Heroic Politicians and Struggling Leaders

Posted at 10/06/2012 5:03 PM

(UPDATED) I was in a wake last night and I was seated with a group of people where I was introduced as part of the Kaya Natin Movement.

From across me, I heard a comment, “Mga politico, walang kwenta.  Puro pangako... I have never seen a politician worth a good leader in the country.”  This sweeping statement was fueled by a sharp rejoinder from my left as he said, “Oo nga. Hindi na magbabago ang mga yan!”  After a short tirade, the person across finally asked me, “Bakit, meron ka bang kilalang politikong tunay na magaling?”

I humbly presented Sec. Jesse Robredo to him hoping to bridge my position and his.  I was sad when he answered, “Kaya lang naging sikat yun dahil namatay, dahil sa mga press. Kung buhay pa siya, hindi siya makikilala ng ganuon.”  Somehow he had a point.  I do not share his jaded sentiment but I agree that we fail to see good leaders in the country.

I ended the conversation without saying much more, but I knew better. 

There are people like Sec. Jesse Robredo, politicians, fully alive today who invest themselves to push for the change they wish to see in the country.  As part of Kaya Natin, I am exposed to their struggles.  As much as they are great leaders, they are also humans that labor thru biases and unreasonable criticisms.  They navigate through difficult ethical decisions which will bring disdain out of weak hearted people and make them dismissive towards politics.

Jun Versoza, a Kaya Natin champion, and mayor of Tagudin, Ilocos Sur is now running against Governor Chavit Singson’s son, Ryan. Governor Chavit is allegedly known to be the gambling lord of the region and his son Ronald is known for being kicked out of congress for being convicted as a drug smuggler in Hong Kong.  Mayor Jun Versoza’s fight is tough because Governor Chavit  has had a stronghold of power in the province since 1998.  For now, Governor Chavit is in a quandary.  His son Ronald is running for congress but might be disqualified because of the drug smuggling conviction.  His son Ryan is facing against a strong reform candidate that is now gaining ground in the province.  Governor Chavit says he is not running anymore but has strategically placed himself to be able to switch with any of his embattled children.

Marisa Lerias, a Kaya Natin core group member is running for congress facing off with another family entrenched in Southern Leyte.  Marisa is the daughter of former governor Rosette Lerias who is a Konrad Adenauer Medal of Excellence in Local Governance in 2003.  But her battle is also tough.  The Mercado’s have a tight grip on the province.  They allegedly resort to intimidation and violence to keep power.  In 1998, Rep. Roger Mercado himself allegedly blew up a helicopter by shooting at it out of anger.

In Pampanga, Among Ed Panlilio, one of the Kaya Natin Founders, gave up his only chance to to return to priesthood by going against the country’s allegedly top Jueteng operator.  Governor Lilia Pineda is allegedly known to operate the illegal numbers game in the region which is gradually building and fueling the Jueteng patronage among politicians and the PNP.  President Aquino, together with Sec. Mar Roxas, and Sec. Jun Abaya publicly endorsed Among Ed yesterday as he filed his candidacy in Pampanga.  It will be a tough battle for Among Ed but there are many people who support him.

One of our Kaya Natin Champions said,

“Behind our smiles and brave fronts are our apprehensions, insufficiencies and efforts to strengthen ourselves against early and future criticisms, persecution and distrust.
Cries and objections of orphaned daughters are drowned by people's clamor, lifetime vocations are given up because someone has to stand up for what is right, perceptions of one's disability are not limited to the physical but to the moral. 
It will even be specially difficult for Comm. Grace that she now needs to distance herself from them - her sanctuary - because they are candidates and she is in COMELEC. But together or away from each other , dapat kayanin. It is not without reward - sustained hope, people's love and yes, a better Philippines.”

Commissioner Grace Padaca for example was already being criticized by many for having a case in Sandigan Bayan.  I heard someone said she could not sit as commissioner if she has a case.  Without even knowing the full story of her case and without reading Article 9C of the constitution, the person I spoke and showed disdain and said she was unworthy.

UNA branded her as a failure even before she has started working as a Comelec Commissioner.  UNA spokesperson, JB Bautista was one of those that was too quick to judge Commissioner Grace as an inadequate leader.  JB Bautista failed to see that for the first time, the persons with disabilities will have a voice in Comelec.

In an interview with Howie Severino, Commissioner Grace readily admitted that she was still adjusting from a life in a partisan position to one that serves as a referee and judge for electoral conflicts and questions.  As much as Commissioner Grace Padaca share kindred spirits with Among Ed and Sec. Jesse Robredo, I think it is inconsiderate and disdainful to consider Commissioner Grace Padaca unable to become impartial and true to her post.

At this time, UNA is already considering opposing Commissioner Padaca’s appointment.  If this happens, Commissioner Padaca’s position will be unconfirmed.  This is a similar situation to Secretary Jesse where the members of commission on appointments were left struggling to explain itself after Sec. Jesse’s death.

Amidst all the tide of criticisms, I believe what will matter in the end is how the character of these leaders will emerge.  Kaya Natin has the pride of having ethical leaders with the passion to do what is right and what needs to be done.  All of these leaders have endured criticisms.  None of the Kaya Natin leaders claim that they are perfect but all share a deep commitment to enable good governance and ethical leadership.

Sec. Jesse had a rough start.  He was unconfirmed by the Commission of Appointments but we all know he was vindicated in the end.  His humility and dedication endeared him to the people he worked with.  His work ethics made him an icon of good governance.

I really hope to see some candidates in UNA display the heroism and sacrifice that Kaya Natin Candidates have running under the Liberal Party.  Until then, they are talking at a different level.  The Liberal Party may not be perfect, but it has leaders that struggle to make it the change we all want to have in the country.


Comments are welcome at [email protected] or private message through Facebook. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @jesslorenzo for stories of good governance.

Jess Lorenzo is currently the program director of Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership's public health initiatives. www.kayanatin.org @kayanatin on Twitter