Inevitably billed as a “David vs. Goliath” fight by the media, the announcement of sociology professor Randy David that he would run against Gloria Arroyo should she decide to grab the congressional seat for the 2nd district of Pampanga did not come as a complete surprise to those who know him. This David is no pushover. Soft-spoken, intellectual and unassuming, but definitely not low profile, Prof. David had been a television personality for seventeen years, as a host of a number of well-received public affairs talk shows. He is also a long-time columnist of the Inquirer. Thus, he is comfortable being in the public eye. Neither is he a stranger to controversy, having been active in progressive political circles for decades. He was arrested in 2006 during the series of demonstrations against President Arroyo at the time of the 20th anniversary of the people power revolt when GMA declared a state of national emergency in the face of rising protests against her corrupt government.
I have known him for more than three decades, since my freshman year in college when we were fortunate enough to have him as our Sociology 11 prof. He has a knack for bringing home lessons about Philippine society using methods beyond the classroom. I remember his taking us to the National Mental Hospital, as a way of exposing his young and mostly sheltered wards to another aspect of Philippine reality which we could confront and change in a positive way, if we chose to. He was an intense teacher, but he never forced his views on us. It was the height of martial law, but his passion for ideas and political exchange was palpable and contagious. We’ve had a few opportunities to interact since then. And while I am not one of his many intimates, we are close enough to be on a first-name basis when we occasionally bump into each other. I was therefore elated when I heard on the radio that he would enter the realm of traditional politics for the first , and possibly last, time if GMA runs for Congress as a way of holding on to power. By a twist of fate, both she and Randy come from the same congressional district.
Randy David will have more than an even chance of trumping Arroyo on what she believes is her home turf. Consider the following:
1. Randy David is the Anti-Arroyo– Randy David is the perfect foil for the discredited GMA. An academic all his life, even while he had a busy second career as a talk-show host, he is perceived, rightfully, as an honest and right-minded man who only wants to do his duty as a citizen, which is to do everything he can to arrest the destruction of our democratic institutions. He has none of the political baggage of the traditional politician, although ironically Randy’s late father was a close friend and political party-mate of GMA’s father. Should he run, David will personify the principled new politics which has found fertile ground in Pampanga. He is everything Arroyo is not: moral, upright and untainted by the brand of patronage politics practiced by Arroyo.
2. Randy David has (or will soon have) the network and resources to win — The David clan is widely respected and known throughout Pampanga. Family counts for a lot in local politics. More importantly, should GMA adopt the tactic of being the congressional candidate prior to the predicted shift to a parliamentary system (and from there to the prime ministership) the focus of next year’s national election would be the 2nd district of Pampanga. Civil society and all other forces opposed to Arroyo’s politics as usual would find it easier to pool their resources and bring them to bear on a much smaller political arena. Already, the Liberal Party of presidential candidate Mar Roxas has offered to make Randy their official candidate in the district. The LP was the party of the fathers of both GMA and David. The United Opposition (UNO) has also expressed support for him. The David campaign will be flooded with funds and volunteers while the congressional tussle itself be closely monitored by local and international election watchdogs. This will make it all the harder, although not impossible, for GMA to cheat.
3. The voters of Pampanga are unpredictable – as shown by their election of cleric-on-leave Gov. Ed Panlilio, who defied the money and muscle of the Arroyo-anointed candidate to sweep the 2007 Pampanga gubernatorial polls.
David is a reluctant candidate and is the first to admit that this undertaking is quixotic. But he has all the qualities of a man who, in the words of sociologist Max Weber, can “put his hand on the wheel of history”. As enumerated by Weber, Randy David reveals the three pre-eminent qualities that are decisive for the politician: passion, responsibility and sense of proportion. The ideal politician approaches politics not as a playground for his ego, but as a field in which he seeks to achieve a cause much larger than himself. He takes responsibility for actions. And he always maintains a objective perspective, of his ultimately minor role in the larger scheme of things.
Prof. David wrote about this many years ago and said:
This notion of the political vocation restores to politics the dignity it has lost in many societies. At the same time, it is a reminder of the arduous tasks that await those who are “called” to it. Because of my exposure in media, people often ask me if I have any plans of entering (traditional) politics. My answer has always been, following Weber’s criteria, that I feel I do not have the passion for it.
But times have changed, and Randy apparently now realizes that passion, that overwrought and overrated word, is not absolutely necessary for the effective exercise of leadership. And for heroism. One merely needs to have a clear sense of duty and honor.