The race for the highest position in the land just got tougher with popular surnames Poe, Binay and Aquino all winning Senate seats and all said to be vying for a push to the Presidency in 2016.
Yes, the election is just a popularity contest particularly in the Philippines where most voters don’t even ask their candidates for a platform; it’ll be interesting to see which brand name is more popular with the masses in three years time. Mind you, their performance in the Senate won’t even matter to those who voted for them. Of course it doesn’t hurt when one’s family is well-connected with the media just like how the Aquinos are said to be too chummy with media giants ABS-CBN and the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Elections in the Philippines promote that fiesta atmosphere most Filipinos enjoy and it should now be obvious to those who prefer to be serious about tackling the issues plaguing the country that progress will not be seen as long as Filipino voters keep electing the same people or those coming from the same bloodline. No amount of “prayers” can help Filipinos in this situation, indeed.
While it’s more fun and easy for majority of the voters to simply choose from a line up of candidates with familiar names, it’s not fun when Filipinos have to deal with the fall-out from the incompetence of the candidates once they are in office. This is especially true when the international community is involved.
Take the case of Philippine President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino. Almost everyone acknowledges the fact that before he was pushed into the Presidency, he was an underachieving and lackluster senator. However, because of his popular name, he was installed in the highest office in the land in the hope that he could learn the ropes as an on-the-job trainee (OJT). Some of the candidates for the senatorial post who won like Nancy Binay are hoping to learn as they go as well.
Binay intends to enroll in a crash course for new legislators at the University of the Philippines before starting her post. It goes to show that some people in the Philippines are lucky enough to get a lawyer’s job even if they didn’t go to law school. Some might consider her move in enrolling now as commendable, but the truth is there are grave consequences for being in a position you are not qualified to hold. Our country is bound to have issues that would involve high-level talks with foreign dignitaries in which only an experienced public servant with excellent diplomatic skills can handle.
Just recently, the Philippines has found itself between a rock and a hard place once again with our neighbor, Taiwan. The death of a Taiwanese fisherman in the hands of Philippine Coast Guards is turning the lukewarm relations between the Philippines and Taiwanese government into an icy one. In fact, if the Philippine government doesn’t succeed in appeasing an angry Taiwanese government, the situation can escalate into something worse for Filipinos. Taipei has already mobilized sanctions against the Philippines by suspending the processing of work visas for Filipinos.
Just when Philippine President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino thought he could sit back and relax after his grueling schedule campaigning for Team PNoy for months leading to the recently-concluded mid-term elections, in comes another problem he doesn’t seem confident enough to resolve. The Philippine President needs this problem like a hole in the head. Most people would rather he didn’t have this kind of problem at all because he doesn’t really come across as a natural diplomat. Even his late mother former President Cory Aquino admitted this to former United States ambassador according to leaked information from Wikileaks.
I had second thoughts about criticizing BS Aquino’s lack of urgency in addressing this dilemma with Taiwan. Of course I want to be behind the Philippine President when our national security and thousands of Filipino people’s livelihood is involved. Unfortunately, he makes it hard for his critics to support him. I decided that if what Taiwan wants is genuine apology for the death of one of their citizens, maybe we have to accept that to some degree, the death of the Taiwanese fisherman could have been avoided had the Philippine Coast Guards practiced some restraint.
It goes without saying that it wasn’t the Philippine President’s fault why the Taiwanese fisherman was gunned down. BS Aquino wasn’t even there. I believe an investigation is underway to find out how it actually happened. Unfortunately, his position requires him to have command responsibility and this includes giving a satisfactory response to the questions of foreign governments. The Taiwanese government wants actions and they wanted it last week. They claim that the Philippine government’s apology was insincere and demands more answers from the Philippines or else they will continue to issue more sanctions, which could even include deportation of Filipino workers from Taiwan. Where will they find work then?
For those who are not aware, there are two issues BS Aquino needed to resolve before even approaching Taiwanese government. First, since the Philippines adhere to a one-China policy meaning, in theory, the Philippines does not recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state; BS Aquino has to find a way to appease Taiwan without angering China. The President needs to consider things very carefully like he’s walking on eggshells lest he offends China. Second, he needs to find someone competent enough to talk to the Taiwanese officials, one who will not come across as insincere. Sadly, he already failed in the last one, which is why Taiwan issued their sanctions.
It is unfortunate as well that the promise of a “thorough” investigation of the incident already rings hollow to the Taiwanese government due to our tattered reputation as a result of the Mendoza hostage crisis which resulted in the deaths of eight Hong Kong tourists in 2010. If only those who were found inept in their duties then were fired from their posts or at least suspended, we would not have come across as lacking in sympathy to the international community. Since some of those accountable for the incident are “buddies” of BS Aquino, they didn’t even get a slap on the wrist.
I would like to appeal to the Taiwanese people and their government to practice restraint as well. Our trainee government may not have meant to offend you. It could just be a result of learning as they go. The Filipino people certainly do not want any quarrel with you. I hope that the 80,000 Filipino workers in Taiwan will note get the brunt of your anger towards our government. A news item already reported “an overseas Filipino worker in Taiwan has been physically attacked amid rising tension over the fatal shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman in disputed waters last week”. Harming an innocent civilian is unacceptable and unjustifiable. It doesn’t make your society any better.
A lot of Filipinos sympathize with the death of the Taiwanese citizen. A lot of competent Filipinos with more sincerity could have handled our diplomatic relationship better than our OJT President. The same Filipinos wish that a more competent head of state will be voted in to the Presidency one day to avoid jeopardizing our relationship with the international community especially our Southeast Asian neighbors who share our borders and who were kind enough to provide jobs for our compatriots. Some of us are hoping that the Filipino voters can learn from the mistake of voting in incompetent public servants in office one day soon because there are grave consequences in doing so.
[Photo courtesy BeaumontEnterprise.com.]
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