This is an argument I was hoping not to hear anymore after the last presidential election in 2010, which Benigno Simeon (BS) Aquino III won with 40% of the vote. Unfortunately, Senator Grace Poe – who is as yet rather coy about saying outright that she is running for the presidency in the 2016 presidential elections – resurrected it. If you haven’t noticed, she is referring to herself as the “sincerity”, whereas she is referring to Vice-president Jejomar Binay as the “competence”.
If you’re smart enough, then it should be obvious to you that sincerity and competence are not mutually exclusive, which means that they can occur at the same time. Why can’t we have BOTH sincerity and competence at the same time in our government officials? Something as obvious as that simply flies over the Filipinos’ heads.
The problem is that Filipinos are, for lack of a better word, collectively stupid and simplistic. Their line of thinking (if you can even call it that) always winds up reducing complex issues to false dichotomies.
Night and day.
Darkness and light.
Good and evil.
There always has to be a villain, and there always has to be an “underdog” whom the masses can relate to. And this underdog usually winds up overcoming his/her struggles and wins. This is a device that TV shows and telenovelas in the Philippines have exploited, recycled, and bled dry. Yet it continues to work effectively on the simpleton populace, and it was used to great effect by the Aquino supporters to propel him into the highest government post in the land.
Why does it persist?
We are a culture that glorifies dumb and puts it on a pedestal, and we elect it to government posts too!
Competence, intelligence, skills, and smarts are words that have always had a dirty connotation to common Filipinos. No surprise there, because Filipinos are anti-intellectual. To them, anyone who has any of those will use his skills to take advantage of others. If there’s something that Filipinos will never allow, it’s others they deem as inferiors or equals to have an advantage over them. This obviously shows an utter lack of imagination, and a stunted ability to think that is both lazy and blinded.
“No one must stick out.”
“Dapat pantay-pantay tayo lahat (We must all be equal, even if it means we are all equally ignorant or stupid.”
Filipinos will cite examples – no thanks to media who reinforce the word association – such as Marcos, Arroyo, and now Binay, to make their case of competence being evil. However, what Filipinos will never admit that if these guys put one over them, it is because they allowed them to. And now they cry foul and victim for overlooking their own naivety and stupidity.
I must point out that it is ironic that Filipinos see competence as something to be feared, or hated, yet they are absolute suckers for credentials. It is also ironic that Filipinos don’t like being taken advantage of yet are very submissive and deferential to their government officials.
Let’s now talk about “sincerity”.
Quite simply, it can be “faked”. Smile your biggest one, or dance your ass off on the stage, and the people will get giddy and kilig. Pretend to listen to the public’s grievances, and they’ll appreciate it. Take the daily commute with them once, so that they feel that you commiserate with their hardships, and you’ve got them talking about you. Make promises you don’t plan to keep, and watch them go “ooh” and “ahh”. Give them freebies, such as rosaries or sacks of rice, and be surprised how people’s “loyalty” can be bought. Pander to the nebulous notion called “the people’s will”, and you’ve got it made. Keep on churning out the motherhood statements and the public’s attention is on you. Present yourself as “the least evil” of the lot, and you’re most likely going to be the most popular.
And that, in the eyes of the Filipino, is sincerity.
Sincerity is very subjective. Competence can be backed up with numbers, track records and the like. You know, evidence, which Filipinos abuse when it supports the conclusion they want, and utterly reject when it refutes or disagrees with their claim.
Can competence be faked? To a certain extent, yes, and only if people allow it. Unless Filipinos ask the hard, intelligent questions, and demand actual platforms, visions, strategies, and roadmaps for their future, then for sure they will get hoodwinked most of the time.
Buy emotionally. That’s it; there’s no second part to that sentence for Filipinos. There hasn’t been any room so far for evidence-based and logic-based evaluation in the political “debate” that has been ensuing. Looks like there won’t be, for the longest time, all because it’s much, much easier to focus the debate on personalities and events, rather than on principles and ideas.
Rather than step up to the challenge of matching and meeting their politicians’ perceived “competent corruption” head on, they would rather retreat to the comforting notion that competence, skills, and intelligence are bad. They would rather cry foul, play the victim card, and go for a perceived “sincere” politician who will take advantage of their naivety just the same. All because they allowed such.
What’s the common denominator? The Filipinos’ inability to think critically and to question their authority figures intelligently.
I dare say that whoever wins in 2016, the Philippines will surely lose again, all because of a false dichotomy, an either-or proposition that they didn’t have to live with.
- Things of the past - November 30, 2018
- The difference between Duterte’s words and the Opposition’s - October 31, 2018
- Why are Filipinos reluctant to call wrongdoing out? - September 30, 2018
- Going around in circles - August 31, 2018
- Resurgence, relevance, and regard for the future, all in the SONA - July 31, 2018