Trapo Alert! Detecting political pandering, part 6


Featuring Grace Poe, Eddie Villanueva and Richard Gordon.

This is the sixth part in a series on the candidates for the senate in 2013. Just a recap: I am attempting through this series to have a serious discussion of the aspirants and their political platforms (or lack thereof). These are put through what I call the pander-o-meter to determine whether the policy detail they have released so far places them in either the reformist or populist columns. The following table details the range of possible scores a candidate can get and the equivalent meaning of each reading: Introducing: the ‘Pander-o-meter’ or Trapo Scale

A reading of… …is equivalent to…


Low levels of pandering detected, generally reformist in nature


A mixed bag of proposals aimed at both pandering and reforming


Trapo alert! Approaching dangerous levels of pandering


Could be likened to a vote buying trapo

In part 1, I covered Juan Edgardo Angara, JrBenigno Aquino IV and Alan Peter Cayetano. In part 2, I covered Francis Escudero, Risa Hontiveros and Loren Legarda. In part 3, I covered Aquilino Pimentel III,Joseph Victor Ejercito and Juan Ponce Enrile, Jr. In part 4, I covered Gregorio HonasanErnesto Maceda and Juan Miguel Zubiri. In part 5, I covered Teodoro Casiño, the candidates of Ang Kapatiran Party (John Carlos delos Reyes, Lito David and Mars Llasos), and the candidates of the Democratic Party of the Philippines (Bal Falcone, Christian Señeres and Greco Belgica). In this edition, I will be covering Grace Poe Llamanzares, Ed Villanueva and Richard Gordon.


Grace Poe Llamanzares (Ind-Team PNoy)

The former MTRCB chair has established a platform, which she says is a continuation of the social covenant espoused by her deceased father, actor and presidential aspirant Fernando Poe, Jr. This platform has three planks, which include: poverty alleviation, opportunities for all especially children and electoral reform. These three planks in turn are supported by 12 pillars. She promises that what her father started, she will finish. She then commits herself to this 12 point agenda.

There is not enough room to discuss the details of this plan. To give you a flavour however of its contents, it starts off by saying the following under Poverty Alleviation (the following sections are a direct quote from her website):

1. Sustainable Inclusive Growth. In 2003, 3.3 million Filipino families (or 19.8 million people) were considered poor. In 2009, the number rose to nearly 3.9 million families (or 23 million people).

1.1 During the period between these two years, the economy was growing at an average of 4.2 percent in real terms. Yet poverty remained. Economic growth is not enough to help the poor.

1.2 For economic expansion to make an impact on the poor especially the vulnerable sectors—indigenous people, detainees, people with disabilities, elderly, women, internally displaced people, and overseas Filipino workers. I believe that growth should be “inclusive,” i.e. sustained, substantial, broad-based, and participative. This growth will happen in an environment of macroeconomic stability, with investment-friendly policies, and supported by infrastructure development and timely capability-building interventions.

2. Focus on Family. Poverty is a problem that can break the family and bring great harm to our children. I consider the family as the focal point of our poverty alleviation efforts. The importance of the family is also enshrined in the Philippine Constitution (Art. II Section 12 of the Philippine Constitution: the State “recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution.”)

2.1 We should provide incentives to institutions that promote family-oriented programs.

2.2 We should strengthen and affirm the Filipino family as a basic social institution of Philippine society.

General comments

The platform goes on to cover five more pillars under poverty alleviation, three under opportunities for all, and two under electoral reform. As you will note, her platform does not really commit her to any type of action, since each policy plank is stated using the modal verb “should”, as in “growth should be inclusive”, or “we should strengthen and affirm the Filipino family”, etc.

When policy statements are phrased in this manner, it commits politicians to nothing specific, thus making it easy for them to weasel their way out of any public scrutiny over unfulfilled obligations. The word expresses the advisability or desirability of an idea. If I feel stressed at work, I would say to myself, “I should take a vacation.” If I feel that I am overweight, I would say, “I should watch what I eat.” It is easy for me to say these things because they are statements of intent as opposed to action. There is nothing that obligates me to abide by them.

The same goes for Grace Poe’s platform. They consist of such wanna be statements. Woulda, coulda, shoulda. The ideas and sentiments are admirable, but in the end are simply vacuous without any real substance. When she does affirm a specific agenda, it is by way of endorsing what the government currently does, like the Pantawid Pamilya or the seal of good housekeeping for local government units. That to my mind puts her squarely in the camp of Team PNoy, but it does not really tell us why we should vote for her.

Perhaps as an afterthought, she released an infograph containing a five point “youth legislative agenda” on her Facebook page. Has she suddenly realised the power of the youth vote, after relying on the bonds of her father with older generations? There is a commitment in it to perform “oversight” of existing laws covering basic education, training and employment services. Where new proposals are offered, there is only a vague notion of what they would mean, like “skills matching”, “youth employment service” and “incentives for young achievers”.

