I was not surprised at the spirited and enthusiastic responses that my July 31 column (Who should lead us after Gloria) received from readers and friends, from here and abroad. Many of those who wrote favorable reactions did not only express approval of the suggested candidate but volunteered to help.
For too long we were like wanderers in the desert looking for a leader to inspire us and offer hope for economic salvation and good governance. The sudden realization to many that there are good people who can become our 'Moses' and lead us to the Promised Land must have impacted like gentle rain to a thirsty desert straggler.
I was not also surprised that a few asked why I suddenly raised that banner of "Belmonte for President" when there was no clear indication that a snap election will be held. Indeed, there is neither an announcement of a snap election nor a shift to a parliamentary system that could open the door for the election of a prime minister, as former president Fidel V. Ramos (FVR) hopes the latter would happen.
To also set the record straight, Sonny Belmonte never asked me to float his name or raise that banner. Truth to tell, I've written about Sonny in a couple of columns in the past as one of the finest men we can elect as president. In both instances, Sonny told me that it was a futile exercise-he is not running for president, never considered it for a moment or harbored any desire for the job.
A day after my column appeared, Sonny Belmonte's office released his reaction. He said "I recently came across the column of William Esposo in Inq7.net suggesting that I would make a good president after the Arroyo administration. I would like to thank the many well-wishers, led by former President Fidel V. Ramos, for their belief in my capabilities, my accomplishments, and what I continue to strive for in Quezon City, as its mayor since 2001.
Sonny added: "I would like to stress however, that I have NO presidential (prime ministerial or senatorial) ambition and would simply wish to complete three terms as QC mayor. Many of the names already being mentioned as possible presidential candidates are very capable and qualified individuals for that most important position of President of the Republic."
Sonny once refused the offer of Ferdinand Marcos to head the Customs Bureau, a job many Filipinos would have coveted even if only for a month's tenure. Well, Sonny feels that the job of a Philippine president, especially at this time, is worse than the Customs post.
FVR told me during our July 21 meeting that he was also discouraged by Sonny from pursuing that tack. Sonny confirmed as much with me when I told him that FVR shared my thinking that he was the best man for president, especially at this time when we are in crisis and sinking rapidly despite those "Enchanted Kingdom" fairy tale speeches that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has been delivering.
My main reason for raising that "Belmonte for President" banner is to disprove to all and sundry the Arroyo regime's spin that 84 million Filipinos do not have an alternative for the present Malacanang Palace occupant-or squatter as many who question her having won in 2004 would assert. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has just about run our economy to the ground and ruined our democratic institutions yet her drumbeaters have been getting away with bloody murder in propagating that lie that Macapagal Arroyo has no viable replacement.
Now, after having set the standard of comparison with that column, let's see how the regime attempts to project Gloria Macapagal Arroyo against a man like Sonny Belmonte who has an impressive budget surplus story to tell compared to Arroyo's fiscal crisis and no graft and corruption scandal hounding him or any of his immediate family.
Let's see how Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo can still talk about super regions where no source of funding for her tall tales can be presented and when she cannot even account for the billions of OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration) funds, now desperately needed by Filipino workers who are caught in the crossfire in Lebanon. How can an executive who has a dismal track record of budget deficits, year after year, compare with another executive who has a brilliant track record for wiping out a billion peso deficit and posting a hefty budget surplus on his very first year of having taken over a disaster zone?
Let's see this regime talk about experience and track record against someone who has excelled in running government corporations, headed the legislature and now efficiently manages the most populous city in the country.
Another reason why I felt that raising the "Belmonte for President" banner was needed at this time is because I believe that at any time now something will develop-just like it did in 1985-and we may just see ourselves facing a snap election. There are many possible sources of flashpoints why Gloria Macapagal Arroyo may just be forced to finally accede to a snap election as a means of resolving the crisis.
These potential sources of flashpoints are:
1. The seething unrest in the military resulting from the pressure being applied on Brigadier General Danilo Lim and the rest of the officers who are being linked to a purported coup. Many in the military see the February 24 incident not as a coup attempt but as a withdrawal of support no different from that act of FVR in 1986 and Angie Reyes in 2001 which were not considered criminal acts.
2. Fertilizer Fund central player Jocelyn Bolante who is under US custody may just end up spilling the beans-where the funds were used and who benefited from it. If and when he does, expect the political fallout here to shake the Arroyo regime worse than what the Garci tapes detonated. FVR said as much when he and I talked last July 21.
3. That crisis in Lebanon is a very emotional issue insofar as Citizen Juan de la Cruz is concerned. Missing OWWA funds, officials finger pointing on who is to blame, pathetic government inaction while Filipino OFW 'heroes' are at risk of being killed in Lebanon could light a fuse and produce the critical mass that this regime has been fearing. Even if the administration is able to withdraw all Filipino workers from Lebanon, the missing OWWA funds now being investigated by the senate will add another dimension to the issues against Arroyo connected to the 2004 elections. 4. Should the Lebanon crisis escalate and further drive up oil prices, we may soon see the emergence of the proverbial last straw that will break the regime's back.
All these potential sources of flashpoints have a common denominator-they are all short fuses which can make things happen within a period of one to two months.
Lastly, I am worried that the cynicism in our country has reached dangerous proportions. The Filipino has been battered since 1997 when the Asian Currency Crisis hit the region, only to be followed by two man-made disasters-the Estrada and Arroyo regimes. Counting every year as a boxing round, we are like pugilists who have been on the receiving end of powerful haymakers for nine rounds now. More of the same can create irreversible damage-if it has not happened already-to our national psyche.
Our country needs someone and something to believe in. We need someone who can make us believe in ourselves again. For us to be able to do that, we will need someone who can inspire by example-someone who epitomizes our concept of family, decency, integrity and good governance.
You may email William M. Esposo at: email@example.com