Nicanor Perlas Runs for President of the Philippines


Why did you decide to run for President in the 2010 elections?

I decided to run for the President of the Philippines because it seems that we are faced with the same empty kind of election with no real choice.  People in the past have been saying they are no longer satisfied; they are sick and tired of choosing the lesser evil. That's not a real choice. I basically wanted to offer myself in that context because I believe that what I�m bringing represents what a majority of Filipinos feel about the country and its future and that has to be articulated. People are sick and tired of a government that is corrupt, wasteful and uncaring. They long for a government that respects and draws out the best in Filipinos. I have the integrity, competence and track record to create, together with others, a better country. That�s the reason why I stepped forward to announce my intention to run as President in the 2010 national elections.

You�re not known on a national level.  How do you expect to win?

I have national, even global stature, in civil society and in the environmental movement, sustainable agriculture, and in poverty reduction, micro finance and in other areas, but I�m not known as a politically active candidate. The mainstream media is only one way to get known nationally. In addition, we are meeting national network leaders as well as moving at the grass roots level. At the same time we are increasing our presence on the Internet. Once people learn about my intentions, I think they are going to get excited about having a real choice and this excitement will multiply. We already have a strong and positive response to the candidacy. We can see this in the support of the leadership of national associations and networks, who are giving us access to millions of their members.

What do you plan to do about peace and order?

Poverty eradication and quality of life necessitate peace and order, law and justice, opportunity and responsibility. The Christian-Muslim conflict in Mindanao, for example, is driving to poverty majority of people in affected provinces. To address peace and order, you have to address the existing long term conflict not only between Christians and Muslims but also between the communist rebellion and the state, as well as other kinds of conflict that thrive in conditions of injustice, underdevelopment and lack of opportunity.

One of my priority programs would be to address the roots of injustice in the Christian-Muslim conflict in Mindanao. Through my prior work with the joint GOP-United Nations Development Program in Mindanao, I learned that at base the conflict between Christians and Muslims is not really a religious conflict. Rather it is a conflict connected to justice and economic considerations, ancestral domain and governance issues. The answer is not more troops. The answer will be found through more dialog and through meaningful partnerships and genuine development.

 As for the communist rebellion, its ideological foundations have been seriously undermined by the philosophical and scientific developments of the 20th century. However it continues to be a real force in the Philippines because structural conditions, including massive poverty and injustice, breed support for communism. If these are meaningfully addressed, then communism will disappear. As long as poverty and injustice remain, people who are feeling the brunt of this oppression will continue to fight through an armed revolution. If you address, in an authentic way, the structural conditions that created the emergence of communism, there can be real dialogue with the communist movement in the Philippines towards peace.

 Peace and Order requires a strong partnership with and trust in the Military as a professional organization. One of the key tasks will be to depoliticize the military. The Arroyo government has co-opted a significant number of its generals and some junior officers to undertake actions unbecoming of an officer. This has led to widespread demoralization inside the military. Honest, clean and efficient Governance in support of genuine development will restore a clear sense of mission and purpose, integrity and fairness � core values that many idealistic men and women in the military hold.

 One of the tasks in the first hundred days is to examine the cases of military officers jailed by Arroyo and release those who are not guilty of the charges pressed on them. And on the other hand, criminal charges will be filed against those found guilty of involvement in extra-judicial killings. This will be an important signal to the military that only the highest ideals will remain as the motivating force for the military in the Philippines: honor, service, protection of country, and defense of human rights.

 Who will fund your campaign?

Funding will come from supporters�individuals throughout the country and around the world who believe in our message of renewal. Part of the strategy of the campaign is to awaken hope in people who�ve lost faith after all these years. Hope generates excitement and excitement multiplies. The message is that this country will be renewed when people begin to sense that they need to help out in shaping the future of this country. We want to build this campaign up organically with people who are waking up to the future higher possibilities of this country. It's been done before�small amounts multiplied by the hundreds of thousands. A million supporters contributing an average of P1000 each will mean P1 billion for the presidential campaign in 2010, a billion pesos geared towards inaugurating a new politics, a new country.

