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There they are, the candidates

There they are, the candidates. Old faces, new faces, all trying to sell themselves as would-be servants of the people. From presidency to local offices ranges their aspiration. What a lucky country! So many want to serve, so many hands on the ship of state. How could this ship falter?

But it has faltered. From Independence day to the present the ship has not had a steady course. The sea is getting rougher, the storms stronger. How could we reach the promised shore? We need a team of dedicated mariners, and a captain who has no albatross of greed weighing down his chest, one who has the heart that bleeds for the poor.

For the poor are growing in number. They are there in the slums in the cities, in the forsaken backwoods in rural places and in coastal diaspora they are there, their kids romping around unclothed and unshod, the wolf of hunger chasing. Who will redeem them from decades of suffering? Who is the knight in shining armor who will chase away the blackbirds in their hovels?

Alas, there have been many who promised them heaven. They believed but their promise faded with the wind. Season after season they come and season after season the poor take their words as truth but the latter have grown poorer and poorer. Why the cycle of delusion? Why the perpetual betrayal? What magic spell has closed their eyes and hardened their hearts?

Years ago they chose a strong man to lead them. But the strong man spent his strength snuffing out dissent and building a castle for himself. Later they blundered in thinking a celebrated actor could save them. But his vices proved more celebrated than his sense of service, so they drove him out. Then a woman promised good governance and hopes were high for a turn around. But the years brought in disclosures of big time malfeasances and mistrust sets in. Now another season of choosing has come.

New ambition has driven dozens of people to declare themselves fit to lead. Who are they, really, and what makes them different? One is a businessman whose rag-to-riches tale inspires. He has had a stint in the legislature where he made his mark. But an indiscretion on an infra project has cast doubts to his integrity. Another is the son of a former president the country adored for bringing back the rule of law to the land. But this fellow has a shallow track record as a legislative man, perhaps choosing to keep himself safe from adverse commentaries. Always in smiles, he seems to be a good guy, too good in fact to wield a stick and give commands. Like his mother, honesty seems to be his banner, but to lead a people more than honesty is needed.

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Still another is an administration man, scion of a billionaire and relative of a former president. He has a shining credential as an intellectual and has been seen as a can-do man. But his association with an unpopular president is the lodestone that weighs down his chances.

Then there’s a “recycled” presidentiable who wants to go back to the Pasig office. Behind him are supposed to be the masa whose downtrodden state, he says, has touched him to the core. But would the voters forget his fatal indiscretion and go his way? More important: Is it legal for a former president to run for president?

After these four aspirants there are dozens of others, including an incumbent senator whose running partner is an MMDA man. Another senator, a neophyte, is also interested in becoming president. But she, like her colleague, is seen as only a peripheral contender for want of a strong machinery. It would not be surprising if later both will call it quits.

For in Philippine political contests a strong machinery is indispensable. A candidate may have an edge over his rivals in terms of qualification, track record, and reputation. But without a well-oiled organization penetrating all sectors his chances of getting the mandate is nil. The implication certainly is that one must have a surfeit of “logistics”. Without this one might as well forget his obsession and plant “camote” as they say it. That’s why in this country only a multi-millionaire or a billionaire gets the mandate to lead. Unfortunately, once he gets so mandated, he forgets the poor huddled in the smelly hold of the ship of state. His hands would be full trying to bring comfort to better-off passengers. He would be busy too with his own affairs, including how to keep ambitions guys from seizing control of the ship and how to skirmish with the waves and storms.

In the meantime, the poor are forgotten.

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