Having written last Thursday and Friday about desirable qualities for the next President, let’s talk about some undesirables.
(For the good qualities article, go to: http://www.manilatimes.net/seven-traits-we-want-the-next-president-to-have-2/223901/ and http://www.manilatimes.net/seven-traits-we-want-in-next-president-to-have/223993/.)
For starters, we don’t want a head of state who isn’t breathing. Of course, most would retort, no stiffs in the Palace, if you please. Yet we have one prominent presidentiable who just completed cancer treatment last year, and has at least five years of waiting and testing to make sure the deadly tumors don’t come back.
To her credit, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago didn’t hide her ailment. And her doctors reported last year that the malignant growth in her lung had been arrested. But if it resumes or there are any other health-related developments which may impair or cut short her tenure in elective office before 2022, Santiago should tell the Filipino people.
Ditto any other candidate, especially those vying for the presidency. Quite simply, the nation should not have to deal with the potential problems and disruptions of a gravely or fatally ill Chief Executive, especially since there are a good number of able-bodied leaders to choose from.
Just tell the truth
Undesirable Trait No. 2: The next President should not lie or otherwise play fast and loose with the facts, and should comply with the law. Again, this seems pretty obvious. Yet one leading candidate has yet to give a straightforward explanation of her citizenship and residency qualifications.
Thus, what should be a simple matter of checking the records to see if Senator Grace Poe has fulfilled the requirements of both her current position and the one she aspires to, is now mired in documents marred by alterations, and the reported use of a U.S. passport after Poe had already reacquired Philippine citizenship.
This writer is not imputing any falsehood on Senator Poe or her lawyers and supporters. But if she allows dishonesty of any kind in the process to affirm her Philippine citizenship and residency, then such actuations would demonstrate a willingness to purport untruths and bend rules which is most undesirable in the next President.
Just tell the people the truth, and let the law take its course. Veer away from that path, and you get such episodes as President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s still-murky actions during the Mamasapano massacre of 44 police commandos, and the concealing of his pork barrel as a legislator, and even the papers for the Porsche sportscar he purportedly bought and sold in his first half-year in office.
Corruption is, of course, another no-no for the next President, or any other public official, for that matter. But there are two problems with this negative. First, if one demands absolute integrity from candidates, none may make the grade. The bigger problem lies in partisan probes, prosecution and propaganda, which can demonize rivals while sparing allies with worse sleaze.
After many months of televised Senate hearings and the high-profile investigations and orders of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, many Filipinos are aware of corruption allegations against Vice President Jejomar Binay and his son Jun-Jun in their running of Makati City. That has eroded the VP’s voter survey ratings.
But with no Palace investigation and limited media coverage, not even seasoned journalists, let alone ordinary Filipinos, know that smuggling trebled under President Aquino to $26.6 billion last year and totalled P4 trillion since 2010, costing at least P760 billion in lost revenues.
Also covered up are pork barrel irregularities since 2011, when the graft-ridden fund tripled to more than P20 billion a year, as well as the Metro Rail Transit anomalies schemed under then Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas and his successor Jose Emilio Abaya.
For sure, no one wants a leader tarred with graft, but sadly, “selective prosecution,” as the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines termed it, and pro-Aquino media have targeted his opponents, while whitewashing his allies. It then behooves voters to seek out information on irregularities implicating all candidates, not just the opposition.
Debates, not surveys
A fourth no-no for national leaders is ignorance and incompetence. Hard to argue with that. Yet sadly, popularity and name recall has always trumped expertise and experience in governance in the electorate’s choice.
Thus, even if 2010 candidate Aquino showed little achievement as legislator and avoided presidential debates, he still won two-fifths of the vote. And three years later, Poe topped the senatorial race even if her only government stint was at the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board.
Still, voters are right to demand proven governance knowledge and capability in the next Chief Executive. Then we can avoid such hallmarks of incompetence as the bloody mishandling of both the August 2010 Rizal Park hostage crisis and the Mamasapano mission, and the dismal government response to the Yolanda disaster.
If candidates make a habit of avoiding presidential debates, know that they have little or no knowledge to show. Don’t vote for them, even if they top the surveys.
A final negative to watch out for is the backer: Who are the candidate’s main supporters, and what is their agenda? The Liberal Party backing Roxas has one thing on its collective mind: blocking moves to hold it accountable for unprecedented sleaze under Aquino, and continuing it for six more years.
Poe and her running mate Senator Francis Escudero depend on the mammoth funds and nationwide political organization of billionaire Danding Cojuangco. He aims to continue his San Miguel conglomerate’s gains under the present dispensation, and maybe regain the political and economic clout he enjoyed during the Marcos era.
To be sure, every candidate needs big-bucks backers to compete. But check if there is a dominant power broker or clique the presidentiable won’t be able to say no to. If the king- or queen-makers look likely to take charge, then it’s them you’re voting into office. That’s not the president you want.