• The search for Mr. (or Mrs.) Right

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    CHICOThe controversy over the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) reminds us to critically choose the people we vote for to lead this country.

    This is most particularly true with regard to the presidency. Considering that some of those involved in the alleged scam are admittedly presidential wannabes, I couldn’t be more alarmed, if not horrified, like the rest of us.

    I’m not sure though what qualities we should exactly look for. Given the indubitable complexities of Philippine politics, it’s just so difficult.

    For example, we could have a sincere president but I seriously doubt if his integrity would translate to effective governance. If there’s one thing we all agree on, it’s that honesty may be the best of policies, but it is certainly not enough!

    Look at Tita Cory. She was probably the only honest president we had. But because she was not prepared for the job, she failed miserably. This is not of course her fault. She was “by fate” forced to lead a people that had gone awry, and that in itself was a tall order. She did what she could and probably even that which she couldn’t.

    Good thing though, she redeemed herself greatly and in a way we should all be grateful for, by fighting for freedom and democracy until her last breath and by accomplishing more for the country when she got out of the presidency than when she was in it.

    I think the same thing can be said about her son. He may have restored public trust and confidence in governance, what with his ability to maintain his clean image and rally the people behind him in spite and despite of. Yet, his failure to respond to pressing issues e.g. the hostage crisis, the Malaysian siege and the Taiwan controversy—will definitely hurt his legacy.

    With three years remaining in office, history will likely remember him more for what he did not do than what he did as president.

    Charisma, like sincerity, may also be a critical factor. Erap had a lot of those and then some. But as records show, he likewise failed miserably. Of course, one can argue his term was cut short. But would it matter if he finished his? I doubt it sincerely. If there’s one thing he got across quite clearly, that is you can tank up both literally and figuratively if you become president. I hope he learned his lesson and this time do better as a mayor. He did great in San Juan and there’s enough room for doing great again.

    PGMA, on the other hand, was obviously one of the more qualified for the job, being an economist, highly educated and experienced. Yet, she blew it big time. Epic fail, in fact, not so much because she did not know what she was doing but because she did. And that was the sad part.

    Unlike President Marcos, who up to this day has had a throng of loyal supporters, she just isn’t likeable enough to win our hearts. If she were an actor, she’s one of those forgettable faces who tried hard but just didn’t quite have “it.” The fact that you mustered guts to apologize on national television and nobody believed is a great testament of how loathsome you are in the public eye.

    Maybe, it’s really about political will. But to exercise it, one would be gunned down to death. Nobody takes the presidency just because. It comes with a heavy price. In a society characterized by patronization and accommodation, nobody wins without the support of the mighty and the powerful. Of course, you become heavily indebted to them, and there lies the problem.

    At the end of the day, nobody could tell for sure. If only we could have someone who possesses all these qualities. But maybe, just maybe, they may not also be enough. The magnitude and complexity of our problems demand more than having a good leader. Clearly, we can only extricate ourselves from our mess if we the people should do the right thing, albeit the definition of the phrase “right thing” in itself has quite expanded lately.

    I really don’t know. As motherhood as it may seem, we just have to start from ourselves and effect change in our way. Maybe, that is the way.

    Our leaders are corrupt because we, the voters are corrupt. In this country, hindi lang pork barrel ang baboy. Tayong lahat!

    Atty. Edward Chico is vice-chair at the Commercial Law Department, Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business, De La Salle University. The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of De La Salle University and its faculty and administrators.

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    2 Comments

    1. As an American living in the Philippines for 11 years and visiting here for 15 years prior to that, I can see some similarities in both governments, and therefore understand your concern. In the US, large corporations and the super-rich have bought up so many of our politicians that many decisions are now made, not by what is right or wrong, but what is acceptable to those who own you. This is largely responsible for the ever-increasing gap between the rich and the poor. I personally want honesty and integrity first, but you have to find an honest person with integrity that is also competent and electable. Not an easy chore.

    2. Pitong Daspalas on

      As a kid growing up in the Philippines, thieves, killers, rapists, wife beaters are somehow put up for adoration, most especially if they are not caught. Only when I migrated outside the country where I was immersed in a different culture altogether did I realize that the Filipino culture of “hoping for suerte,” “mangutang,” and “leaving it all to God,” but not helping oneself, are all wrong and despicable. Of all the demographics, Filipinos are one of the most prejudiced people on earth. If you’re poor, no one belives you, no one gives you the benefit of the doubt, you can’t get a decent job, regardless of how educated and smart you are. The “richies” won’t let you. The “richies” do NOT need to be smart, they just have to have a name recognition to get good jobs, to get elected. The Philippine political structure featuring the president on down proves my point. The “richies” murder steal, and beat their wives and not worry about consequences. Jinggoy, Enrile, Revilla do NOT think that they should be punished for what they did, hence their blame deflection. Their demeanor typifies the common man there in the Philippines. The pork barrel revelation only exposed the truth that everybody there already know. Sure, no one knows what to do with these thugs; no one knows what to do with Arroyo, no one knows what to do with the Maguindanao massacre. Hell, it looks like everyone from the President on down has some level of connection with the prok barrel debacle., and NO ONE knows what to do!