We are nearing the homestretch on this campaign marked by tied statistics, odd couplings and a rain of extravagant promises.
The promises have to be vetted. They reflect the thinking of the candidate that makes them. The first rule is to study what they are in themselves, outside the promise-maker. Is the promise good for the country? Does it contribute to nation-building as a democratic state that our Constitution professes our society to have opted for? Will the promise be achieved according to the ways of a democratic society? Or, will it mean going against democratic tenets?
What are some of these promises to be looked into quite closely? Lowering of taxes, getting rid of criminal elements in six months, providing jobs in the millions, turning over the huge amount accumulated from the coconut levy directly to the coconut farmers, continuing the Pantawid DSWD program and even expanding it, free college education for all, medical attention including free medicines for everyone, bridges over huge bodies of water, roads in rural areas, help for farmers to produce bigger and better crops for better prices as part of a massive uplift for the agricultural sector. That must include fisheries, of course. And the peace that has to be reached to make us whole and better. There are many more, of course.
For the first analysis the voter must now think of the promise itself without his relation to it. If lowering of taxes will benefit him, he should think first if lowering of taxes will benefit the country. With the scarcity of government resources and the magnitude of government obligations, would this be a wise and timely move? If the money lost from lower taxes can be recuperated elsewhere so as not to compromise delivery of services or the balance of payments, why not give the tax break? But if it does not and leaves the government coffers wanting, even if it benefits the voter directly, he may have to pay for it indirectly in some other vital way that may be heavier than simply paying the tax due. So, analyze this promise.
What about peace and order in six months? With the installation of the fear factor, it can be done. Some claim it has already been done in some places. Good for the law-abiding citizens who are the victims, but how long will they not be victims in a draconian implementation of the law that includes termination with extreme prejudice? Aside from the damage by indifference and outright exclusion of our judicial system in the process, this promise goes against the grain of democratic rights and human rights.
The turn over to the coconut farmers of the coconut levy funds sounds fair, just and rather late in the day for them. The process to accomplish it is the key of whether it will be all that. Or, will this huge amount introduce its own new scandal making legitimate farmers victims rather than beneficiaries. Therefore, this promise must have a fool-proof process. Which candidate can do that?
As for roads and bridges, let us not quibble. Get them done almost anywhere. We are so far behind, it is catch-up time. Let the bidding process be fair but speedy. Let contractors that do not deliver be blacklisted from government projects. Let the right of way issues be solved by a formula set in stone. Where the money will come from may be an obstacle if not husbanded properly but in truth there is a budget for roads and bridges, from transport facilities and ports, terminals and harbors that should be used wisely and well.
So, all one has to do is watch how they do it. Rather, can the candidate as presented handle it the best and most productive way? There lies the need to go back to track records, experience, and the clues that tell us one thing or the other.
On issues like China occupying what we have always regarded as ours, on K-12 in Education, on Arts and Culture policy, on economic targets and industrial, commercial, agricultural priorities, and most of all the peace process that remains incomplete and hanging fire, we have hardly heard candidates say “Boo.” Here promises need not be made or are hard to make and that may be a reason they are not alluded to. Yet these issues are vital and demanding of attention. What are the candidates saying, where are they on their platforms?
In the end, it is not the promises made but the soul-searching, the food for the spirit, the matter of identity in the light of history and the future, character in the face of calamity and crisis that will make the difference. All of these count for both the candidate and the voter.
Look at the promises outside of yourself and judge them in the light of the country’s need and well-being. Look at the candidate and judge whether he can deliver or should not deliver what he promised. Think of what this country needs in terms of political leadership. Is it entertainment and attractiveness, is it promises that cannot be kept, is instant gratification and self-indulgence the answer? Or, is it hard work day by day, constant ambition to achieve the meaningful and the permanent. Things like peace, equality, opportunities for all, identity.
We need to build a nation whose people identify with it. It takes climbing many mountains, crossing numerous rivers and undergoing many a crisis. A candidate must be ready to do this journey in this way because there is no other. That would be one promise worth keeping and worth waiting for.