The country faces yet another period of political uncertainty as we brace ourselves for the outcome of the May 9 national and local elections.
Whoever wins in the balloting will hopefully solve the numerous problems the country has, and not create new or be part of the existing problems.
Alex Lacson, a lawyer who ran but lost in the 2010 senatorial race, shared last Friday his insights on the current political situation through the F. Sionil Jose lecture series for masscom and journalism students at The Manila Times College (TMTC).
He encouraged the students, who are mostly first-time voters, to participate in the elections and be discerning in their choices not only for President and Vice President but for the legislative and local positions as well.
In particular, the 51-year-old Lacson asked them to help dismantle political dynasties that, he said, are at the root of the country’s dysfunctional political and economic development systems.
“There is so much to be changed in our system, but with good leaders we can do that,” he stressed on his talk that lasted almost two hours at the TMTC, in Intramuros, Manila.
Lacson, head convenor of a faith-based group called Philippine Movement for Transformational Leadership (PMTL), impressed upon his audience the need to elect leaders who put the interests of the majority over personal considerations.
“Sana kung sino man ang manalo, he can really solve the problems than create more problems,” he said.
He then quoted American author and public speaker John Maxwell who said: “Everything rises and falls with leadership.”
“Leadership is very important. Kapag matino ang leader, gaganda ang buhay,” Lacson stressed, carefully avoiding to mention any candidate.
This reminded me of a quote I saw on Facebook recently that says: “Dumb politicians are not the problem. The problem is the dumb people (who) keep voting them (into office).”
“Our country needs servant-leaders. Our country needs transformational leaders,” Lacson said as he endorsed his group’s advocacy for a cultural change in how voters elect political leaders.
PMTL crafted a set of guidelines in choosing candidates for the May elections. It is a scorecard called Gabay Kristo with 20 questions divided under four criteria: character and integrity (karakter at karangalan), leadership and abilities (kakayanan at abilidad), sincerity to God and country (katapatan sa Diyos at kapwa), and leadership integrity (katotohanan sa pamumuno at pamunuan).
(The scorecard can be accessed at www.gabaykristo.com)
Participating in elections, Lacson said, is one of the most important obligations of a citizen. But before deciding whom to vote for, he encouraged the students to go through a scientific process of selection.
The Gabay Kristo guidelines have a score sheet in which one can rate candidates from 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest). “Kung sino ang may highest score for a particular position, iyon ang dapat iboto,” he said.
If the voter does not agree with the criteria in the scoreboard, he can substitute these with his own. “Just remove your biases and be objective in rating the candidates,” he said.
“You have so much power in your hands…you have your cell phones, the social media…you can share your ideas on how to change the country. If there is injustice, a lie, something bad, speak out,” said Lacson, a graduate of political science and law from the University of the Philippines (UP) and took post-graduate studies at Harvard Law School.
“You are 19, 20 (year-olds). Get involved now. This is a good time to elect good leaders. Build your own standards, pero padaanin mo sa proseso. You are fighting for your future,” he asserted.
At the onset, Lacson recalled how martial law turned the country’s political and economic systems upside down.
“In the late 50s until the early 60s, the Philippines was looked up to. We were second in Asia, next to Japan, in economic development. We were the first in Asean. We were ahead of South Korea, Singapore. We were ahead because of our unique talent – proficiency in the English language. We had access to technology. We had access to development theories,” he pointed out.
However, the economy started a downturn in the late 60s and got even worse after martial law was declared in 1972.
“The biggest factor was leadership,” Lacson emphasized.
He cited various data showing huge disparity in income and wealth in the country, with half of the country’s wealth belong to a measly 1 percent of the 100 million Filipinos while 50 million remain poor, of which 12.1 million live in extreme poverty, based on the 2015 first quarter report of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).
“Inequality in income and wealth is a grave economic injustice. It is a grave moral issue. Why? Because many of our leaders have become a big part of our problem. In some parts, sila mismo ang problema,” Lacson said, citing areas particularly in his home province in the Visayas, where political dynasties exist in nearly all political subdivisions.
Lacson lamented that the Philippine economy has exhibited good performance in the last five years, landing among the top 10 best performing economies in Asia. However, 76 percent of the economy’s 6.8 percent growth benefitted only the top 40 richest families in the Philippines, he said, citing an article written by former Economic Planning secretary Cielito Habito.
“Our economic policies are heavily tilted on the very few wealthy families,” he said. You may notice that many people work hard and work long hours pero hindi umaasenso kasi maliit ang sweldo,” he noted to illustrate the wide income disparity.
“There is a system failure,” Lacson said.
“Our political situation is not sustainable. Eventually there will be a breaking point…poverty leads to hunger and hunger leads to violence,” he pointed out.
“We and our children deserve a much better Philippines. Are you willing to work for it? Are you willing to die for it?” he asked the students.
In closing, he asked the students to vote based on informed choices, not on popularity and survey rating of candidates.
“Do it for your country, not only for yourself!”