In search of leaders


I have a five-year-old grandson in kindergarten. Like Vice President JejomarBinay, DILG Secretary Mar Roxas and possibly Sen. Grace Poe, he wants to become president. He has a friend at school who is slightly older, the grandson of a Forbes magazine-listed magnate, whom he wants to run as his vice president. I am not sure the other fellow knows about it. But the five-year-old seems to be more advanced in his planning than any self-proclaimed presidential candidate.

The boy is handsome and bright. He is also athletic. He not only likes to play video games, he also likes to read. But more than anything else, he has apparently managed to make friends not only with everyone in his class but with everyone else in the entire school, including the security guard. In a strict political sense, he has developed a solid bailiwick.

I have not asked him about his political platform, if he has any. So I don’t know what he thinks about climate change, BRICS, China, Ukraine, Isis, EDCA, Asean integration, the New Silk Road, the ageing of Japan, Singapore, Korea, China and most of the world, the Bangsamoro Basic Law, federalism, the mining controversy, the national grid, etc. But since no presidential wannabe has said or wants to say anything about these things, I don’t think he is at a serious disadvantage.

The smartest politicians, whenever asked about any of these, quickly change the topic or say, “This matter is under serious study. “This puts the issue on hold, without exposing the vacuity or unpreparedness of the politician concerned. The study never gets completed, but the politicians manage to project themselves as the “most studious” officials around.

Now, the boy could simply do the same, to avoid getting pinned down on any specific question. But being basically honest, he is likely to say, “I don’t know” if he really doesn’t know the answer to a question. That could cost him popular support unless the mainstream media points out that his particular inability to say anything intelligent on an important issue gives him so much in common with the average voter. He then becomes everybody’s man.

But, how did it all get started? I am embarrassed to say I don’t know. A young family member tells me, in absolute confidence, that it began after the boy’s mother complained of a splitting headache in the middle of EDSA’s wicked traffic. As his mother’s favorite, he resolved that she should never again have such headache. The only way to ensure that would be for her never to pass EDSA again. But there is no avoiding it, and the entire city is now one big EDSA, so the only solution would be for him to fix the traffic. And the only way he could do so would be for him to become the president.

Like most of us, he has apparently come to believe that in this country everything depends on the President. And since the President has failed to do anything about the traffic, as he has failed to do anything about everything else, somebody else must fix it.
How sweet, I thought, and how brave. Among the known presidential wannabes, he is the only one who wants to become president because he wants to do something concrete. Most presidential wannabes want to become president only because they want to become president, without the slightest notion of what to do if elected.

Many of them believe they deserve the office because they have made enough money from graft, are shown on TV, outdoor billboards or pulp magazines endorsing a type of fish sauce, and are said to be “popular for no other reason than that they are popular,” to borrow Walter Bagehot’s words. They have also paid the propaganda pollsters to “conduct” continuing surveys to show their alleged nationwide trust support, even though only a portion of 800 to 1,200 “samples” of unverified existence are claimed to say so, out of 100 million Filipinos.

Where my grandson wants to fix the traffic, most presidential wannabes merely want “to serve the poor,” without saying how they intend to do so. The poor are never asked how they are to be served. But many of them are grateful to hear the demagogues say so, especially if their demagoguery comes with a few hundred pesos to seduce their votes. But they normally end up using the poor to serve themselves. AferPNoy’s “daang matuwid” and the unconscionable Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), no further proof is needed.

I have tried not to ask the boy how he intends to fix the traffic. One administration after another has failed. And so long as they continue to construct extra high-rise buildings in almost every possible space in the overcrowded cities, put in more cars, buses, trucks, lorries, and even tricycles on the road without increasing the road space, the traffic would build up until the whole country chokes to death.

Sometimes I wonder how different things might have been if our voters, a few decades ago, had the good sense to elect Pascual Racuyal, the perennial Philippine candidate for president. In my youth, he famously proposed that we install moving plastic belts in lieu of cars and other means of land transport. I found myself thinking of this last week after my plane from Davao took less than two hours to get to Manila, and I had to crawl for two hours and a half from NAIA-3 to Ortigas.

Imagine if we had conveyors belts instead of cars on the road, as Racuyal had proposed. All we need to do would be to stand on the conveyor belt, and we would get to our destination at a constant speed without having to battle any monstrous traffic. Unfortunately, Racuyal was too far ahead of his time, and was dismissed as a crank. He might have been even targeted by the fierce Japanese car lobby, which could not afford to lose the Philippine car market to a regime of conveyor belts, just as it could not afford to lose that market to a cross-country national railway. Thus, the Philippines-Japan Friendship Highway.

