Reconsidering Dick Gordon
Back in the day, our elders would tell us that if you hate someone and want to get even, teach him how to bet on horse racing. Half a century later, people say if you hate someone, convince him to get into politics because they will end up spending all their time and money, their family will hate them for being an absentee and they will surely create enemies while in office. But as the saying goes, “It’s a job and someone’s got to do it.” After getting a glimpse of the on-going Senate Blue Ribbon investigation on the health care anomalies and anomalous participation of the company Pharmally, I could not help but give Senator Richard Gordon an impartial second-look of sorts as a politician, a local government executive, a crisis manager and an NGO leader with global influence.
Richard “Dick” Gordon, whether you love him or hate him, has done more than many of those currently volunteering themselves as Chief Executive of the Philippines. Yes, he could use a “deliverance session” to cast out some of the perceived arrogance and pride that manifests in him, but if we were to evaluate him especially in comparison to the performance or record of some so-called presidentiables, people might actually reconsider Gordon as a more qualified, certainly professionally experienced, executive, public servant and politician.
He is a lawyer who graduated from the University of the Philippines, had brief stints in a multinational corporation and a business enterprise, the youngest delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1971 during which he got his introduction to the internal machinations of politicians and attempted manipulations by the administration in power. By 1975 he became an associate of the once powerful and influential ACCRA Law Office until 1979, after which he decided to follow in the political footsteps of his parents, James Gordon, the founding father and first mayor of the Municipality of Olongapo, and Amelia Gordon, the first mayor of Olongapo City who was also honored as the Pearl Buck Woman of the Year in 2003. Dick Gordon became mayor of Olongapo City from 1980 to 1986, went on a brief pause during the EDSA revolution and returned to the mayor’s Office from 1988 to 1993.
What many people don’t know was that behind all his professional activities, Gordon was part of a movement that started in 1971 and culminated in 1991 for the conversion of the Subic Naval base into a free-port under Philippine management which eventually happened when the United States moved out and abandoned the naval base, much like they did in Afghanistan. Only Dick Gordon seemed crazy enough to believe in the spirit of Filipino volunteerism when he took on the role of chairman of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority. Olongapo may have been a city but Subic at that time was bigger than a ghost town. He had to contend with looters in authority or with “authority,” billions worth of empty buildings and infrastructure and, worst of all, thousands of critics and naysayers who prophesied the fall and decay of SBMA. But SBMA stands firm today because of the thousands of volunteers who believed in the vision of Gordon: that the Filipino can do it.
As I mentioned earlier, all politicians will ultimately piss off someone and back then, Gordon, as he often did with his uncompromising and blunt manner, managed to piss off President Erap Estrada allegedly for calling out Erap for littering with his cigarette butt. That led to Gordon being banished to the political dog house where I can only hope he learned that sometimes we need to pick our battles because there is a bigger war to win.
From the dog house, Gordon was resurrected as the new Cabinet secretary for tourism from 2001 to 2004 under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. In this post Gordon successfully boosted local tourism and international tourist arrivals via catchy slogans and weekend tourism economics, all of which was the catalyst that convinced succeeding presidents to be invested in tourism, ultimately creating a viable economy and revenue generator until the curse of COVID-19 ruined it all.
From tourism secretary, Dick Gordon gunned for a Senate seat and focused on key concerns such as oversight through the Blue Ribbon committee, which has effectively played the role of anti-corruption and check and balance to government. Through the years Gordon kept tabs on Philippine tourism, constitutional amendments, government and public enterprise, areas where he had direct involvement in.
In recent years he has been the unwavering leader/mentor of the Philippine National Red Cross, which has played a vital role in recent times by way of providing affordable and available COVID-19 testing all over the Philippines. One can only surmise that because of his executive and political know-how, the Red Cross is probably in better financial state as well as gaining increased public visibility. And this speaks tons of Gordon’s credibility and integrity.
While other aspiring politicians have publicly displayed their aspirations for the presidency, vice presidency and the Senate, Gordon has for the most part focused on jobs and responsibilities he has been elected and appointed to in the Senate and the Red Cross. In “reconsidering Gordon” as chief executive maybe, I realize that the alleged arrogance or pride of Dick Gordon may not be the negative kind worth criticizing. As they say, he earned his stripes, did his work and if he is proud or self assured it may very well be a sense of confidence, pride even for doing what others would not do, for doing better than others did and for getting the job done. Clearly Dick Gordon is proof of concept of what a chief executive is.
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