By Perry Diaz
When Sen. Grace Poe-Llamanzares declared her candidacy for president of the Philippines, she confessed that she didn’t have the organization or the resources to run a presidential campaign. With no political party to provide the resources, manpower, and a nationwide political network — and without tons of moolah, which she admittedly lacks – Grace’s campaign vehicle would be like a Mercedes Benz 500 with a go-kart engine. It wouldn’t be able to move just like a carabao stuck in quicksand.
But the “lady in white” – she loves to wear men’s white shirt in campaign sorties – must have some kind of “voodoo” power, as someone had suggested, to generate billions of pesos for her campaign. But that’s an outlandish notion unless you believe in kulam or witchcraft. And if you don’t believe any of that, a more plausible explanation is that the money is from some mega-rich oligarch who sees in Grace the “perfect puppet” who could easily be influenced once elected. This makes one wonder: Is the government run by oligarchs? If you ask me, my answer is simple: Yes, absolutely!
But you might argue that, just like Uncle Sam the Philippines is a democratic country with democratically elected politicians who are mandated to preserve a government in the image of what U.S. President Abraham Lincoln aptly described in his Gettysburg Address, to wit: “This nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
“Government run like hell…”
Well, the bad news is that our motherland – “Inang Bayan” – has been run just like how the late Philippine Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon had envisioned it to be when he said: “I prefer a government run like hell by Filipinos to a government run like heaven by Americans.” That’s what most Filipinos remember to this day. But that was only the first part of what he said. Not many Filipinos recall the second part, which was: “Because, however bad a Filipino government might be, we can always change it.”
Quezon might not have realized that what he declared then would become the campaign template of politicians seeking the presidency, to wit: Attack the current president and his administration’s standard bearer as bad leaders, and present yourself as the “agent for change.” Indeed, President Benigno Aquino III’s campaign slogan was “Change” or “Pagbabago.” It worked because the voters bought it, hook, line, and sinker.
It is no wonder then that most of the time Filipinos would vote against an incumbent president (or his administration’s candidate) and elect the opposition candidate whom they perceive as the “agent for change.” Indeed, this strategy was influenced by Quezon’s “government run like hell” mantra. All the candidate has to do is make a convincing appeal to the voters’ emotions.
Tip of the iceberg
But to do an excellent job of convincing the people, the candidate needs lots and lots of money. And this is where the oligarchs, plutocrats, kleptocrats, and influence peddlers come into play. Collectively, they have billions to invest in a candidate. But there are always strings attached; they want huge returns on their “investments.” And this makes the candidate, once elected president, indebted to them for a long time.
How do you think the new president would repay his or her financiers who’d expect the dividends of their investments go as high as tenfold… maybe more? And where do you think an indentured president will get the money to pay these dividends? This is where corruption kicks in and the new president will end up running the government just like Quezon had envisioned… like hell.
It’s a vicious cycle and there is no end to it. However, it can be mitigated. In other words, corruption can be minimized if the new president doesn’t have to kick back huge “dividends,” and conversely, corruption can be maximized if large amounts were donated to his or her campaign. It’s simple mathematics and there are no exceptions; which begs the question: Given that Llamanzares had admitted that she didn’t have the organization and finances to run a presidential campaign, where did she get the funds she spent for “pre-campaign ads”? That’s only the tip of the iceberg. Indeed, more money has to be pumped into her campaign to beat her closest rivals, Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte. Latest reporting data show that she had bought more than 20,000 ad slots – more than any of her rivals — in the six weeks prior to the May 9th elections.
So far, Binay had spent the largest amount for “pre-campaign ads,” which is P1.05 billion followed by Llamanzares at P1.02 billion. Roxas spent P969.2 million and Duterte only spent P146.4 million. Would it then fair to presume that if Binay wins, his administration would be more corrupt than any of his rivals? And since Llamanzares is just a tad below Binay’s “pre-campaign ads” expenditures, would that indicate that her administration would be as corrupt as Binay’s?
And by simple process of elimination, who do you think would have the least corrupt administration? The answer is in the stats, which would indicate that Duterte, having the lowest campaign expenditure, would have the least corrupt administration.
Interestingly, all the candidates had vowed to fight corruption. My reaction is: Hahaha… But what else can they say? Would anyone of them claim that his or her administration would be the “least” corrupt? Of course not! That would be the “kiss of death.”
But the candidates have been trained in the “art of denial.” By denying any knowledge of who donated to their campaigns, it would insulate them from favor-seeking donors. That’s hogwash! Do you think an oligarch who donated… say, P200 million, would want to remain anonymous? On the contrary, donations would open doors of “business” opportunities for the donors.
At the end of the day, it’s a legal and moral responsibility of the candidates to disclose the donors to their campaigns. It’s the right of the people to know who the financiers are, particularly if they are foreigners. This is so the people would know that no foreign entities – friends or enemies of the state alike – are “investing” in presidential campaigns or any campaign for that matter. It’s one thing to be indebted to Filipinos but to be indentured to foreigners smack of treason because you can never tell what those foreigners would demand once you’re elected into office. And this brings to the fore the question: Who is bankrolling Grace Poe-Llamanzares’ campaign?