EDITORIAL - Earning respect

The Philippine Star

Some people are not amused that a record high 130 people have filed certificates of candidacy for the 2016 presidential race, with the majority looking like they need psychiatric help.

Many of the candidates are mouthing the same campaign statements and promises. With their humble backgrounds, the spiels may not just be mere motherhood statements. Many have first-hand knowledge of what ordinary Filipinos want: meaningful jobs, decent housing, quality education, better roads and mass transportation.

Still, too many of the 130 are embarrassing examples of the unique brand of Philippine democracy. The world must be wondering about the weakness of a system that allows that kind of circus to prevail, with the situation seeming to get worse with each electoral exercise. The Commission on Elections will have to expend time, effort and public funds in the process of weeding out nuisance candidates from the list of presidential aspirants. Why not regulate their entry at the outset, by requiring a reasonable amount of filing bond, for example, that is forfeited in case the candidate is declared a nuisance?

This circus can also be minimized if the country had a strong party system in place. But political parties after the Marcos dictatorship have been nothing but vehicles for launching presidential ambitions and accommodating major campaign donors and political butterflies. Knowing that parties stand only for temporary political alliances of convenience rather than positions on issues and policies, Filipino voters pick a president and vice president from rival parties. Who can blame those unknown presidential aspirants for believing that they don’t need political parties for their campaign?

And who can blame them for believing that anyone even without experience or sufficient education can seek elective office? Who’s to say that they’re worse than the many people who have won public office purely on the strength of their surnames or the endorsement of a religious group?

And at least the candidates headed for nuisance status are nothing like the murderers, jueteng lords, smugglers, wife beaters and plunderers who have been elected to public office.

People lament that the circus at the Comelec shows disrespect for high public office. But respect is earned, not imposed. If Filipinos have lost respect for the presidency, and for public office in general, it is because they have seen too many government officials unworthy of respect, and see public office as a joke.


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