"What could potentially be a game-changer for any candidate at this point?"
Two recent columns have attracted the most reaction. One is on the Rodrigo Duterte presidency. I had said it is a colossal disaster in terms of pandemic management, and the deadliest in terms of number of casualties the pandemic (150,000) will exact.
Scores of Duterte trolls have gone overtime to refute scathing assertions in my columns. But I fear the pandemic will decide who the next president of the Philippines will be in 2022.
The other column is the “fearless forecast” by beer, food, infra, and power tycoon Ramon S. Ang that boxing champion Manny Pacquiao will be the next president of the Philippines. In that column, I also suggested that the top honcho of the Philippines’ largest industrial and most diversified conglomerate consider running for president himself in May 2022.
The reaction to “Ramon S. Ang for President” has been one of unrestrained enthusiasm. Never has the possibility of a business leader being the nation’s CEO elicited such a scorching reception.
“Pacquiao for President” has prompted Ramon Ang—RSA to the people and followers at San Miguel Corporation—to clarify three things:
One, he is not interested in running for president.
Two, he did not endorse Pacquiao for president.
Three, he did not rule out the possibility of either presidential daughter, Davao Mayor Sara Duterte or presidential factotum Senator Christopher “Bong” Go being elected president in 2022.
Why is RSA not warm to the idea of himself being president? He gives three reasons.
One, “I will lose time for myself and my family,” he said in Pilipino.
In June 2020, RSA lost his long time friend Eduardo “Danding”Cojuangco Jr. to a sudden heart attack. In April 2020, he lost a son to suicide. Those are shocking double blows that can flatten anybody’s animus or passion for joie de vivre.
Ramon is an inveterate family man. Weekends, he spends time with them and joins them for masses. Most days, he brings sons and grandchildren to his unpretentious eighth floor office at San Miguel headquarters in Ortigas. This is a man who manages a trillion-peso company with four major conglomerates within a conglomerate and 24 hours are not enough in a day. He himself contracted COVID three times last year.
Two, “I will make many enemies.”
Three, “when I leave office, the last ten peso I have earned the hard way, people will think I stole it from government.”
“I still have many things to do in the next five to 10 years. Life is short these days. Why should I enter politics? Why not just help the politicians?” he rationalizes in Pilipino.
Ramon had a Zoom meeting with a group of columnists last April 8. In the course of two hours, I asked him “ano bang fearless forecast mo sir, winner sa 2022?”.
Before the SMC president could manage a reply, another colleague butted in, “Manny Pacquiao!” To which another colleague deadpanned, “I would like Manny Pacquiao—if (Albay Congressman) Joey Salceda is the vice president.”
To which Ramon replied in Pilipino:
“Alam mo totoo yan. I swear. Kung ako ang magrerekomenda sa next government, finance secretary dapat si Joey Salceda. Yung sa NEDA si Garin, yung bata. Narinig ko, ang galing nun kasi siya ang naka-zoom namin sa CREATE. Matulis, magaling tsaka marunong.” (“That is true. If I were to recommend to the next government, the finance secretary is Joey Salceda. For NEDA, Garin, the young one. We met her in a zoom meeting. She is sharp and brilliant.’).
RSA was probably referring to party-list Congresswoman Sharon Garin. Residing in Iloilo, the beauteous solon has had studies in accountancy (UP Visayas), law (Ateneo), and masters (ESADE, an elite business school). She has authored or co-authored a number of economic bills like minimum capital for retail trade, amended Public Service Act, amended Foreign Investment Act, Coco trust fund, tax regime for mining, and repeal of the Internal Revenue Law.
During the April 8 virtual kaffe klatsch with RSA, nobody brought up the possibility of a Sara Duterte or Bong Go for president. Both are frontrunners in early surveys of presidential choices.
Had Sara or Bong’s names been mentioned, RSA, ever ready to say nice things about people, even those he hates, would have wholeheartedly embraced the thought of either succeeding Tatay Digong Duterte, a close friend.
In this connection, in a succeeding chat, RSA compared notes on who will make a good president. His list of qualities for a presidential wannabee is long. They include:
“Proven track record of performance in government, not tarnished by corruption, consistency, sincerity, and honesty in serving the people; tenaciousness and intelligence; someone who is a hard-worker and a doer, and most of all, someone who has the capacity to lead the country’s full recovery from the pandemic and on to the next level of growth.”
Having run the Philippines’ largest company for 30 years if not longer, RSA has had practice recruiting the best, brightest and most honest CEOs and managers. So his benchmarks can be formidable to hurdle.
Still, Ramon Ang acknowledges that obviously, even if a candidate has the best of qualifications, they do not guarantee electoral victory. Many other factors come into play. Political machinery, political alliances, money.
But what could potentially be a game-changer for any candidate at this point?
“I’m no expert in elections or politics, but the bottomline is, I believe President Duterte will still be the major factor in 2022. He continues to enjoy our people’s trust by a high margin. Whoever the President picks would most likely be the candidate to beat.”
Is RSA speaking as an astute politician or a savvy businessman? Ask him.