COLUMN: HERMIE AQUINO IS BEST QUALIFIED FOR VP

MANILA, January 12, 2004 (STAR) DEMAND AND SUPPLY By Boo Chanco - My friends and former colleagues at ABS-CBN, Noli and Loren may have the celebrity status and the big bucks that go with big party backing for their vice presidential bids. But sa totoo lang, the relatively unknown Hermie Aquino who is running with Raul Roco is better qualified than either of them.

I have serious doubts Hermie will win. But if voters analyzed qualifications for the job, Hermie is the only one with actual experience in running a government bureaucracy or managing any significant number of people at all. Hermie should be it.

This is why I do not subscribe to the criticism leveled against Raul Roco that he committed a colossal mistake in taking Hermie as his running mate. People who talk like this are merely mouthing conventional unwisdom and not doing much thinking. I guess Raul could have done better if he managed to convince Bayani Fernando to take the job. But failing that, Hermie is not a bad second choice, given the field of contenders.

For one thing, Hermieís experience in government service is more extensive than either Noli or Loren. Aquino was a congressman of the third district of Tarlac from 1987 to 1998 and vice governor of Tarlac from 1998 to 2000. As congressman, he was chairman of the committee on energy and was the principal author of the law creating the Mt. Pinatubo Commission. He was Deputy Executive Secretary and Minister, Ministry of Human Settlements from 1986 to 1987 during the Corazon Aquino administration.

All these positions add up to more than 15 years of solid, wide-ranging public service, more than the public service years of the other vice-presidential candidates. Loren has only served a term as senator that gave her no real substantial bureaucracy management experience. Even her stint as majority floor leader had not been outstanding, if you listen to what senators like Senate President Frank Drilon are saying privately. Noli has only served half a term as senator, involving management of a staff of no more than a dozen.

Hermie is also not new to public service, having come from an illustrious clan, the Aquinos of Tarlac. He is the child of Gen. Servillano Aquino and Belen Sanchez of Tarlac. Gen. Aquino was a hero of the fight for Philippine independence against the Spanish and American colonizers. Hermie, who was born when his father was in his 70s, is the uncle of Ninoy Aquino Jr. and the grandfather of Noynoy and Kris Aquino.

Hermie Aquino is an A.B. economics graduate of Ateneo de Manila University (1969) where he graduated with second honors and has a masters degree in business management from the Asian Institute of Management (1971). Best of all, he could be an effective vice president if only because he is not afflicted with a serious ego disease that most media celebrities suffer from. In other words, he can work anonymously for his President without craving for the limelight and undercutting the Chief Executive.

The other good thing with Hermie is that this early, he has his job cut up for himÖ he knows what he is supposed to work on if he and Roco pull off a miracle and win in May. As vice-president, Aquino will be Raul Rocoís man on energy, a crucial issue for us, specially because we are about to experience another debilitating energy crisis in the next few years, within the term of the next president.

Hermieís problem is that he entered a popularity contest. How can he compete against media celebrities and seriously expect to win? Then again, if there are voters like me, who refuse to be drawn in a political beauty contest, it doesnít matter if Hermie Aquino is a relative unknown who by conventional wisdom has no chance of winning. At least I can say when the inevitable happens, donít blame meÖ I didnít vote any celebrity or trapo into office.

What Ifs

Peter Wallace once said that with this countryĎs luck, we would end up with FPJ as President and Noli de Castro as Vice President. He made this prediction some months before the tickets were formed. Surveys now indicate that Peter may give Madame Auring a run for her money as a manghuhula.

Then again, some coffee shop character countered, thatís not so bad. "Can you imagine if the reverse happened and we ended up with Ate Glo as President and Loren as Vice President?"

Not being a male chauvinist pig, I asked, "Whatís wrong with that?"

"Naku may Mike Arroyo na, may Tony Leviste pa! Yan ang one-two punch!"

What Now?

I got this e-mail from a reader, Lolita Delgado Fansler. Here are excerpts from her e-mail.

I always read your column in The Philippine STAR, and have often wanted to write you. Count me among the many Filipinos who are in a quandary about whom to elect for president this coming May. We are all concerned, anxious, and worried.

But we should not be resigned for the worst, nor give up in despair, at least not until after the election results are out. Between now and May, each one of us should try to do whatever we can to keep our future from being so bleak.

I think your writing about Fernando Zobel refusing special treatment in the airport is a step in the right direction. Erap tried to widen the gap between the rich and poor for his own good. Your article shows that there are rich people who donít flaunt their wealth and position, and donít trumpet it either.

If thereís any widening gap to be exploited, it should be between integrity and corruption, or between acts of patriotism and greed. Between now and May, letís all see what we can do. Thank you for your columns.

Medical Tourism

While I was visiting Kuala Lumpur over the holidays, I noticed an article in the local paper, The New Straits Times, about a concerted effort on the part of Malaysia to attract what they call "medical tourists". Essentially, they have a program directed primarily at Middle Eastern countries where they offer world class medical service in Malaysia.

Once a patient arrives, a full program goes into effect that includes taking care of the family members who came along. They call this "medical tourism."

Given that Filipino doctors are known worldwide for their skills and professionalism, this is something we can do too. I got a letter from Dr. Rodrigo Floro of the Asian Hospital in Alabang informing me about a similar program they now have. I guess it is still in its initial stage, which explains why less than a hundred patients so far have been admitted from Guam, Saipan and Hawaii.

I guess once the new Medical City in Pasig and the proposed St. Lukeís Hospital in Fort Bonifacio become operational, this is something we can do on a more systematic basis. Our people and their skills are our biggest competitive edge and that is specially true about our doctors. Given the weak peso, our costs will also be competitive. We canít let our neighbors beat us at something we are really good atÖ and have been very good at way before them.

Go Figure

Dr. Ernie E sent us this one about an American situation that applies to us back here at home tooÖ except that I havenít met a politician this honest about the nature of his job.

Senator to newspaper reporter: "I spent $3 million to get elected to a $125,000-a-year job, and you expect me to help balance the budget?"

Boo Chancoís e-mail address is bchanco@bayantel.com.ph


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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