Twists and turns


Former Senate President
Manny Villar

Ah, the twists and turns of Philippine politics. Many people watched with bemusement the events surrounding the filing of candidacy and substitution in the Commission on Elections (Comelec). Supporters of the various personalities involved probably enjoyed the political melodrama as it unfolded. For me, watching in the sidelines, it brought back some memories of a career in politics. As I have said in a previous column, the decision to run for public office is a very important decision and hence, should not be taken lightly.

Running for public office in the Philippines is a very personal experience. By this I mean that a candidate usually has a lot of stake riding in every electoral contest. When you decide to run, you are in fact staking your reputation and your ideas out there. That is why politics is very emotional and passionate. Many scholars point to this characteristic of Philippine politics as one of the reasons for election related violence. Some are so invested in winning the contest that they make the decision to win it at all cost. When I decided to enter the realm of politics after a successful life in business, I knew what was at stake. And looking back, I now have crystal clear understanding of what separates business and politics.

In business, it is essentially your money, your capital that is at stake. When you decide to start a business, you need to put together the money you will spend building your new business. The risk, of course, is that you might lose that money as well as the other resources you put into your enterprise. That is why entrepreneurs need courage to dip into the world of business. Dapat medyo malakas ang loob mo.

The same courage is required when you enter politics. But it is your personal reputation that is at stake, not your own resources. In fact, most of the time candidates secure financial backing from businesses and supporters who believe in their vision for the country. In my case, I fund my own campaign because I have always insisted on my independence. In business and in politics, I want to be my own man. I can look every Filipino in the eye and say that when I was in public service, nobody owned me except the people I served.

In politics, it is your reputation that will be attacked and destroyed by your opponents. Social media makes this easier these days. And once your reputation has been destroyed (mostly because your opponent has resorted to lies) then it would be very difficult to restore a name you spent a lifetime building. Of course, reputation is also important in business but it is in politics where reputation takes a serious beating. Sa pulitika, dapat matibay ang sikmura mo.

So when I decided to run for Congress the first time, as with any other decision I have made in life, I went all in. I’m always in it, to win it, in other words. That is something that I have developed in my life — I take my time deciding on a certain course of action but when I finally decide to do something, I do so with only one thing in mind: Achieve my objectives.

And this is not just an individual battle. The lives of your campaign team and your supporters are inevitably intertwined with your campaign. I remember during my first run for Congress, I think we were at our campaign headquarters and as I was talking with someone I gazed around the room filled with people and said to myself: “Wow, I cannot disappoint all these people.”

Right there in that room, I could also see all the people who spent sleepless nights planning and executing our strategy, those who tirelessly scoured every nook and cranny of every barangay in the then Las Piñas-Muntinlupa district just so we can get our message across. I cannot afford to disappoint them. Believe it or not that was one of my strongest motivations to win.

And that is also the reason why you see people who rabidly support candidates. Looking from afar, it is easy to judge political supporters as mindless individuals who follow their candidates blindly. But we need to understand that, for the most part, supporters of certain candidates really do believe in that person, or in that cause. And more importantly, they love their country.