In 2007, Fr. Ed Panlilio was seen as breath of fresh air in what is otherwise an ever polluted, stale, and decaying political atmosphere, as he decided to seek the gubernatorial seat of Pampanga, (miraculously) beating Mark Lapid and Lilia Pineda. To avoid any conflict brought about by his priestly vocation, he chose to take a leave from the priesthood to pursue the more secular profession.
He impressed everyone when he was able to collect P29-M worth of quarry levy within only one month. His predecessor, Mark Lapid, took an entire year to collect the same amount. Panlilio was instantly hailed a hero of good governance.
Now, he says that he is open and ready to run for higher office in 2010 — and he is considering nothing less than the Presidency.
This decision, I believe, raises more worries than hopes.
Personally, I am bothered by the signal that it sends among Filipinos and the rest of the world. What happens to the separation between Church and state? It sends a negative signal to both. It sends a bad signal to the state, as it sends a bad signal to the priesthood, which is already short on members. Archbishop Oscar Cruz had made a good point about calling on Among Ed to permanently leave the priesthood should he make the move to run for President. Still, I don’t think this is enough to remove any doubts.
While Governor Panlilio has shown his political will in the province, I am constrained to think that he has not achieved enough. Let me clarify that this is not his fault. But he has more to improve on getting other provincial officials to work with him. His two years in power has very much been limited by efforts to make him a lame duck governor. Should he win the presidency, I am not quite sure if he will have enough clout to influence fellow politicos. I would think that it is safe to assume that all pro-administration trapos hate him for squealing on the P500,000 bribe to politicians in 2007, allegedly handed at the Palace. Learning from the experiences of 2001 and 2004, it is clear that we need a President who really would be able to unite the country and move it forward. How will he institute political reforms without any cooperation from politicos? He would only be able to do so without the Senate, House, and local government standing in the way. And how would he do such a thing? Declare martial law? Declare a revolutionary government?
He may have done a good job in Pampanga. But that is Pampanga. Governing the country is different. Will Panlilio get the full cooperation of the Armed Forces?
It also seems yet again that we are being sucked into the mistake of focusing on and being fascinated with personalities instead of principles and platforms. Panlilio has lay out his platform, and yet, the pledges have all been blindly coming. And again, without any structural reforms to back his platforms, I am afraid his platform would fall flat to the ground. Ironically, we are seeing politics of personality rise again — and from a good and kind man!
We placed our hope on Cory. People placed their hope on Erap. But what happened?
More than floating Panlilio’s name, I believe that what is more crucial now is for sectors like civil society to come together to lay out the platform that we would require of our candidates. There should be a clear consensus as to what kind of leader we really need and deserve in 2010. What should be his or her positions on the economy? What would constitute as good plans for law and order?
After crafting a people’s agenda for 2010, it should be promoted from top to bottom. Voters should be educated. What is essential is that we vote for the candidate who would best carry out this agenda — and to make a candidate accountable should he or she fail to live up to the commitment. This is, of course, easier said than done in an era when promises seem meant to be broken, and when the people’s trust is being taken for granted without any regret at all by trapos. Am I now asking for the moon and the stars?
I wish Panlilio well. To be fair, I still am keeping an open mind because who knows, he may be able to show us a clear and convincing agenda in the days to come. There is still a year before the elections. Let’s see if his agenda would be enough for us to overlook any concerns of a clergy man crossing over to the presidency.
We have elected the worst presidents just by looking at qualification and capability. While we say that sincerity and integrity are important, it doesn’t lessen the need for the former.
One thing is for sure, as always, I will vote not only based on integrity and personality, but also on principle and platform, qualification, and capability.