How to pick a President

FIGHTING WORDS - Kay Malilong-Isberto -

My son's Facebook page tells me that there are only twenty days left before the May elections. The smiling face of the presidential candidate he is supporting is displayed on top of the countdown. Some of his classmates have the same computer application. They are supporting different candidates. None of them are old enough to vote. Most of them are just twelve years old.

This has not stopped them from campaigning for their candidates. In the past, I've seen status updates from persons below eighteen asking their Facebook contacts to vote for a particular candidate. My son made me get rid of a calendar of a rival presidential candidate which he saw on my desk. I am not a supporter of that candidate. I just needed a calendar that did not take up too much space. He also convinced his father to wear the wristband with his candidate's name and color.

Friends and classmates in their twenties have also used social networking sites to campaign for their candidates. A classmate writes passionately about her reactions to televised debates and defends her candidate from charges raised against him. Some have used pictures of the candidate they are supporting as profile pictures. Others are not content campaigning in cyberspace and are attending events to show support for their candidates. Pictures of their participation are posted in their web pages and they use the comments sections to campaign further.

Friends and colleagues in their thirties and older are more subdued in their show of support. A few have written blog posts explaining their choice. Others have sent in links to other blogs or articles to bolster their arguments for or against any candidate and to convince the undecided to pick the one they are supporting.

Recent news reports stated that the ranks of the undecided have swelled. Mudslinging among candidates was one of the reasons blamed for this. I think that the reasons are deeper. Since we started voting for a President, we have not picked one who did not later disappoint us in some way. President Ramon Magsaysay is written about glowingly but he died before his term ended. President Cory Aquino is now remembered as a saint but her administration was reviled for Kamag-anak, Inc. and Hacienda Luisita, criticism that is hurled against Senator Noynoy Aquino now. He was not even part of government during his mother's term as president.

We are afraid that after we give a candidate our vote, he will forget his promises of good governance and proceed to use his position to become richer and to ensure that he and the persons he is beholden to continue to enjoy the perks that being in power grants, never mind the laws forbidding it. President Erap Estrada is the best example of this, with a plunder conviction to prove it.

From what I remember of the story of Ibong Adarna, three princes went in search of a magical bird whose songs could heal the ailing king. Two of the princes fell asleep after hearing the magical bird's song and were defecated on by the bird, turning them into stone. The third prince met a hermit who was impressed by his kindness and pure heart and decided to help him. The hermit gave the third prince a knife and lemonsito. The third prince used the knife to wound himself and squeezed the lemonsito on his wound to keep himself awake when he heard the magical bird's song. He successfully captured the bird and was able to return to the palace and heal the king.

The May 2010 elections require us to be hermits who can see through the presidential candidates' hearts. Those who seek to preserve the status quo will pick the one who will ensure that life remains the same for them post-Gloria Arroyo. I know to whom I am giving the knife and lemonsito to. By this time, everyone should, too.

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