 All contributions will be on the basis of a social contract, the heart of which is a platform that contains both the strategic vision and agenda that we will pursue. We will accept contributions on this basis alone. All donations will have no strings attached, no paybacks, no special political favors, no corrupted utang na loob. What contributors will gain will be a clear idea of what kind of policies and programs the new government will undertake as well as the knowledge that they are helping renew a country. We will demonstrate the kind of discipline, principles and integrity that characterize the new governance, the new servant leadership that millions are seeking.

 What are your views on politics?

Having viewed politics from the outside, basically from my work in civil society trying to change government policy, I�ve always viewed that societal power is divided into three. There is the economic power that is in the hands of business. There�s political power in the hands of government and there�s cultural power in the hands of civil society. Of the three, cultural power is the most powerful because in the end it�s what affects behavior.

 Nevertheless politics is important since it is the institution with the mandate to facilitate processes in society to ensure justice and overall development of the country. Unfortunately, that mandate has been abused and used, instead, to exploit people. Therefore, citizens have to take back that mandate. We are supposedly living in a democracy and democracy is the rule of citizens. We have to take back the power we have given our political leaders and then redesign the political system so that it is open to the influence not only of people in government, but also those in civil society, and business. In this way, we encourage an approach that involves and evolves society as a whole. This is part of my platform of building far-sighted partnerships and also of instituting moral and effective governance.

Political reforms are essential, but political reforms alone will not create a new Philippines. We also need cultural and economic reforms, taken together with societal reforms. On top of this we also need to have individual reforms, individual/spiritual reforms. And finally we must create a better ecological context�a true caring for the sources of life and the integrity of God�s creation, in order for our society to be sustainable. So you see, politics is situated in the larger context of comprehensive and integral sustainable development.

What is your economic plan?

The first order of the day is to move away from the destructive neo-liberal economic dogma that permeates the heart of the economic thinking and programs of past and present administrations. Neo-liberal capitalist ideology praises greed, competition, and selfishness as the cornerstone of economic progress. A long time ago, I warned against the excesses and dangers of this one-sided economic approach. Now we are suffering from the worst economic crisis in decades because we believed that an �invisible hand� would ensure that individual selfish economic decisions would be harmonized to create a greater good. Obviously this has not happened.

In its place we will install a new economic approach that advances the six pillars outlined in my platform. We will align and harness economic, trade, taxation, fiscal, and development policies towards genuine integral sustainable development that eradicates poverty and improves quality of life.

At the local level, we will not rely on trickle-down theories to lift up the marginalized. Instead we will actively work to create an economy of solidarity and partnership that builds from the micro-finance revolution to create a green micro-entrepreneurship revolution. For example, we can already see partnerships between microfinance institutions, banks, local governments, and civil society organizations including colleges, universities, and NGOs that would harness and commercialize hundreds of mature technologies towards creating a new economy for the poor.

Simultaneously, we will encourage the movement of economic development from Metro Manila to the countryside�to Luzon, Visayas AND Mindanao. In addition, we will encourage an area-based approach that integrates economic activity with the specific needs and possibilities of the local area.

Furthermore, we will create strong, vibrant local economies through strategic infrastructure programs, investment and other programs that leverage the power and reach of the informal economy. Of special importance will be the mainstreaming of sustainable agriculture as a source of permanent and empowering livelihood for farmers.

In this connection, we appreciate the massive sacrifice and contribution that OFWs are making to our economy. However, we will broaden the foundations of our economy and balance our over-reliance on OFW remittances to prop out our economy. The individual, family, and social costs of the OFW-based economy are too high and are unsustainable in the long-term. And most OFWs themselves prefer to make their living in the Philippines once local jobs are available.

At the national level, we will install policies that will strengthen the dynamism of the new innovative local economies. We will advance coherence in land-use and energy planning to secure, among others, the benefits of renewable and indigenous energy sources. We will implement a tax policy that is pro-poor and enhances collection efficiencies.

