless of his winnability.
I like Senator Gordon. And maybe I also just want to get that Kindle he was proposing.