The article is no longer available in philippine star’s site (Editorial Section). I’m just making it available here.
FIRST PERSON By Alex Magno
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Fernando is not just speculating on a possible presidential run. He has declared himself the “next” President.
Recognizing the inherent limitations on nationwide name-recall that local government executives have to surmount, he has tried singing his way to recognition. Everywhere, we see photographs of him staring down from lampposts and reminding all that what the country needs now is kaayusan (orderliness).
Recognizing as well that so much political influence has been devolved to the local executives, Fernando has quietly worked the local governments, gathering the support of influential local politicians. Those posters on lampposts from Aparri to Jolo did not just grow there. Local political leaders either helped put them up or, at the very least, tolerated their display.
Fernando is also playing to his party’s strength. Lakas dominates the local governments. The party is branding itself as a coalition of doers, not talkers. Fernando is running on his record of performance as an administrator.
Over dinner a few months ago, discussing the US elections and the out-of-the-box tactics the Obama campaign had used, he asked me a question that was actually a declarative sentence: Why should voters choose a legislator to be president?
The presidency requires proven managerial ability. In his mind, he is the only one in the field with proven managerial competence. He has a whole city to prove that, and now a megalopolis with 12 million people.
Recently, President Gloria Arroyo put Fernando in charge of the development of the 400-hectare National Penitentiary property adjacent to the Ayala Alabang estate. She chose Fernando because he gets things done. That large parcel of land will be the next big thing in property development, the next satellite city to relieve the tightly packed metropolitan area.
This has to be read as a vote of confidence in the man. No one else could get that done, at least not within the short timeline the President always expects.
I traveled to Mindanao over the weekend. I was surprised that people deeply interested in the run of our politics have begun asking about Bayani Fernando.
I suppose the interest in the man who, among those considered presidential material, never delivered a privilege speech. Never ignited a half-baked expose. Never tried to gain media mileage by haranguing public officers who were doing their work.
Over the past few years, Fernando has been busy getting traffic on Edsa moving at a faster pace. He has been busy clearing shanties so that more road space could be opened for public use.
Always, he has been dogged in his determination to get things done. His commonsense solutions — such as the U-turn lanes and the pink pedestrian overpasses to keep people from interfering with traffic flow — provoked indignation at times. But that indignation melted into acceptance when people realized the solutions worked.
I can understand why Ramos might be enthused by a Fernando presidency. Both of them are trained engineers. They look at problems structurally and begin solutions from the bottom up. Only from firm foundations can useful edifices be built.
I can understand, too, why people from as far as Mindanao are asking about this man. There is a sense everywhere that the much-advertised early runners have burned out. Their early campaigns have turned out to be all air and no structure. All speeches and nothing solid in terms of achievement to show.
There is perceptible public exhaustion with the narrow partisan plays that only succeeded in poisoning our politics. There is a quiet but determined rejection of the old crop of politicians who will say anything and pull any ploy to establish name-recall and lure the old crop of electoral financiers who have, in turn, distorted our policy architecture.
How many years has it been that the public’s attention been commandeered by politicians who make wild allegations, hold trials by publicity and end up with nothing resolved? There is now a clear sense the country needs managers, not demagogues. We need people with blueprints, not with half-baked privilege speeches.
That circus at the Senate has brought things to a head.
Instigated by that disorderly tandem of Lacson and Madrigal, the Senate has now resembled a gladiatorial arena where all players will be slain. The noisy circus guarantees that all the self-appointed presidential aspirants from that chamber will end up politically diminished.
None of the ambitious senators will have their statures elevated by cheap charges and confused counter-charges. In an orgy of mudslinging, no one comes out at the end appearing cleaner than when the affair began.
And this is why ordinary voters have begun looking beyond that tainted chamber for possible new leaders to bring the nation forward. This is why there is that perceptible surge in interest in Bayani Fernando.
He is the unintended beneficiary of the strange games senators play — the peaceable manager preoccupied with getting things done.