Delivery of services and clean and honest governance will necessitate a counterpart from the private sector and citizens in terms of tax compliance. But we will ensure businesses and citizens that, as we raise the efficiency of the revenue-generating agencies of government, we will stop the leakage of tax money thru corruption.

We want to emphasize the connection between moral and effective governance and economic progress. When we ALL get rid of corruption, both domestic and foreign investors will pour their money into our economy because they will no longer have to pay the 30-40% commission fees to �facilitate� their transactions with government agenies. These investments, especially when they are geared towards integral sustainable development, will accelerate the equitable and sound development of our economy and our society.

To measure our progress, we will move beyond GNP/GDP as the compass that guides our decision-making. We will use a basket of indicators that also measure quality of life, the vitality of our life support systems and the effectiveness of our governance process. Of special importance will be measurements of the true costs of economic projects�costs to society, costs to the very sources of life that we rely on, thereby stopping the distortion of the market prices.

We will mobilize the entrepreneurial spirit of Filipinos to create new industries based on the real economy and the creation of new wealth. We will attract new investment finance that seeks returns based on social responsibility and green criteria. It will be an economy that will be dynamic, socially just, inclusive and definitely sustainable.

What role will the Arts and Culture play in a Perlas administration?

There's a saying: "The heart of the revolution is a revolution of the heart." We need to change hearts and minds. Culture has the power to transform. Many of the problems in the country are basically problems of mindsets rooted in the past, rooted in habits, rooted in drives. It's useless to change leaders without changing the system. And we cannot change the system if we do not change hearts and minds. This is the reason why a lot of Filipinos are saying; it�s useless to change one leader to another if you have the same rotten system and the same rotten morality. Nothing new will emerge.

Thus, we need a cultural revolution, a peaceful cultural revolution that will become the basis of a new economy and new politics.  Culture and arts, especially arts which trigger creativity, are going to become essential in the renewal of Philippine society. This is an exciting dimension of Philippine excellence that has yet to be fully mobilized for national development.

What is your plan for OFWs? [Overseas Filipino Workers]

The OFW phenomenon has both positive and negative aspects. OFWs obviously play an important role in Philippine economy. OFW remittances are propping up the economy. Houses are being built and families supported financially. Workers are gaining skills and experience. But this is a mixed blessing because there�s a massive social impact caused by the breakdown of families and the social order: the increasing incidence of drug abuse and violence among adolescents, of pregnancy among teenagers. There�s also the exploitation of workers desperate for employment and the loss of skilled workers in many occupations. A comprehensive policy framework for OFWs needs to address this multidimensional issue.

First and foremost is protecting the welfare of OFWs. They need efficient government services that facilitate both exit and entry; that offer counselling and pre-departure orientations; that ensure protection against illegal and unscrupulous recruitment. We need to fully operationalize a system that protects and ensures their rights while overseas. We also need to help OFWs channel their remittances into investments, savings, entrepreneurship and assets rather than wasteful consumption. Finally, we need to provide counseling and other forms of assistance to help OFW families cope with the challenges that separation brings.

But the long-term solution to this challenge is to create a vibrant economy and an inspiring culture that creates opportunities and real choices here in the country. Many are leaving because they are sick and tired of the way politicians are ruining this country. This is what we are going to change so people will regain their hope and their enthusiasm and their drive to rebuild the country for their children's sake.

How different are you from the other presidential candidates?

Implicit in my coming forward is that I don�t see, among the existing slate of presidentiables, any candidate that will genuinely change this country.  What will make my candidacy different is a number of factors. I come from outside the system, therefore I don�t owe anybody anything and that�s important because there�s a whole ecosystem of relationships and payoffs and utang na loob and all those kinds of tradeoffs.  If I win it�s because I have a mandate from people who want to change politics. I have no vested interest in politics because that�s not where I came from. Now, it doesn�t mean I have no experience in political dynamics.  For the last 40 years, I have worked to alter official government policies from the outside and through being a consultant to many government agencies.  I know how it is to work in the corridors of power. It is this kind of combination of somebody from the outside who is not going to be a victim of the reciprocal relationships that already exist in the political system, with a fresh view, who has a track record to change the whole system and structure and, on top of that, has an understanding of the individual dynamics of hope and change that will be needed to change the system.

