By ALFRED GABOT
Even before the last election campaign started, I already told friends, colleagues, family and clan members and anyone I encountered that three candidates for senator are on top of my list. They are bar topnotcher Gilberto C. Teodoro Jr., reelectionist Richard J. Gordon and newcomer actor Robin Padilla.
I readily endorsed Teodoro because of his sterling qualifications and impeccable record in government as Tarlac congressman, Kabataang Barangay president, Sangguniang Panlalawigan member and, at 43, Secretary of Defense under President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. He got his degree in commerce from De La Salle University and then took law from the University of the Philippines where he was number one in his class. He then topped the bar exam in 1989 and moved on for a Master of Laws degree from Harvard University and, like my idol and wedding godfather Primitivo de Leon, passed the bar in New York. He also completed his Doctor of Laws at the West Negros University in Bacolod City.
I met Secretary Teodoro up close only once – in Washington D.C. when President GMA visited the White House. Broadcaster Rey Langit and journalist-turned police general Cris Maralit were with me in that meeting where I greeted him in Ilocano, the dialect he speaks with ease being from Paniqui, Tarlac, although born in Isabela, eliciting a short repartee in Ilocano. I remember him making a comment when I posted on Facebook our photo together in DC. In 2010, I supported him in the presidential race over his cousin Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino.
In contrast with Secretary Teodoro, Senator Gordon is another Ilocano who became a friend as early as when he was a newly minted lawyer, visiting then Mayor Ramon Bagatsing at City Hall after attending court hearings there. Gordon’s City Hall visits would not be complete without passing by the Manila City Hall Press Club office at the groundfloor besides the Taft Avenue gate. There, the already loquacious but still slim Gordon (born in President Ramon Magsaysay’s hometown of Castillejos) would discuss developments of the day, serve us coffee sometimes or join us in the poker table as reporters – Miguel Genovea, Val Abelgas, Atty. Ely Amoroso, Tony Lozano, among others — wait for news breaks filtered through spokesman Jose Lito Atienza Jr. Even while taking up law at UP, Gordon was elected the youngest member of the 1971 Constitutional Convention. When he became mayor of Olongapo City and later as Chairman/Administrator of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, he made sure to invite his media friends to the city where I relish a photo with him in their ancestral house.
Almost all those I approached for support to Teodoro and Gordon were receptive or said yes readily. (Teodoro and Gordon lost in that election but after a year, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. appointed Teodoro as Defense Secretary, a post he held during the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.)
But when it came to the actor Robin Padilla, many raised their eyebrows. Why campaign for Robin, the “Bad Boy” of Philippine movies who was imprisoned at the National Penitentiary in Muntinlupa for illegal possession of firearms but earned amnesty from President Fidel V. Ramos for good behaviour?
Not many know it, not even Robin himself knows it, but my friend Ramon Gutierrez and I helped his former actor-director father, Casimero B. Padilla Sr., more popularly known as Roy Padilla, when he was a labor union leader (president of the National Mines and Allied Workers Union, Commissioner of the Social Security System, and a delegate to the International Labor Organization of the United Nations in Geneva) and until he became Assemblyman in 1984 to 1986 and Governor of Camarines Norte thereafter until he was assassinated in 1988. I supported Robin also because his mother, former actress Lolita Eva Carino, was Ilocano-Igorota from the fabled Baguio City where Robin studied and stayed for few years. Another reason for campaigning for him was the fact that his father’s brother, actor Amado Cortez, Arsenio Padilla in real life, came all-out when, as president of the National Press Club, I launched the NPC Chapter in San Francisco while he was Philippine Consul General.
Despite his scanty experience in government, Robin caught the fancy of millions of Filipinos because he was articulate and a serious campaigner, banking on his advocacy for federalism, and platform that included renewed fight against crimes, illegal drugs, opposition to tax incentives for foreign investors, increase wages of Filipino workers, while courting also fellow Muslims. He went on to top the senatorial election with unprecedented 27 million votes.
After assuming as Philippine Senator, his peers elected him as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Codes although he is not a lawyer and the Senate Committee on Cultural Communities and Muslim Affairs. Appearing in the Senate in early sessions in colourful Muslim garbs, Senator Robin appeared very serious in his lawmaking job filing scores of major bills in only his first months in office. He also joined actively in deliberations on various issues in hearings as well as the plenary sessions.
The neophyte senator, indeed, is making waves and has not disappointed so far his legions of voters as he wants to be known officially as Sen. Robinhood Padilla, Robin being just his nickname. Congratulations and goodluck, the Robinhood of the Philippines. (firstname.lastname@example.org)