Election “activists” are now calling for Filipinos to vote for candidates who are “honest”, “competent”, and “experienced”. Specifically most of these calls come from supporters of Liberal Party presidential candidate Mar Roxas — the “anointed” successor to current Philippine President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III. Calling for those virtues and then dropping Roxas’s name is a quaint trick to implant that association in Filipino voters’ pea-sized brains who will then go off to conclude that:
Mar Roxas = Honest + Competent + Experienced
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The irony is lost in those associated with this camp considering that the whole idea that a country of 100 million could be run by a president who is anything but was actually started by the very matriarch of this mob.
Back in 1985, the late Corazon “Cory” Aquino, who happens to be the mother of current President BS Aquino, was chosen to run in the “snap election” organised by then President Ferdinand Marcos. The notion of a widow — who lacked experience in politics, whose competence was unproven, and whose honesty was assumed on the basis of nothing else other than her being an Aquino — running against a bar top-notching veteran politician with more than 20 years experience governing a country was embraced by a desperate people.
The thing with desperation is that it likely results in rash decisions that prove to be sub-optimal in the long run — like the way ageing bachelors and bachelorettes throw themselves onto the next available soul who throws a wink at them.
This is exactly what happened to the Philippines. President Cory Aquino set a fatal precedent in Philippine politics that continues to reverberate today. She and the emo perpetually tear-jerking rhetoric that blanketed the country during her term and in its wake and the cheesy ballads and appeals to never-ending victimhood that composed it ruled Philippine political discourse for decades. It culminated in the ascent to power of her son who, at the time of his forced candidacy, was just as inexperienced, incompetent, and reluctant as his mother. And it was the same desperation that propelled him to power — basta “honest”, never mind kung tanga was the philosophy guiding the vote at the time.
Well, lookee now, now BS Aquino’s “successor” presents himself as “honest, competent, and experienced” to an electorate conditioned for decades by his own party to vote stupid and inexperienced. How’s that for irony?
Like all ironies lost in the Filipino, this one will likely remain lost in an electorate famous for doing the same thing over and over again while expecting “different” results. On a campaign “platform” as trite and unoriginal as “honesty, competence, and experience” runs the “good” candidate touted as the one who will carry on BS Aquino’s Daang Matuwid (“straight path”) governance dogma. Is this something Filipinos will lap up with glee all over again?
It gets worse, actually. Roxas is languishing in third behind candidates that, by most measures, fare even worse in terms of measuring up to those ideals. Vice President Jejomar Binay, perhaps (albeit arguably) meeting the experience and competence standards is widely perceived to be a fail when it comes to the “honesty” bit. The other, Grace Poe, is a no-brainer. Poe, a newbie Senator, is an automatic fail in the “experience” and “competence” departments — which leaves the “honesty” bit. Is Poe “honest”? The baffling debate over the question of her Philippine citizenship brings even that to question. The fact that this “debate” had dragged on this long all but indicates that there is a lot to be said about that as well.
Stepping back from all that detail, the real point to be made here is that no true leaders have stepped up to invest in a credible bid for the presidency. Filipinos have been reduced to having to choose from this sad lot. Perhaps these elections are a significant milestone marking the point where the truly competent have given up on a society that has accrued an extensive track record of rewarding mediocrity mightily. And we have to thank the Aquinos and their Yellow horde for deeply-embedding that culture in the Philippines.
Do Filipinos deserve better than Roxas, Binay, and Poe? The fact that these three represent the top winnables today proves that this crop is all Filipinos deserve. The better question would have been: Do Filipinos have an opportunity to choose the best and brightest to be their leader? The answer to that is easy. Yes they do. But, tragically, they elect not to exercise that option.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.