The reported bolting by a member of the LP senatorial slate–former senator Sergio Osmeña, Jr.–is an example of the peril of pursuing traditional politics in a setting of reform politics. Serge’s ostensible reason is his rejection of the LP’s choice of another senatorial candidate–erstwhile administration ally and another former senator, Ralph Recto. Recto was earlier reported to be eyeing a senatorial slot in the NP senatorial slate with his Wednesday Club buddy, Senator Manny Villar.
Recto’s senatorial term was marred by a controversial sponsorship–willingly or under duress from Malacañang (depending on whose story you hear)–of the infamous e-VAT law. This was a major reason for his failure to secure another term in the 2007 senatorial elections. He later serve in the Macapagal-Arroyo cabinet.
The first question to be asked, of course, is: Why Recto? The second question is: Is the Osmeña reaction correct?
The Recto decision was–from the first–a sound political decision for Liberal Party, that is, if the traditional political way of calculation is followed. The Recto couple’s political base + Vilma Santos’ nationwide fan base = national campaign asset. Part of the calculation may be that Recto’s early resignation from the cabinet and publicized tiff with Secretary Angelo Reyes would effectively negate any bad political effect of his dancing with the “enemy.”
The problem of this decision lies in its defiance of Noynoy Aquino’s alternative route to the presidential candidacy–a route based on the people’s clamor to reject the traditional politics and all that it implies. This places an intangible–yet potent–criteria on candidates associated with him, whether in the national and local levels.
The criteria are simple: one has to renounce the traditional way of politics of convenience, self-interest, and wheeling-dealing and to embrace a creed of honesty, genuine public service, and transparency. The rejection of the Arroyo administration by those who nominated Noynoy to the presidential table is total–anybody associated with it has the burden of admitting their mistakes and making penance before the people. In this sense, Recto falls far short of what is required of a Noynoy-endorsed senatorial candidate.
The LP is walking along a perilous traditional path strewn with political mine fields like the Recto case. It is a path potentially deadly to Noynoy’s commanding lead over his rivals and eventually, maybe to his very candidacy.
This may yet be cured and I think Senator Osmeña’s reaction is a bit premature. However, he saw the abyss.