Credibilty versus competence

Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms. This was published in the April 21, 2010 edition of the Business Mirror, page A6.

Between a fellow who is stupid and honest and one who is smart and crooked, I will take the first. I won’t get much out of him, but with that other guy I can’t keep what I’ve got. – Lewis B. Hershey

Someone who calls himself “thecusponline” captured the essence of the “battle of the frames” between Aquino and Villar. His concise analysis posted in Manuel Quezon III’s blog ( is worth quoting in full:

“I think early on, the name of the game was defining a narrative for the campaign. Aquino and Villar were both playing to their strengths. Aquino had the legacy of honest government on his side and thus employed a good vervus evil narrative. While Villar had a record of leading both houses of congress and his life story to sell.

“The middle part of the campaign was all about bridging two gaps. There was the competency gap for Aquino, and the credibility gap for Villar. Taken on his own merits, Aquino seemed like a weak candidate, but given the strategy he took in selectively choosing the more reform-minded defectors rather than the transactional ones (who went to Villar), he has been able to build a balanced yet formidable team, while Villar simply tried to evade questions regarding his claims.

“As a result, approaching the tail end of the campaign, Aquino is ahead, having bridged the competency gap, while Villar’s climb became unsustainable given his inability to bridge the credibility gap. It is beginning to dawn on the electorate now just who is more deserving at this point to take on the reins of power in Malacañang.”

Aquino’s camp recognized early on that the “great awakening and great remembering”, as Quezon put it in his last column, would lose some intensity as the campaign wore on. Subsequent surveys confirmed that. The issue of corruption lost ground to traditional issues identified with caring for the poor: what a candidate has done and can do for them.

The finding was worrisome for Aquino. He owned the corruption issue but he was not scoring as well on the “poor” issue. Still, he was leading in the DE classes against the known padrinos of the poor. How does one explain the anomaly?

A sizable chunk of the DE class can see the connection between corruption and poverty. They can see through the transactional, class war, and Wowowee politics of Villar. In addition, a strong stand against corruption resonates well across all demographics whereas Villar’s politics is, in equal measure, attractive to some and repulsive to others, across all demographics as well. And then Villar and Estrada are competing for the padrino-oriented DE while Aquino has the monopoly over the DE who fault crooks for their poverty.

Competence did not become the defining issue as some candidates hoped. Many voters had grown skeptical of competent politicos; they wanted someone they could trust. Unfortunately, Villar never learned, or maybe forgot, that credibility is indispensable for a politician.

He oversold his life story, portrayed himself as dirt poor when a narrative about a lower middle class family from Tondo with a mother and a father who labored to provide for their 11 children would have sufficed. He would not have been vulnerable to the “fake poor” tag.

He flashed too much gold, his overdone generosity earned as many brownie points with the poor as it raised questions about the provenance of his wealth and the consequences if he were to become president; a candidate who spends his fortune for political office is questionable in and of itself.

He misread the gravity of the allegations against him and so failed to allay the public’s doubts about his character, integrity, and secret alliances. That’s why the Villarroyo tag I coined stuck to him like white on rice.

At this point I’m tempted to say, “Stick a fork in him, he’s done” but I won’t because we live in an enchanted kingdom where sorcerers roam.

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