Who I won't vote for

. . . is the topic of my latest Trade Tripper column in this Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld:

"People have expressed so much emotion over a recent 'sacrifice' that it’s annoying. They seem to refuse to realize that our history is one long series of missed chances and unlearned lessons. For example: an unexamined politician arouses public support for the presidency merely because of the perceived unpopularity in the National Capital Region of the sitting president.

Or an inexperienced and unexamined individual from an old political family suddenly thrust into the limelight and asked to run for president due to sentimental momentum generated upon the death of a revered family member (including the withdrawal from the race of a better trained politician in favor of party unity). Haven’t we seen all that before?

But the first time around, what happened in terms of governance, corruption, and national security? Didn’t daylong blackouts occur, our streets dug up and left looking like war zones, shipping vessels sunk with thousands dead, our finances dwindling to nothing, investors fleeing to other countries, farmers killed in Mendiola or ejected from their lands, our educational system continuing to deteriorate, saw our own president rallying to keep US bases here, and respect for our public institutions further dwindled? What makes people think that by doing the same thing all over again with regard to choosing our leaders different results will happen.

Rereading Sandra Burton’s Impossible Dream over the weekend, I was struck by how those in power are so related or linked to each other. If Burton’s account is accurate: it was a Laurel who acquitted Ferdinand Marcos of murder, a Roxas who liberated him from a US army brig, a Quezon who urged him to be in public life, a Macapagal who awarded him half of his war medals, and a Magsaysay who served as godfather to his wedding. Marcos had Ninoy Aquino as a fraternity brother. And before Aquino married Cory, he was actually dating, guess who? Imelda Romualdez.

Which again reiterates what I’ve long been saying: any reading of our history would show that the same names in government and business appear over and over and over again. The same names or families that would side with the Spanish against the Katipunan, whisper to Aguinaldo against Mabini, collaborate with the Americans or the Japanese (then see their kind give pardon to the collaborators), preside over increasing corruption and stagnation in the Third Republic, and then exploit (either in government or in opposition) the Marcos era, People Power, and Edsa Dos. And now still the same names in Congress, MalacaƱang, and the business elite. In the 100 or so years of our nation, these same people — by their corruption, decadence, incompetence, and hypocrisy — have pushed our country into ever lower depths.

So even though it’s quite bizarre that a mere 23 years after people emotionally threw out the Marcoses from MalacaƱang, it perhaps becomes understandable why they are again appearing in the Tatler and other society glossies, why people are eager to have them as guests or be their guests at parties, and why BongBong Marcos is slated to run for high office (for president even, if Imelda Marcos has her way). It also becomes understandable why Estrada is presently topping the presidential polls. People in power now are just all part of one exclusive club so that it doesn’t matter anymore if you have principles or merit. What matters is that the club accepts you.

However, it is simply crazy to keep relying on the same people and methods (or lack of it) and expect different results. For me, I’ll never vote or support any politician who or (whose family) benefited from betraying the Katipunan, collaborated with the Japanese during World War II, or took advantage of martial law, People Power, or Edsa Dos. People should be made accountable for the harm they did to our country. I won’t vote for or support anybody who is part of or has a relationship with the oligarchy, certainly not somebody whose family blew so many chances to do good for the country. Definitely not somebody from an old political family who sees his town or province mired in poverty. If he can’t improve his backyard, what more the country? I will not vote for somebody who does not follow the doctrines of his faith (whether it be Islam, Christianity, etc.). If he’s Catholic, he’s lost my vote if he’s in favor of contraception. I shall never vote for or support any politician who doesn’t uphold a consistent principle. And, finally, I’ll never vote or support somebody who hasn’t worked for a living and can run for office just because he had the dumb luck of having a family member for a politician.

This probably disqualifies most of those running but that’s fine by me. I’ve compromised too long. Real change has got to start no matter how futile it presently seems. At 80 million people, I’m sure we can find better leaders."