There is another difference between me and other presidential candidates. I will challenge the system to its very core.  No existing politician can do that because I have not seen that kind of systemic understanding of the challenges facing the country.  My experience as a scientist and farmer taught me a valuable lesson: everything is interconnected. Working with my hands, I learned to see these connections. From the sources of life: water, air, and soil to plant health, pest management and farm finance, to nutrition, infrastructure, community development and trade. I apply this lesson to all fields of development. As far as I can tell, no other candidate has this systemic perspective that is so essential in creating a better country.

Another difference is that other candidates lack an appreciation of culture.  For me, culture is going to be an important factor in the new governance.  We will create that new culture on the basis of partnerships � participatory governance. I wrote a book called �Shaping Globalization : Civil Society, Cultural Power and Threefolding�.  In the book, I detail an approach to governance that has found resonance all over the world, including at the United Nations that has adapted a similar approach in implementing its Millennium Development Goals. It is an approach that engages people in the process of change and transformation of the country through which the government will really become transparent and accountable.  This is another unique contribution. So there are many factors that distinguish me from traditional politicians.

What are your views about God, about religion?

I consider myself a deeply spiritual person. I grew up a Christian, though not a traditional one. I am a Christian in the sense that I believe in the cosmic nature of Christ as Logos, the reason and being of world existence. I work at applying my spirituality in practical life�in living out the teachings of Christ day-to-day. My view of God may be nontraditional but it allows me to seriously dialogue with Muslims, Christians, Hindus, and Buddhists because there is a common sense of the sacred to draw upon.

But I was also trained as a scientist and I think like a scientist. What is exciting in our time is that modern science has reached a point of discovering the awesome power of a divine intelligence that is found throughout nature and all over the cosmos. The new science of Astrophysics, for example, shows very clearly that there are too many improbable and impossible aspects of the universe for the universe to have taken place by chance. Therefore, it is clear to me that only a divine intelligence had the power to create the intricate structure of the universe and the whole evolutionary process that we find ourselves in today. It is not an accident that we are here on planet Earth.  We are the product of 13.8 billion years of a conscious directed evolution, one that ensured the emergence of a self-aware intelligent form of life we call humans.

I am at home scientifically and spiritually in a belief in and knowledge that this is the work of God. It is also clear to me that through our thinking, especially our intuition, we have access to this divine intelligence. This is the basis of our creativity and our innovation. The great inventor Thomas Edison called this his �link to the infinite intelligence�. And this infinite intelligence-- what I would call God-- is the foundation of human existence.

You know, it's interesting-- I found out recently when I read the political /social writings of Rizal, that he placed a lot of attention on reason. Rizal�s saw �reason� as the manifestation of the divine, of the spirit in human history.  So it is through our creative reason that we enter into the intelligence that created the world, and this intelligence manifests itself in history through human deeds.  So this Logos, this reason, is what I see as the spirit that is active in human affairs.  And it can actually today be discerned scientifically.

So when I speak to Muslims, Christians and other religions, I would say the universe created one human species�in the end we are one humanity.  We were not created separate as Muslims or Christians; we have a deeper basis of unity based on our humanness. This is not abstract. Muslim leaders in Mindanao understand this. And so do Christians. So there is a deep foundation for living together peacefully because we are all products of a divine intelligence who created us as one.  Despite our differences, if we really want to, we can find a common level to converse and to create a mutual peace that is satisfactory to the different religions.

 What will you do if there will be no 2010 Elections?

Filipinos will demand an election in 2010. There is a collective sense of waiting for this administration�for traditional politics at the expense of country�to end. My own personal response to a no-election scenario is that I will make sure that any dictatorial government would not be able to govern.  So we will galvanize public opinion both here and abroad. We will organize massive economic boycotts and we will also organize national and global protests so that an illegitimate group will not be able to pretend that they are running a democracy when they have actually installed a dictatorship.

 Why should we vote for you?