This is a slovenly way of political campaigning. It is quite easy to cobble together a bunch of ideas like this with no policy detail attached. The combination of the populist image of her parents (Susan Roces and FPJ) and the lazy form of appealing to young voters through slick social media outlets has given birth to a new form of political panderers, which Ms Poe represents.

Pander-o-meter: 4 out of 5


Eduardo “Bro Eddie” Villanueva (Bangon Pilipinas)

This born again preacher turned politician is taking a stab at running for senator for the first time after twice running for and failing to win the office of the president. In contrast to Ms Poe above, his three point policy platform, consisting of promoting inclusive growth, education and entrepreneurship, is chock full of specific policy prescriptions.

Unlike the Kapatiran Party which I featured in part 5 of this series, he does not allow his faith to meddle with his politics. The only vague reference to a moral code is when he espouses good governance, and says that “moral leadership” is the basis for it. Rather than pushing for a social or cultural agenda, as what most religious leaders do, Bro Eddie is pushing mainly a political and economic development agenda. It is a bit rational rather than ideological—a combination of measures that would reorganise or re-orient a few government departments and some spending measures aimed at human development.

General comments:

There is a lot of policy detail to sift through in his platform, and space limits do not permit me to go into each one. One thing I will say though is this: it is very hard to see any of these measures being passed or enacted by Mr Villanueva acting alone in the senate. The only way for this to happen is if he held the balance of power, i.e. the deciding vote, on such matters.

It is unfortunate that Bro Eddie did not field a few more candidates under his party Bangon Pilipinas like the last time when he was running for president. Just like Makabayan which has Teddy Casiño as its sole nominee, it is difficult to see how alternative parties can gain a larger voice in our legislature unless they field more candidates. It would definitely be more cost-effective if they did. They would be more credible in my opinion, as well. If Kapatiran and DPP can field three candidates each, I do not see why these other parties cannot recruit more to join their senatorial slate. It would have made this contest more about ideas than about personalities.

Aside from strategy, and on the policy front, there is a recurring theme here. Funding for programs is an issue. Bro Eddie wants to increase educational and health spending. He further wants to regionalise or devolve much of this. The LGUs will bear the brunt of the task through counterpart funding for health. This is a major stumbling block of most candidates. They do not specify how their proposals will be funded. On the whole, there are definitely some measures that are worth considering, which would not cost too much, but the rest of it cannot really be taken seriously without either the identification of revenue or saving measures to ensure program sustainability.

Pander-o-meter: 3 out of 5


Richard “Dick” Gordon (Bagumbayan-UNA)

The former mayor, SBMA chairman, senator and cabinet secretary is seeking a fresh mandate as senator. Having been responsible for the passage of a number of important bills in his previous stint, such as the New Automated Election Systems Law, National Tourism Policy Act and the Veterans Pensions and Benefits Act, Mr Gordon is eminently qualified to occupy the position.

His policy agenda for a new term follows three themes: jobs, education and safety. Each of these themes has three planks that support them. There is an infographic on Mr Gordon’s Facebook page that depicts them. Under the jobs theme, he includes promoting tourism, vocational education and training and livelihood programs. Under the education theme, he incorporates higher teacher pay and training, curriculum standards that emphasise comprehension and not just literacy, and tablets for public school students. Under the safety rubric, he espouses disaster preparedness in every school and barangay and the establishment of permanent evacuation centres in every town and city.

General comments:

There really isn’t much policy detail provided in Mr Gordon’s manifesto, if it can even be called that. The drift towards social media and inforgraphics as a way to convey political messages has sort of made party manifestos obsolete in today’s campaign environment. It is now more about branding. This is a theme I picked up when discussing Teddy Casiño’s platform in part 5. Fortunately, in the case of Teddy, I was able to read his detailed statement before he took it offline and replaced it with an infographic that had nice pictures and catchy lines.

In the case of Dick, there isn’t much to go on. Given the legislative record of the man, we know he is capable of providing substance to his platform. Why then doesn’t he? Does he feel that we as voters cannot handle a mature conversation about policy? What we also can consider at this point is whether even the vague proposals he has put on the table can be implemented. Tablets for every child? Permanent evacuation centres for every municipality? Jobs for everyone? I am so glad he limited his platform to just three themes. Imagine if he had a dozen, how long the laundry list of things for everybody he might have had? This is not the platform of a responsible leader. In sum, his platform does not seem all too “flash”.

Pander-o-meter: 5 out of 5


There are only three more instalments left. In the seventh issue, I will feature Ramon Magsaysay, Jr, Ed Hagedorn and Antonio Trillanes IV. In the eighth issue, I will cover the rest of the field. And in the ninth and final instalment, I will provide a summary of all eight instalments plus some additional insights.

Doy Santos aka The Cusp

Doy Santos is an international development consultant who shuttles between Australia and the Philippines. He maintains a blog called The Cusp: A discussion of new thinking, new schools of thought and fresh ideas on public policy ( and tweets as @thecusponline. He holds a Master in Development Economics from the University of the Philippines and an MS in Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University.