Why does selecting a Philippine president have to be so hard?

Who were our best President’s who never were. At the top of my list is Juan Ponce Enrile (JPE). To my mind, he is the only Filipino qualified to head all three branches of government. Next is former Ambassador Eduardo Cojuangco Jr (ECJ) for his business acumen and genuine devotion to agriculture. No one else comes after these two. I’ve written about men with gravitas in a past article and these two definitely are men with gravitas. Duterte is a man with gravitas which is why he became President. The bisaya bugoy-bugoy probably had his parents turning in their graves on May 9, 2016. Does current vice president Leni Robredo have gravitas? Former Senator Antonio Trillanes? Senator Grace Poe? Manila Mayor Isko Moreno? Manny “Pac-Man” Pacquiao? Senator Ping Lacson? Probably Lacson if given the opportunity but I question his becoming a fugitive when an arrest warrant was issued against him during the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) administration. When you compare him to JPE who was arrested after the 1989 coup attempt and Danding, who came back from his US exile even if he didn’t have a passport, Ping pales in comparison.

The elephant in the room is Davao City Mayor Inday Sara “Daughterte” Duterte. Does Inday have gravitas? Probably. The Presidential daughter largely minds her own business but is politically-savvy. Witness how she engineered the coup against then Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. Even the President had no idea it was going to happen or, even if he did, he couldn’t stop it. She exhibited her political mettle again in the term-sharing issue between Lord Allan Velasco and Alan Peter Cayetano. Result? She had her way again. This time it had Presidential sanction. Cayetano backed down after the President threatened to send troops in. Where is Cayetano now? Kangkungan. Frankly, if we want better leaders we should adopt or put in place a culture of excellence and do away with that of mediocrity. Government officials don’t act with a modicum of a sense of urgency because they are too complacent. What we have now are politicians who subscribe to the maxim of fake-it-until-you-make-it. Social media condones and promotes this. The proof is Isko. In less than three years he has become a Presidential contender all because of social media. While he has taken up certificate courses abroad, Isko hardly has the same kind of gravitas as JPE does and ECJ did.

Singapore should be our model in the development of leaders. Not only are they qualified in terms of academics but they are also given rigorous on-the-job training in government in both the executive and legislative roles. We should also do away with our flair for the dramatic. Narratives are easily spun. This is also part and parcel of the fake-it-until-you-make-it maxim. It cannot be form over substance because the latter always trumps the former. The danger is already there. We are on the verge of running out of the next generation of leaders if you go by what we have in Congress and the Senate at present. This is why constitutional amendments are urgently needed.

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In his PhilSTAR piece today “Choosing a president”, Andrew Masigan writes…

At the heart of the problem is our flawed system for vetting a president. Unlike other democracies whose presidential candidates are selected through a series of caucuses and primary elections within political parties, presidential candidates in the Philippines are selected by the party seniors based on their winnability. Little regard is given to their capability or platform. Exacerbating matters is that the leaders who influence our votes – our senators, congressmen and local government officials – support candidates not based on qualifications but based on who best serves their political interest. We end up with presidents who are the best in political horseplay, but not necessarily the best as leaders.

The present political structure promotes mediocrity. Singapore has been able to maintain its growth track because of consistency of policies. Enabling laws are filed and passed because Cabinet ministers are also members of parliament resulting in less bottlenecks. It is high-time that the 1987 Constitution is amended or junked en toto because it is the albatross around our collective necks which continues to drag the country down. If we want to move forward at this crucial point where we are in the midst of a pandemic, now is a good time to take radical action to contend with the disruption.

3 Replies to “Why does selecting a Philippine president have to be so hard?”

  1. If it will be granted that the best and the brightest get to choose amongst themselves, it will be easy… there will be a First among equals.

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