I hope people will look at the message, at the platform and at the real choice that I am bringing. It is not so much about myself. I believe there are many creative Filipinos of integrity who have leadership skills and vision and who could do a better job of guiding this country compared with the endless stream of traditional politicians who lust for power. I am merely articulating what millions of Filipinos are feeling: the sense of utter hopelessness, the utter uselessness of having an election where you don�t have a real choice, and the utter despair at the thought that if traditional politicians control 2010, then this country will go down the drain.

This message together with my platform is striking a cord both nationally and globally. Since I announced my intention, what I�ve been thinking, what I�ve been feeling, is now coming back to me in even more articulate forms from thousands around the world.  We�re striking a cord.

This is not about my election. 2010 is your election. When together, we all wake up to our true future, no political force of guns, goons or gold will stop the Philippines from becoming what it can truly be. Finally: a nation dignified, a nation of achievement, a nation of creative people, a nation that is loving and compassionate, and a nation that will contribute positively to world civilization. Dahil natuto na tayo!

What is your view on winning the elections?

One of the interesting questions that always keeps coming back is the question of winnability.  You know it�s interesting, thousands of people are visiting the website. So far I�ve only received three negative comments. It�s interesting for me that they did not question my competence, my qualifications. What they questioned is whether I was daydreaming, whether I could win the elections because others have billions of pesos and I have none. Because others have machinery and I have none. Because others have national stature and I have none.  I actually wrote two articles on winnability because in the end, winnability is not something you are born with. It�s not something given to you. It is something that you develop and you earn.  And you can only develop and earn that if you really give hope to people so that they can act from their highest aspirations and intentions.

So, for example, why should we believe those who say �we can never elect somebody who is really qualified�. Are we subservient to that idea that qualified people can never win in politics?  Who makes that happen?  In the end, we will all make it happen.  So if enough of you believe�and by the way, according to surveys there�s about 70% of you who believe in something different---if we believe in something different and vote according to our conscience and our highest aspirations then a new candidate�I-- can win. Then we can create a new Philippines together.  In the end, we all win.

There were already symptoms of this kind of thinking in the 2007 elections. We have the very prominent case of a military person who was in jail, who had no money, who could not campaign personally. He won and he became a senator. Antonio Trillanes III is now a Philippine senator basically campaigning from behind bars.  It�s possible for somebody with no money and no reputation (of the same level as politicians) to actually win elections. Because people will�you�will make it happen. You will make it winnable.  All of the millions who want something different will make it winnable.

The 2007 elections also showed that the biggest spenders lost.  Prospero Pichay lost in spite of spending hundreds of millions.  Chavit Singson also lost�big spenders.  Entertainment stars lost because they had no track record or qualifications.  One of the most prominent victims, Cesar Montano�who unfortunately ran under the senatorial slate of the Arroyo government�lost.  So there is a sign that people are waking up and they�re saying, "natuto na tayo." 2010 is going to be a watershed and there is a real possibility that people who are really qualified, people who love this country, people who are dedicated can become the new political leaders of the Philippine future.

What is your view on the automation of the 2010 elections?

Whether the elections are automated, semi-automated or hand-counted, the possibilities of cheating are still there.  It is interesting that recently in the Federal Republic of Germany, their Supreme Court struck down automation as unconstitutional because there was no paper trail.

The best combination is really automation with a paper trail because the quick count of automation can reduce the cheating and the paper trail serves as a backup verification.  On the other hand, it has been demonstrated that relatively low level computer programmers�even high school students�can hack into an automated system and actually cheat.  It is much easier to cheat in an automated system. Now whether automation or manual counting will prevail in the 2010 elections, the key there will be the political organization at the grassroots level.  We are prepared for that eventuality.

That�s why we are organizing a minimum of one million volunteers for the campaign.  Three out of four of those volunteers will be in the 250,000 precincts around the country to watch the votes and to do quick counts and I think if media, both local and international, are also involved in that process, we will also lessen the possibility of cheating. At least the loopholes are all known and many groups are addressing these loopholes. I think it is still possible with determination to have honest elections in 2010.