Examining the slate of presidential candidates for the upcoming Philippine election, l believe that Vice-president Jejomar Binay is the most qualified among all the candidates.
Please take pause and consider that we will be electing someone to the highest position in the land. This person will not only be managing the affairs of the nation both, domestic and international, but will play a role in determining our place in the global community as we move further on in the 21st century.
Given the limited space, I will only mention three qualities. There are more, but l believe these basic qualities are needed in a president of the Philippines.
In a candidate, I am looking for someone who has traditionally exhibited determination and perseverance. These qualities are important in a leader. Of the four presidential candidates–Vice-President Jejomar Binay, Senator Grace Poe, Secretary Mar Roxas, and Mayor Rodrigo Duterte–nobody has illustrated these qualities better than Binay.
In Philippine society, it is considered a huge advantage to belong to a prominent family or to have a prominent name or, even better, both. This is evident in all facets of our society, not only in politics, but also in business and entertainment. If one does not have a prominent name or a wealthy family, one needs to work doubly harder than those who do to get ahead.
Before Jejomar, the Binay name was not prominent in politics. Binay was born into poverty. He was orphaned at the age of nine. When his parents died, he lived with his uncle. In his formative years, he went through the public school system. First in Philippine Normal College for elementary, then the University of the Philippines Preparatory High School, the University of the Philippines, and then he decided to take up law and went to UP Law. He worked while studying during those years. Today he is known for his achievements rather than being the son or descendant of so and so.
This cannot be said of the other three candidates. Mar is the son of Senator Gerardo Roxas and the grandson of President Manuel Roxas. Grace is the adopted daughter of Fernando Poe, Jr. Rodrigo is the son of Vicente Duterte, the governor of Davao region. These sons and daughter are known for their names first than anything else before they got elected into office. What were their achievements before they were elected into office?
Another quality that I look for in a leader is that they have a sense of connection with the people they serve as well as a degree of proximity to them. To truly have an intimate understanding of the social problems that plague the country, one has to immerse oneself in them. At some points in their lives, the candidates have the opportunities to interact with the people and get to know their plight. Growing up poor afforded Binay to be immersed with the masa. Being in a public school system, Binay had the opportunities to meet people from all walks of life. When Binay passed the bar, he took up Human Rights Law and represented political prisoners during the Marcos Regime. He, together with others like Joker Arroyo, my brother Ed Araullo, and Rene Saguisag, to name a few, formed the Movement of Attorneys for Brotherhood, Integrity, and Nationalism or MABINI. At one point, Binay himself was detained.
Those too young to have lived through the Marcos Regime should know that it was a dangerous and uncertain time. People who spoke out against the regime would find themselves detained or, worse, get killed. The situation was even worse in the countryside than in Manila. People would just disappear without a trace. Binay, together with others, took considerable risk in defending political prisoners. (Which is another quality I look for in a leader–having the courage to stand up for what you believe in.)
Binay still continued to work for the people when he became mayor of Makati, and then chairman of Metropolitan Manila Development Authority in 1998.
When he was elected Vice-President, he was appointed chairman of the Housing Urban Development Coordinating Council and headed the task force to help overseas workers.
I do not see this quality in the other candidates. Born into wealth and prominence, they got to choose who to interact with. They were sheltered from the harsh reality of living in the Philippines.
Roxas was born into privilege. He comes from a wealthy and political family (Araneta, Yulo, de Leon, and Roxas). As for Poe, although she was born into poverty, her fortunes turned when she was adopted by Fernando Poe, Jr. and Susan Roces, one of the prominent couples in Philippine moviedom. Both Roxas and Poe were sent to exclusive schools here and abroad. Although expelled twice, Duterte was enrolled in private schools such as the Holy Cross Academy, Ateneo de Davao, Lyceum, and San Beda.
After graduating, Roxas became an investment banker in the United States. He became a congressman and then a senator. He was Secretary of Trade during the Estrada and Arroyo Administrations. He then became Secretary of Transportation then later Secretary of Interior during the BS Aquino 3rd Administration. (Had he acted admirably during and after Yolanda, I might have considered him.)
There is a certain distance in all his positions from the people he served. There is a wall between him and those he served. The mere fact that he is trying too hard to foster an image of being with the masa through his ads and gimmicks says something. I do not believe the ads and his gimmicks, and I think most of the people also don’t.
Before anybody knew about Grace Poe, she was living in the United States as an American citizen. When Fernando Poe, Jr. died, she decided to go back to the Philippines. When Aquino 3rd became President, she was appointed Movie and Television Review and Classification Board chairperson. She was later elected senator. As senator, on her first day, she filed a bill for film tourism and, subsequently, a bill concerning child welfare. I am sure Grace Poe is a good person. However, similar to that of Roxas, I do not see anything in her track record that showed her working closely with the masa. (May I say that she clearly got her positions based on her adopted father’s name. May I also say that her limited experience in government disqualifies her outright from my list of candidates for the presidency now.)
Duterte is closest to Binay in this category as he became mayor of Davao City. After he reached his term limit, he ran for a seat in Congress. Soon after his term as congressman was up, he went back to being mayor of the same city. Before he became mayor, Duterte was a special counsel then a prosecutor during the Marcos Regime. (However, I am wary as to what he did as prosecutor during the Marcos Regime and given his track record of law and order, I am thinking he did not defend those who were oppressed.)
A third quality I look for is a combination of maturity and fortitude. A sign of a good leader is how they react in the face of adversity. The back-and-forth between Roxas and Duterte during the holiday season is telling for me. Duterte said something against Roxas. Roxas reacted by challenging Duterte to a slapping match. Then it escalated into a punching match. What a shamefully juvenile way of resolving things.
I am thinking that Roxas wants to project an image of toughness by standing up to someone like Duterte. But in doing what he did, he has shown that he is not ready for the position of President. To act like a juvenile because he was insulted is not a sign of a good leader. The same goes for Duterte. Why not talk more about policies and what they will do for the country when elected instead of trading insults?
Last year, Binay was put to the test worse than just insults. This was when he was accused of graft and corruption. The scandal was widely reported both in traditional media and social media. The Senate blue ribbon committee held hearings to look into this accusation.
Binay’s assets and that of associates were frozen by the courts–even if at that point and up to now the courts have not convicted Binay of any wrongdoing. I go by the findings of the courts and not by the judgments of media and private individuals.
This I similarly apply to that of Duterte’s human right record and that of the Poe’s qualification based on citizenship. The way Binay conducted himself was admirable–he answered all the questions that were asked of him. He never ran away from the scandal.
He faced the problem head on. Unlike some people, he did not blame anyone for his problems.
These are just some of the basic qualifications I look for in a leader.
So far, Binay has set himself apart from the rest as the election campaign progresses, l look forward to find out what each candidates policies are and hear what their plans are for the Philippines and its role in the global community in the 21st century.
But for now, I find Binay as the best qualified among the presidential candidates.
Jose G. Araullo is the former Chairman of Real Savings Bank, former President Philippine Savings Bank, and co-founder of Punongbayan & Araullo.