I hope my grandson would be as creative as Mr. Racuyal, when the time comes, in confronting this life-changing issue. But unless the Constitution is changed to allow the most precocious teenagers to run for president, we won’t be seeing this until 2050. That is quite a long wait. In the meantime, we are stuck with PNoy and a whole slew of politicians who seem to have no idea that they had become completely irrelevant to the life of our country.

The wretched traffic, which my grandson would like to fix, is merely a symptom of the real disease. The real disease is the total collapse of the moral and intellectual order in our society. We have to restore the moral and intellectual order by fixing our broken constitutional and political system and bringing back men and women of moral and intellectual worth and proven professional integrity to provide the sound moral and intellectual governance that will cure our country’s real disease.

“Woe to you, O land, whose king is a child, and whose princes feast in the morning,” Ecclesiastes (10:16) reminds us. Given our total moral collapse, we can no longer insist on choosing the “the lesser evil” to lead our country. The lesser evil is evil still, whereas our real battle is between good and evil, between right and wrong, between moral and immoral, between legal and illegal, etc.

Although we are fascinated with a five-year-old’s daydreams about the presidency, we need a mature and highly moral and intellectually competent political leader to take full responsibility for the governance of this country. We can no longer pick our leader from the usual sources—-not from the Cabinet, not from the Congress, not from the predatory business sector either.

We need to light Diogenes’ lamp to help us find a truly worthy, honest man somewhere within the society. Since the entire political system is broken, we must first fix it. And since the political landscape is barren, we must now turn to the deepest reserves of our citizenry to find what our political class can no longer generate.


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  1. A child carrying basket full of money is leading a horde of salivating adult creatures. How can that be? = The child drops some money along the way for the adults to pick up into their pocket with delight. The spectators shouted, “Hey, that’s our money”. The child shouted back “It was entrusted on me, DAP is mine to drop so that adults will follow me. I’m the leader, no one can question what ever I do. Besides my motto is ‘Daang matuwid’, so shut up”. Those who did not follow and refuse to shut up was jailed by BS Aquino. Example: Jinggoy who shouted there is secret DAP used by P.Noy to bribe congress. Jinggoy ends up in detention.

  2. Genetics is not good enough, you should ask the parents to check with Mika Lagdemeo about Progress Pre-School Gold. And also you should spend time with your apo to talk to him about life-principles of the Gospel of Prosperity.

  3. Am sure there are very good leadership materials in the Philippines, unfortunately, they do not possess millions maybe billions of pesos to land and elected post. There are also very good candidates who cannot accept the immorality of being in a corruption laden government system.

  4. “The Great Man Theory” seems to be what you are advocating in your article. Simply put, a leader’s personal charisma, wisdom, intelligence and skills will impact society with decisive and significant changes. Through the power and strength of his or her personality, an avalanche of positive societal changes will snowball ultimately benefitting everyone. England had Churchill. Lincoln emerged in the US and Lee Kuan Yew rose from Singapore. Someone criticized this point of view by assessing it as “hopelessly primitive, childish, and unscientific.” Further, he argued that great leaders were merely product of their social environment. I tend to agree with him. Marcos could have been the great leader. He was intelligent, strong, persuasive even religious but his leadership degenerated and wreaked havoc in the country, as all our presidential leaders did, in short order. The people within the concentric circles of leadership were and are as corrupt or if not worse as the leader. Furthermore, there seems to be a structure and distorted moral logic that protect those in position of power to behave badly with abandon. We create these distorted ethical and moral logic to justify our implicit approval of an overt and explicit unethical act. I hate to spell this out but our culture does not lend itself to good governance. For instance, you mentioned the eternal traffic jams in Metro Manila. I concur, that we do have a problem of space. However, if traffic laws are enforced and people will consciously obey those laws, there may be an easing of the problem. Follow the rules is a good place to start. Waiting for a great leader who will turn our world outside down and inside up, I submit indeed maybe childish.

  5. Roldan Guerrero on

    Filipinos are known to be fond of immitating almost everything. It would be good then if we immitate how governance is performed by our progressive neighboring countries that have lagged the Philippines so many miles away. Just like Japan as a good example. Why is Japan so economically stable? I guess everybody knows the reason why?

