Tuesday, July 08, 2003


It has been reported that Vice President Teofisto Guingona, Jr. might run for president in the 2004 elections.

And he should. For Guingona is indeed, among those who have been either rumored or reported to be planning to run for president in 2004, the only one who has any right to be president.

Of course the Constitution provides that any natural-born Filipino citizen who is at least 40 years old, has resided in the Philippines for at least ten years immediately preceding the prsidential election may be elected president. But these are simply legal rights; by reason only Guingona, among those who are rumored to be or reportedly seeking the presidency, has any right to be president.

For one his record as a nationalist is unassailable. He was among the Magnificent Twelve senators who voted to eject the US military bases from the Philippines in 1991, in effect voting for sovereignty against false security. He would repeat that feat eight years later by voting against the Visiting Forces Agreement. Recently he has also spoken against globalization and pressed for a nationalist economic framework.

As an advocate of social justice Guingona deserves credit as well. As a member of the government peace panel under the Aquino government, he strove to carry on the late Jose W. Diokno's formula for peace: "Food and freedom, jobs and justice." He has recognized the fact that insurgency is rooted in social injustice and has been campaigning for peace with justice. While he as yet has to further clarify his views on this matter, he has shown nonetheless a deep understanding of our past and what it implies for the future.

We all know that he is a fierce opponent of corruption. He was the first high government official to call for the impeachment of former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada, doing so when the man was at the height of his popularity, and did not care about being branded a Don Quixote then. He would eventually be one of the senator-judges in the Estrada impeachment trial who would vote to open the second envelope containing evidence against the president on trial.

His advocacy of human rights is clearly written in the annals of Philippine history. He was one of those who first fought the Marcos dictatorship, doing so both as a human rights lawyer and street parliamentarian.

No one else who has been aiming for a shot at the presidency can match all these. Moreover, Guingona has come across a lot of opportunities to compromise his convictions, but he has remained steadfast, unlike so many who are fervent in their causes only when these are the "in" things.

Age and popularity have everything to do with being president only in the minds of those who cannot, or refuse to, flex their mental muscles. Joey Lina was a very young man when he voted to let the Philippines remain a launching pad of US wars. Joseph Ejercito Estrada was the most popular Philippine president ever.

And if his age and lack of popularity should work against Guingona in the coming elections, he is nevertheless assured of a rightful place among the Claro M. Rectos, Lorenzo Tanadas, and Jose W. Dioknos of this land.

Expanded version of a comment on Ederic@Cyberspace.

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