by Dr. Prospero E. de Vera
As the nation was celebrating the martyrdom of Jose Rizal last December 30, I had the good fortune of being invited by Pia Hontiveros to do the 2009 year-end political analysis in her award winning program Strictly Politics.
The topics covered a wide range of events - Cory Aquino's death, the tightening presidential and vice-presidential races, GMA's congressional run, the devastation caused by Ondoy and Pepeng - that happened in 2009 and predicting what's in store for the nation in 2010.
I had expected to get flack for predicting that Loren Legarda would overtake Mar Roxas in the January 2010 survey and win the vice-presidential race unless Mar is able to quickly re-establish his achievements and re-brand himself as more than "the man who gave way to Noynoy Aquino".
To my surprise the comments came from an unexpected source - LAKAS-KAMPI Chair and Gibo Teodoro spokesperson Miguel Dominguez who accused me of being part of a politically- motivated vilification campaign against the administration candidate.
In a Manila Standard news story (January 5, 2010) entitled "Mudslinging Ushers in Campaign Period", Dominguez thundered:
“We watched with disbelief how Professor Prospero de Vera shot down the chances of Teodoro in the presidential elections for the failure of his strategists to milk and exploit for free publicity the devastation wrought by the two typhoons.”
The news story continued:
"Dominguez challenged De Vera to be forthright and tell the public that he was in fact working for another presidential candidate.
He said Teodoro marshaled the government’s limited resources amid an overwhelming tragedy, and his “conduct is above politics and beyond moral reproach.”
“While image does matter to him [Teodoro], he doesn’t consciously and deliberately create it for political purposes. To Gibo, character is image. Character is everything,” Dominguez added.
Wow!! I would have loved the media attention given to my analysis except for the fact that Dominguez and the LAKAS-KAMPI strategists completely missed my point.
I did not shoot down the "chances of Teodoro in the presidential elections" and I did not say that his strategists failed "to milk and exploit for free publicity the devastation wrought by the two typhoons".
I simply said that Ondoy and Pepeng brought out the best in the ordinary Filipino who helped each other survive the devastation, and showed the worst in government for failing to immediately rescue people and responding too slowly to the disaster. Ask any ordinary Pinoy, ask especially those trapped in Provident Village, and they will say exactly the same thing.
I also said that had Gibo Teodoro put on a life-jacket, got into a rubber boat, and helped rescue old women and children from the floods, the image of Gibo's heroic rescue would have been worth more than a thousand television ads and propelled him straight into the thick of the presidential race.
Filipinos expect their leaders to do heroic acts during times of crisis. And leaders who do heroic acts go on to win elections!
The image of Defense Secretary Ramon Magsaysay cradling the bloodied body of Moises Padilla in 1951 was instrumental in propelling him to the presidency two years later. In his campaign for the presidency, Magsaysay would climax his speeches by declaring emotionally: "When I carried the body of Moises Padilla in my arms, it was not the body of Padilla but the body of the humble people of my country" (Time Magazine).
This was not milking and exploiting events for free publicity. This was Magsaysay's way of showing heroic leadership in times of crisis"
And Gibo Teodoro, as NDCC chair and Defense Secretary, could have easily shown this heroic leadership element during Ondoy and Pepeng because disaster management is part of his job.
Alas, Gibo is no Magsaysay.
Or maybe Gibo's strategists can learn from their fellow LAKAS-KAMPI stalwart Senator Lito Lapid's Pampanga gubernatorial run in the 1990's. Lito Lapid felt compelled as he swung from a helicopter to rescue his cabalens from the devastation of lahar. "Leon Guerrero" went on to become Pampanga governor.
Like Magsaysay, Lito Lapid can easily win today as Pampanga governor should he choose to run.
And by the way Governor Dominguez, I am not in the payroll of any presidential candidate.