  6. Unfortunately, we already have a child masquerading as an adult as president. Your grandson would not be breaking ground with that if he becomes president tomorrow.

  7. One of our more serious tasks at the moment is to safeguard the idealism of our youth, their purity and nobility and their closeness to the Creator at this point in their lives. I never fail to notice that it is around the first decade of their lives that our children are the purest, the most truthful, the most noble, the most lovable. I’m sure it is because they are at this stage, still closest to the “factory” from whence they came. They are still fresh from God’s hands . It is when they grow up when they see and learn the “ugly ways of the world.”

    We will be committing a grave unfaithfulness to our Creator, if we cannot return the souls he entrusted to us better than when we got them. Thanks Mr. Tatad, for reminding us we have far loftier intentions in our fight against the evil in our midst.

  8. sonny dela cruz on

    Everyone has a dream like you Mr.Tatad and me that someday the Philippines will become a land of oppurtunity for every Filipinos. But how we can achieve this goal if the leaders and the people are corrupt and doesn’t believe in the rule of law. Every leaders run the country locals and national by emotion and not by the rule of law, that’s why a lot of corruptions and there’s no peace and order. I have been advocating that we have to develop a new Filipinos by molding the small children through a very strong education and citizenship. We have to start somehow to reach our goals but first we have to to have good government and constitution through a Federal System. I happened to find from my file The Bayanikasan Constitution: A solution to graft, poverty by Dr. Salvador Araneta published by Lina Araneta-Santiago on July 28, 2005. The Constitution calls for a Federal System but the structure will be costly and will have a lot of changes. I have a very simple way of structuring the government through a Federal Constitution. How can we abolish the Unicameral government when pnoy, the congress and the military are one bunch of bananas. That is the QUESTION?

  9. Isagani L. Lazaro on

    A very perceptive column, Mr. Tatad. Thank you for sharing your insights (wisdom?) on what can, hopefully, help alleviate the sufferings of Filipinos under the present administration of Benigno Simeon Aquino, III. What you have written in the last four (4) paragraphs of your column is, I believe, what the country needs today, particularly, “… we have to restore the moral and intellectual order by fixing our broken constitutional and political system and bringing back men and women of intellectual worth and proven professional integrity to provide sound moral and intellectual governance that will cure our country’s real disease … not from the Cabinet, not from predatory business sector either.”

    • How about bringing back all the king’s men of former Pres GMA. I think they will do good in shaping up this country to its former glory days during GMA’s tenure. Kit and Norberto Gonzales should spearhead this movement. Include the Binays as advisers.

  10. The PPP, privatization, liberalization, deregulation, automatic debt appropriation and other weapons of mass debt bondage should be first on the list of a presidential wannabe’s platform as these are what affects the people directly by skinning them alive in form of higher and higher taxes, toll fees and the like, in effect picking the pockets of the poor to give to the rich. Climate change, Ukraine, New Silk Road are for academics, not for Juan de la Cruz. As for the moral collapse, this is a theme that one cannot pound on enough: the basic function of any religion in any society is to provide a moral compass for that society. This moral collapse is nothing but the FAILURE OF RELIGION, and we all know what that religion is, the one that has been around for 500 years !

  11. You are absolutely right Mr. Tatad. What we need is a “mature and highly moral and intellectually competent political leader …” And if I may add, a brave leader willing to risk everything for a principle. Sadly though there is nobody that I see in our country today that fits the description. Maybe that person is not yet born or a situation has not yet occurred to give rise to that person. What we have now are simply political managers, period.

  12. Your grandson would, God willing, be among the good leaders of the future–if there is still a Philippine Republic and a Philippine state made up of our present sovereign territory. This would only happen if God takes pity on the Filipino people.
    But the reality today is the futility of being able to choose good leaders through elections. Unless something from Almighty God destroys the Brillantes-Smartmatic/PCOS machine reign over our country’s elections, even if saints like a Filipino King Solomon aooeared and ran for president or any officem the satanic influence and power of Brillantes-Smartmatic/PCOS will determine who wins in 2016.

    • victor m. hernandez on

      Indeed, Christmas is for children. It is a season for whispering hope. In the present socio-political and economic system, hope springs eternal. And where the visible maturity of so-called leaders are for mature audience, which is rated X.
      The illustrious Kit Tatad is like a voice crying in the wilderness. Yes, a messiah will come by 2050, If we start now to cut the hills and level the valleys. Merry Christmas to one and all.