A POE victory in 2016 may mean another Aquino presidency. Stern and proud and with no patience to listen to other voices, with zero tolerance for views pitched from outside the centers of power. That would be another six unbearable years for the vulnerable, the likes of me and my neighbors who right now just want the Aquino government to vanish from our lives.
Ok, that is one side of a possible story.
Another possible scenario is this: She may turn out to be a good, competent, and nurturing president who will reverse the policies of upward redistribution that Mr. Aquino has built during his presidency. Who knows?
The truth is this. What she will be as president, what she will do as president and what her core policies would be are not things we can divine on right now.
Same with Mr. Duterte. He can be a warmongering president who will take the country to World War III or its equivalent. A president who will promote extra-judicial killings across the board and turn every one into a gun nut. Again, that is just one side of a possible story.
For all we know, Mr. Duterte may turn out to be a great president who will demolish the narco and gambling lords and lay the foundation for a democracy operating on fair rules and with a functioning meritocracy. With his name off the ballot, we can never tell.
Absolutely, there is no way we can test the competencies of Ms. Poe and Mr Duterte under a disqualification scenario, which is right now the most urgent issue in the 2016 presidential race. With the issues surrounding the DQ cases faced by both legal and technical in nature, there is one angle that is worth discussing. Will their disqualification be good for democracy and for the country. No, absolutely no.
In case you have not noticed, the 1987 constitution deliberated the issues on political provisions and electoral exercises with this guiding principle — multiple parties should fight it out in the electoral arena and may the best men and women — and best ideas — win.
What dominated the Con-Con deliberations was a version of Mao’s “let a thousand flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend” with personalities of all stripes and ideas of multiple isms in contention. What was envisioned by the framers was a vigorous and forceful exchange of ideas in the political arena. Limiting the pool of candidates — and effectively the number of ideas that would contend — is a No under the constitution. Read the whole deliberations to be enlightened on the diversity that the 1987 charter sought to build. I covered the Con-Con debates for another paper and I knew the level of passion that undergirded the decision to junk the two-party system.
If there is one such thing as an “ immutable law” in the 1987 constitution, it is the intention of the writers to make every electoral exercise generate the broadest pool of candidates possible so the voters would have the broadest pool to choose from.
With the disqualifications of both Poe and Duterte, and an act of aggressive winnowing of candidates by the institutions (Comelec, courts etc. ), the multiple candidates and luxury of options will not take place. Definitely, that runs counter to what the framers of the constitution so vigorously voted for.
That the Philippines has no firmly-rooted political parties operating on a set of defined principles is another reason why the pool of presidential candidates should be as broad and deep as possible.
In advanced democracies, political parties have demarcation lines and hardly do the twains meet. The differences are mostly based on how active should government intervention be in the shaping of policies or in the promulgations of regulations and rules.
Put simply, the debates center on the size of government. Conservative political parties favor free markets, the reduced participation of government in the affairs of individuals and business, balanced budgets, muscular foreign policies.
Liberal political parties on the whole want the excesses of finance regulated, advocate for decent minimum wage and the strengthening of trade unions, strong safety nets and less hawkish foreign policies. In short, something short of an interventionist government.
On social issues, conservatives banner “family values” while liberals, are, more liberal on gay rights, abortion and the like.
Here we have none of that. A leading member of one political party can shift affiliation on an act of whimsy, without a pang of guilt or a tug of conscience. Because parties do not have defined principles in the first place and no ideology or belief binds its members. Accommodation, not loyalty, is the glue that holds the members together.
So, the policies of a Philippine president are not based on party-based beliefs or party ideologies but his or her take on what policies the president should initiate. In the case of President Aquino, his party is called the Liberal Party. But his actions and policies are not like the policies of the LP in Canada or the Democratic Party in the US. They are essentially free-market and conservative policies that are hardly representative of what most LP parties elsewhere stand for.
Any winnowing of presidential candidates that is done by the institution will be a great disservice to our still-unstable democracy. Let Poe and Duterte compete in the marketplace of ideas. The deeper the candidates’ pool, the better for our fledgling democratic institutions.