Monday, March 23, 2009


I just came back from seeing George W. Bush's "poodle", Tony Blair speak at the tent of the Sofitel Philippine Plaza, and surprisingly, I was rather charmed by the guy. Apparently, Tonyboy is in Manila for a series of talks and today the topic was: "The Leader as Principled Negotiator" . He spoke to about 500 or so business and diplomat types at the hotel's seaside tent. And after almost two hours of much anti-Gloria huffing and puffing by some Chief Justice something or another (Sorry, I ran out to have Hainanese Chicken Rice at Spiral and forgot to remember his name), Mr. B finally took the stage at about a quarter to four and spoke confidently, eloquently, and with a lot of self-deprecating humor. Naturally, there were more than a few measured catch phrases and jokes thrown at us, like:

On leadership: "In times of crisis, leaders stand up, they do not stand back"; On change: "If you try to change something for what you think is better, people hate you for it. And when you finally do, they think it's always been that way."On governance: "Campaign in poetry, govern in prose"; "Lead because you want to get it done"; "It is forgivable to fail, it is unforgivable not to try"; "Popularity is not the reason why one should lead." On problems: "If you can't fix it, manage it."; On the shift of world power to the east: "Change as the world changes". On sex and the premiership: "I was one of the first prime ministers in a long time to have a child born while in office, so it makes me wonder what the other Prime Ministers were doing all that time then." He also spoke about how he was treated after leaving office, about having his first cell phone, and about what it's like to be forgotten.

But when needled by Cheche Lazaro (above) about more pointed topics (pointed at GMA to be exact) such as popular mandate and religion, Blair, ever the diplomat, managed to charm his way out of a squeeze. He was given the very loaded question, "When do you think it's time for a leader to step down?", and managed to deflect the topic effortlessly while simultaneously eliciting laughter. Truly a polished politician.

But as the founder of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation and the chief negotiator of the North Ireland Good Friday Agreement, I was rather disappointed by his vague answers to inquiries about religion. And some answers were even a little bit too Judeo-Christian-centric for my taste. When asked if the resolution of war can be found in the Scriptures, "He replied 'yes', if you read it properly." He also kept mum about the topic of birth control and population management. In reference to Reproductive Health Bill 5043, Blair was asked: "Should a leader stand up to The Catholic Church should the need arise?" and he remained perfectly evasive, revealing nothing. But even though he remained mum about his side on the issue, judging by Cherie's confession about forgetting her "equipment" resulting in her being knocked up at Balmoral, I'll take his silence to mean, "yes".