"What this Country needs is not a change OF men but a change IN men" March 1980

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Untying the Gordon knot

By Boo Chanco
The Philippine Star 01/22/2007

Raissa Espinosa Robles of the South China Morning Post captured the essence of Sen. Dick Gordon in the title I borrowed from her published introduction to the senator: Untying the Gordon knot. Sen. Gordon has always been a kind of an enigma to observers of the local political scene: A bit too abrasive for a typical politician but able to attract loyal supporters and best of all, manages to deliver on the hype he generates for his projects and advocacies.

Sen. Gordon delivered the keynote address in last Friday's Prospects conference of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) conference. Dick painted a cautiously hopeful picture of the nation's prospects in his address before the foreign correspondents. He early on made it clear that those who want to divorce politics from economics and governance in this country must wake up to the hard reality "that politics and governance are crucial to sustaining our economic momentum.

There is no way forward outside of democratic politics and sound public policy and administration." The senator sees a convergence of economic and political concerns that will sustain our economic momentum.

In this regard, he sees three key political challenges: first, is holding free, credible, and speedy elections in May and commencing the process of automating the conduct of elections and other electoral reforms; second, is affirming the rule of law in the country, and all that it connotes of public order, national security, effective judiciary and transparent laws and regulations; third is the need for effective executive-legislative collaboration in taking down long-standing roadblocks to economic modernization like the poor state of infrastructure and social services in the country.

Gordon believes each of these challenges "is a test of Philippine political credibility... we will soar or sink depending on how successfully we meet them." This is why he thinks "the May elections have taken on exceptional importance, not only because electoral results will have grave repercussions in policymaking, but because they are now seen – at home and abroad – as a test of our capability to hold credible elections."

Sen. Gordon's big worry is that even as we are the oldest democracy in Asia, "we are back to kindergarten school in elections management." He laments our failure to adopt modern technologies in our electoral system and processes. "Each political exercise has become more farcical than the last."

On the second challenge about the rule of law, "this simply means that the government is subject to law; the Constitution is the criterion of validity; the Judiciary is independent; individual rights are guaranteed; and citizens' welfare is promoted." With specific reference to concerns from the business sector, Sen. Gordon observes that "when we are not over-regulated, we are inequitably regulated. And we have a habit of changing policies."

To be taken seriously by investors, Gordon insists that "law and policy governing the economy have to be enduring and sustaining. We cannot stimulate investments and encourage trade with policies that lurch and change frequently. Weak and unstable states lack this kind of continuity. Strong and stable states provide investors time horizons for planning their projects."

On the third challenge, Gordon does not believe we need to abolish the Senate to cure the so-called legislative gridlock. "I believe we can sustain our current economic momentum if there is more effective Executive-Legislative collaboration." He is right. Former President Ramos demonstrated during his time that this could be done. It is a measure of Ate Glue's quality of leadership that she is finding difficulty in this area.

Dick wants to use this greater Executive-Legislative collaboration to address more effectively the major obstacles to accelerated economic growth to include the modernization of infrastructure in the country; the improvement of education; the improvement of public services; and eradicating graft in government.

There is a difference between Gordon and other politicians who say pretty much the same things. Gordon comes across as more credible for the simple reason that he has delivered in his own little way in his own small corner of the Republic not too long ago. You know he did not just pick those nice words and concepts out of thin air.

He has first hand experience and track record to back up his words. So that when Dick says as he did say last Friday that our problem "is more than just a problem of money. It is a problem of commitment" you know exactly what he means.

Dick is not totally happy that the economic prospects for the country have improved dramatically in recent months because he knows we could and we should do much better. "We have today many opportunities that could spell huge dividends if our infrastructure were only better. We can double our tourism arrivals if we had the rooms, the airports, flights and the facilities to host them... We could also spur greater growth in agriculture, industry and services if our infrastructure were up to speed...We could do many more things that could rival our high-growth neighbors if only we had made the necessary investments in infrastructure, like in an adequate and efficient national railway system, in earlier years."

A number of comments were made after his address that Dick Gordon sounded presidential. He has the vision and he has demonstrated in the past that he has enough leadership and ability to deliver on that vision. And while he isn't exactly on top of the list of the country's best loved politicians, he could be what the country needs. I think he is capable of inspiring our people enough to unite for a common goal and achieve it. His past programs for Olongapo and Subic as captured in the slogans: bawal ang tamad... bawal ang tanga, can be adopted nationwide.

I can't believe things could really be looking up. If we manage to have elections in 2010 to elect Ate Glue's successor, we could end up with Manny Villar, Mar Roxas and Dick Gordon as the contenders. If that happens, no one can say we were not given good choices anymore. The one advantage of Dick over the two Manuels is that Dick had once upon a time been given the chance to deliver on a vision and he has delivered... up until politics intervened and everything went down the drain.

Boo Chanco's e-mail address is bchanco@gmail.com


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