Benjie Oliveros | The Vagueness of Politics, the Politics of Vagueness


MANILA — The more your hear and see the less you know. This seems to best describe what politicians articulate during press conferences and say in public, the current leading candidates for president included. They seem merely content with vague slogans: for Sen. Noynoy Aquino – “pagbabago” (change), Sen. Manny Villar – “sipag at tiyaga” (industriousness and persistence), Defense Sec. Gilbert Teodoro – “galing at talino” (good work and intelligence), MMDA Chair Bayani Fernando – reformer, performer, problem solver. Former president Joseph “Erap” Estrada has reprised his slogan of “Erap para sa Mahirap” (Erap for the poor).

What do these tell us about their platform of government? What do these tell us of how they would run the government if they win? Nothing.

A visit to their official websites also reveal nothing except their profiles and claimed accomplishments. These are full of generalities and vague statements.

In Noynoy Aquino’s website, the closest one could get in getting a glimpse of how he would run the government if he won is the slogan, “‘Tanggalin ang tiwali, itama ang mali” (Remove the corrupt, Right the wrongdoings). For sure corruption is one of the ills plaguing Philippine society. But it certainly is not the only one. What exactly are the wrongdoings that would be set straight?

In his profile, Aquino was quoted as saying that a true democracy should not only allow political freedoms but also jobs, education, social services and equitable distribution of economic prosperity. But almost all candidates for president say this, even Gilbert Teodoro who professes loyalty to the Arroyo administration. How would Noynoy Aquino be different? Would he then be against labor contractualization, the priority given to debt servicing and defense as against the budget for education and other social services, the EVAT and the oil deregulation law?

In Manny Villar’s website, one could not get anything either. Villar was quoted as saying that he intends to make Filipinos more competitive, referring to building capacities for entrepreneurship. Poverty is also one of the main problems confronting Philippine society. But certainly it could not be solved by merely providing small livelihood opportunities. Already 90 percent of registered businesses in the country are micro enterprises and there is hardly a dent in the poverty situation. It is even getting worse. Besides, “making the Filipino competitive” seems as a mere reprise of former president Fidel V. Ramos’s slogan in 1992, until the Southeast Asian financial crisis hit the country.

Gilbert Teodoro is even worse. His website offers nothing, except for free music downloads and reposts of articles written about him. In his acceptance speech, he declared that he would continue with the programs of the Arroyo government such as infrastructure projects, assistance to the poor, and protection of human rights. Well, nobody believes that the Arroyo government was able to provide adequate assistance to the poor, much less protect human rights.

For Bayani Fernando, the slogan in his pink website is “Sa Political Will, Titino po tayo” (If there is political will, we would all be better) This, on the other hand, seems like a reprise of the late Ferdinand E. Marcos’s famous slogan, “Sa ikauunlad ng bayan, disiplina ang kailangan” (For the country to prosper, there must be discipline), when he ruled as a dictator.

As for Erap Estrada, neither his slogan nor what he did when he was president from 1998-2001 showed what he would do for the poor.

Why are candidates vague about their platforms of government and their position on issues? It is because of realpolitik.

They would not take a position against the Visiting Forces Agreement and the presence of US troops in the country for fear of losing the support of the US. They would shy away from taking a clear position on the oil deregulation law so as not to provoke the ire of oil companies. They would not take a position against labor contractualization and the EVAT for fear of losing the support of big business. They would not speak against the Automatic Appropriation Law and the policies of deregulation, liberalization, and privatization, which is wreaking havoc on the economy and creating misery among the Filipino people, for fear of losing the support of world economic powers, the local ruling elite and foreign and local big business.

Thus, they would be content with issuing vague, populist statements. But if they could not take a clear position on issues affecting the Filipino people, how could they work for the interests and welfare of the people if and when they win?

It is bad enough to make campaign promises and not to deliver on these when one wins, because of realpolitik. Former president Joseph Estrada was said to have promised not to allow the presence of US troops in the country and even took a position against the US military bases when he was still a senator. However, he signed the Visiting Forces Agreement in 1999 and was quoted as saying that it is a different matter when one becomes president.

It is even worse not to take a clear position on important issues affecting the people. How would the people then make an informed decision on who to vote for? On second thought, with realpolitik determining what candidates would say now and do in the future, if and when they win, how could we expect genuine change to take place after the May 2010 elections?

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  1. nice article. i hope this could be read by all filipino voters. Lahat ng pagpipiliang lider ngayong eleksyon ay mas duwag pa sa mga boboto sa kanila. Paano nila pamumunuaan ang bansa aber? hindi ko alam kung gusto ba nilang makatulong sa sambayanang pilipino o makamit lang ang puwesto. Sana itinatanong muna nila sa kanilang sarili kung ano ang kanilang motibo at kung tama ba ito bago nila ibinebenta ang bulok nilang sarili sa taong bayan. Sa mga tumatakbong sa pagkapangulo na walang malinaw na plataporma: Kung hindi niyo kayang maglingkod, manahimik na lang kayo, wag niyo kami bolahin at paasahin, lalo lang nakakagalit.

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