This is a story about Risa Hontiveros-Bariquel but it is really a story about us, who we are, and who we want to be as a nation.
Risa (nee Ana Theresia) was born on Feb. 24 1966 from a middle class family of strong women. Her sister is Pia Hontiveros, the broadcaster. She was married to Frank Baraquel, Jr., a police coronel, who died from an asthma attack in 2005. She has four children, ages 6-18.
Risa was educated in St. Scholastica where she found a voice in singing (she played one of the Von Trapp children in a Repertory production of Sound of Music) as well as in political activism. She was a scholar in Ateneo where she graduated cum laude.
At 22 Risa became the Secretary General of the Coalition for Peace and served as a member of the Government Panel for Peace Talks with the National Democratic Movement. In 2001, she was awarded the TOYM for Peace Advocacy.
Risa is described as a journalist, politician and activist. She was the KBP Golden Globe awardee for Best Female Broadcaster. She was a member of Congress from 2004-2010 representing the party list Akbayan. With Jaime Regalado and Danilo Lim, Risa filed a complaint against ex-President Gloria Arroyo for alleged misuse of P366 MM of PCSO intelligence funds. This became the basis for the Ombudsman’s plunder charge against GMA in July 2012.
Risa ran for the Senate in May 2010 where she placed 13th, garnering 9.1 million votes, one million short of TG Guingona. She is running for the same position in 2013. Her platform is women, children and the environment and their impact on nationhood.
By all standards Risa should be a Philippine Senator. She is educated, honest, brave, patriotic, caring (and attractive). She is endorsed by the President and is running with the ruling Liberal Party. Yet, if the polls are any measure, she will be hard-pressed to succeed (she is running outside the top 20). The leading contenders are all either incumbents and/or members of a family dynasty.
The slide in Risa’s number from 13th in 2010 to her current position tells more about us than it does about her. She has delivered her side, certainly more than the candidates ahead of her. In 2010 we were purposeful in helping promising candidates like Risa be recognized (She almost made it). Today the NGO energy is no longer there. Be it a mid-term election or we now assume the President will take care of business, we have become politically sedentary, a nation fattened up. Yet the lessons of the Corona impeachment, the RH and Sin Tax bills are (a) civic responsibility is a 24/7 affair and (b) second-level leaders matter. As it is we have allowed the traditional politicians, offspring in tow, back in the game. Absent a metamorphosis of Biblical proportions, 2013 will see the usual suspects return to power, a precursor of the 2016 elections where all the marbles will be in play.
What will reverse the slide to the old political ways?
A number of things need to happen. One, we as a people must recognize the seriousness of our illness. We know the cancer exists but there is no protocol or urgency to deal with it. If anything we have become more accommodating of our condition.
Two there is no organization to promote the new generation of leaders who can bring about the change we seek. This is, arguably, the responsibility of the Liberal Party but its officers are too busy running the country. Like the Republican and Democrat National Committees, the LP needs a full time team of professional operatives whose only mission is to get its candidates elected on the national and local level. If the polls are any indication, despite its reach, resources and goodwill, the LP is not getting the job done. All its promising faces – Risa, Bam Aquino – are struggling outside the magic 12.
This leaves somebody like Risa to fend for herself for exposure, logistics and funds. Pitted against the firepower and organization of the opposition, she is no match. Her only hope is to personalize her story in a manner that will resonate with the 60% of voters who reportedly are still undecided.
Risa’s personal narrative is compelling, a single mother raising 4 kids who could do better privately yet chooses to serve the community. Her challenge –as is ours- is to get her voice and others like hers heard in the cacophony of politics. This will not be easy but we must try for our future depends on it.
(P.S. This space will go to hibernation for the holidays to allow for peace and goodwill. Thank you for reading.)