Issues first and then candidates

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THE holidays will be upon us soon and it is to be hoped that we will all take time off after the tensions of Christmas shopping and timely family reunions to reflect on what kind of candidates we should support in the coming elections of May.  The political pot is boiling a bit too soon and indeed we will have to take that into account.

The first step in our discerning assessment of candidates is to pick out the issues that are of concern in our universe.  Issues that we have to address are usually problems that have to be solved or decisions that have to be made.  Once we have an idea of what concerns us, we look for the candidate that can answer them best to our satisfaction.

It does not come easily or automatically.  Candidates can be showy, demagogic, full of extravagant claims and promises and clothed in sheep’s clothing when they are actually wolves inside.  I realize I am making sweeping statements here but the point is for us to be analytical, clear-headed and concerned less about self and more about the country when thinking about the issues that matter vis-à-vis the candidates.  Be alert about appearance and reality.

Once we have the issues we bring them out, talk about them, and in the form of public opinion make it a public challenge for the candidates to address.  Media must follow suit and reflect public concerns if they are intelligently performing their job.


That is why political campaigns are vital.  This is the time to throw the questions out for candidates to answer.  It is the season to see which ones grasp what the public is concerned about and gives his or her answers in the same vein.  Debates will be essential and how the candidates conduct themselves in the debates or in discussing public issues will be a learning experience, such as to make a decision based on reason rather than emotion when choosing which one to vote for.

Here are some issues that should matter:  Climate change is upon us and it will be for some time.  Due to the world’s abuse of the environment, there are harsh repercussions that have already come our way.  It is time to redress and amend our mistakes as well as to come up with ingenious solutions.  Candidates may not be scientists or environmentalists who can tailor solutions to environmental problems, but they must acknowledge them and recruit the right people to address these problems and support them.  Or, we will see our food production going even lower, suffer from lack of water for our daily needs, be victimized by fiercer typhoons bringing flooding, destruction of natural resources, bear uncomfortably high temperatures (in this country hot weather; in others low temperatures).  To deal with climate change the country has to cooperate with others and do its part for the universal good.  Is there a candidate that notes the above and is prepared to work for its mitigation and solution?  The issue of climate change is now a life and death matter.

Education in this country of many have-nots and somewhat low standards is a problem that must be managed for our youth and future generations of this country.  In fact, beyond Education and its problems, it is concern for the youth, for future generations and what to do to bring them up in the best way possible not only in Education, but health, livelihood, sports and activities that are of utmost necessity.  Who is the candidate that has a plan or a vision for the youth of this country and can deliver it?  It is our duty to give future generations our best of resources and education.

We include Environment here to make it a clear concern though in truth it should be addressed and solved under the climate change issue which it encompasses.  Which candidates have thought about the Environment and how to protect it?  Better yet, which candidates have no anti-environmental deeds that they have to explain?  We have to hand a healthy and wholesome Environment to those who come after us.

The rule of law is another important concern.  With the killings of journalists and the guns-for-hire culture plus the political and white collar corruption that we all know about, which candidate is ready to push for justice, to let the law take care of the outlaws and their outlaw activities?  Meaning which candidate is not involved personally or through clan activities in the criminal activities and more?  Which candidate is prepared to let not just enemies feel the rule of law but his or her own associates, relatives, clan?  The rule of law is essential for a viable society.

Candidates have much to do with the justice system.  Presidents appoint the judges and justices that will represent it and make the verdicts of innocent or guilty. Which candidates will appoint the upright and the accomplished to arrive at a better justice system?  Or, punish those who make a travesty of it?  At this point of justice delayed and justice denied because of the ability of some to get away with doing so, we must forcefully demand those who present themselves to lead us that they must not only pledge adherence to its principles but see that they are implemented in a timely and definitive fashion.

The principle of equality and democratic rule of the majority must be upheld, underlined and reiterated as we are a democratic republic where each and everyone has equal rights and must have equal opportunities.  Lip service is what we usually get in political campaigns about this issue.  But which candidate is ready to go the extra mile, do the hard and even pioneering effort to get there?  What are the views, the vision and the road map to get there?

We are talking in part of Mindanao – not only of the Muslim Filipinos but of the Lumad Filipinos, the pioneer populations that have contributed to Mindanao, the urban centers there.  Peace and prosperity must be given to all of them.  Which candidate can tackle that and how?

Also, which candidate will rectify our unequal economic trajectory where the few manage and profit from economic activities and the rest contribute their labor and their efforts for a pittance of the returns?  The scarcest resource in this country is capital.  In principle, government lending institutions are supposed to provide it to those with viable projects who otherwise could not get it.  But this is not implemented wisely or in time to do what it is supposed to do – provide capital to those who need it and can use it well.  The result is only those who have capital, the few hundred families, are those who thrive in our economy.  Many of them use the credit facilities intended for those without capital. Which candidate will see the reality and do something about it?

There are more issues of course, particularly local ones that deal with local candidates.   Overall, which candidate has a clear idea of the social contract, the obligations of government vis-à-vis its citizens, and the citizens vis-à-vis the government?  That is based on the Constitution and it must be fulfilled.  Which candidates are aware of this?

The idea of a political campaign is for the voter to think, to analyze, to ask questions and to decide best on the answers.  Whom to choose, who to vote for, must be based on the need to be fair and reasonable to our fellow citizens and ourselves.

Again I mention that the political campaign should be revealing and lead us to the right decisions.  But first we have to bring up the issues, the questions, the concerns.  We do not just vote, we must vote intelligently.

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