“From the mouth of a political babe”
Jan. 22, 2007
RIO VISTA, Calif. Philippine senatorial candidate Theodore Bradford “Kuya Ted” Macabulos Aquino instantly realized the gaffe the moment it left his mouth.
During a TV interview in his living room, Cristy Morales of The Filipino Channel must have asked him what he thought of the Philippine political situation when he blurted out, “You know, Philippine politics is like organized crime.”
Then he went on to explain, though anybody listening would have perfectly understood what he was talking about.
Later, after Cristy had left, he furrowed his eyebrows and muttered, “That was a mistake, wasn’t it? Calling Philippine politics organized crime.”
Kuya Ted lives in neat, three-bedroom house in a plush gated retirement community here nearly a two-hour drive east of San Francisco. But he is not retired. He is a civil engineering consultant who telecommutes.
He was able to acquire a house here because at 58 he is a senior.
From his living room the view is an immaculately manicured golf course and a sculptured water cascade at the center of which was a stunning sculpture silhouetted by the setting sun.
A two-minute walk away is an ultra-modern country club that includes a covered and heated Olympic-size swimming pool.
Maybe Ted Aquino, the president of the U.P. Alumni Association, needs to see a psychiatrist, one is tempted to suggest.
Who with a sound mind would decide to set aside the comforts and security of home to wade into the toxic swamp that is Philippine politics?
Actually when he first broached the thought of filing his candidacy, his objective was not really to campaign for, much less, win a Senate seat.
As part of the Gobal Filipinos Coalition, a nonpartisan San Francisco-based group advocating equal rights for all Filipinos, he said he wanted to test the principles of the Dual Citizenship Law, whose provisions about dual citizens’ ability to run for elective office in the Philippines is rather murky.
The group’s position is unequivocal: dual citizens have the same rights and privileges as all Filipino citizens.
Ted said the most he expected was a challenge to his candidacy in Supreme Court, for which he is now putting together a team of lawyers to argue his case.
Then something happened after word came out that he had filed his candidacy.
Wishes of congratulations and pledges of support came pouring in, largely through phone calls and emails. Suddenly it seemed he had become a viable candidate.
The simple answer is no. Not yet, anyway.
According to him, he learned that he needs about 400 million pesos (about $8 million) to run for a Senate seat, much of it to buy votes and/or protect them.
For somebody who has to worry about who’s going to open his mail and attend to his bills while he is campaigning, the amount looks pretty formidable.
He also neither has the eloquence of a Joker Arroyo nor a film star for spouse as senators Francis Pangilinan or Ralph Recto have.
And already he is under attack no less than by members of his clan.
According to him, Tessie Aquino Oreta, Ninoy’s younger sister, who is making another bid for the Senate, has asked him to withdraw. Some have also questioned whether he is a real Aquino. (Yes, he is and he’s got a book to prove it.)
And he is also being branded another opportunist, trying to capitalize on Ninoy’s legacy. (To which his response, particularly to the other Aquinos, has been to run simply as “Kuya Ted.”)
But what he has, he says, is Ninoy’s dream which, being one of the founders of the Ninoy Aquino Movement, he helped craft while the martyr was in exile in the U.S.
It is a dream that, many of us feel, has been squandered by politicians, among them Ninoy’s kin, who invoked his name but later upon winning only worked to perpetuate the system Ninoy fought.
(Tessie Aquino Oreta dancing on the Senate floor and playing mahjong with Blue Label-sipping Erap Estrada and current prison inmate Atong Ang are vivid recollections.)
He also brings with him a message of hope from Filipinos across the world who feel it’s about time they give back to their motherland. It is a message shorn of pretense and rhetoric, but pregnant with meaning and substance.
And he is putting what little money he has where his mouth is.
Like everybody else, myself included, Filipinas Magazine publisher Greg Macabenta has something to bitch about in government, particularly the Philippine government. One day, he related, someone challenged him: instead of whining, why don’t you run instead?
The usually quick-witted Greg, who could get crusty with dimwits, was stumped.
The way I see it is thus, Kuya Ted is running in place of all of us whiners. And at this point, the most we can do is lend whatever support we can so people can at least hear what he has to say.
No, he is not your garden variety traditional politician.
He is one of us, the only difference being he has the courage of his convictions.