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Opinion

Beam of hope every three years

Ariel Nepomuceno - The Philippine Star

Whether Bongbong Marcos will be disqualified or not is the most exciting and controversial topic this week. Naysayers and legal luminaries offer opposing views and predictions. However, we must comprehend the incoming elections in a much larger context.

Less than four months from now, we shall elect our new national and local leaders. We will again exercise our constitutional right and power to make our choices on whom to trust the overall direction of our country, especially during this challenging period in our history where we are still struggling in the middle of a pandemic and traversing with the ongoing contest for global dominance between the United States, our traditional ally, and its rival superpower, our neighbor China.

We are all anxious, and deeply hopeful, with the regular casting of ballots every three years. During this moment of empowerment, the nation believes that with this exercise goes the fate of our individual and common welfare. We mistakenly assume that this political ritual is the panacea for all our problems, a magical solution that shall release us from decades of economic and political backwardness.

If we were to see our government through the lens of business, we can accurately rate that our national and local managers are not performing well. For one, we are behind the competition. The Philippines still belongs to the poor countries in the world with the diminutive title of being the “sick man of Asia.” And second, if we will be using all acceptable objective measurements such as per capita income, standard of living, savings ratio and level of industrialization, Phils Inc is not a stellar performer.

Elections, in the context of the business world, is a process of selecting the managers that will pursue the short- and long-term objectives of the corporate republic. Therefore, are the regular elections able to churn out the best and most capable political and economic managers amongst those who offer themselves to lead? Let’s not be embroiled in the more esoteric political theories. Simply use results as the best barometer if the process is correct. We can argue for days but the numbers are staring at us, we are not competitive and our ranking is dismal. Clearly, our elections are not able to provide us the needed quality of management that could resolve the poverty of at least 22 million Filipinos, unpreparedness for the onslaught of yearly natural calamities, inadequate infrastructure, deteriorating health services, poor educational preparations, to say the least.

Popularity over competence

Our electoral system favors popularity over capabilities to deliver the mandate of office that provides the framework for national growth and development. We will not abhor popularity per se. But to have this as the decisive factor in winning elections would deprive us of the chance to enjoy leaders with integrity and competence.

Ours is a system that would put in power many candidates for the Senate and Lower House of Congress who would finish their terms without any significant contribution to the legislative tools that would help resolve our myriads of recurrent problems.

No committed platforms

There’s no mechanism that compels the victorious candidates to deliver their program of governance. We make our choices based on personalities and not political affiliations nor official platforms. Obviously, we cannot oblige the winning candidates nor their political parties because the dynamics of our elections doesn’t make anyone accountable to their electoral promises. The blurred lines that differentiate one political party from the other prove that platforms have almost become irrelevant. We could hear bits and pieces of pseudo-programs and agenda. But if such were not seriously pursued, the candidates concerned, or their political parties, will not be penalized by the electorate in the next election.

Butterflies and turncoats

The perennial exodus towards the political party of the winning president immediately commences when the top CEO of the country takes the oath of office for the highest executive position in our government. This ease of transferring affiliations and abandoning parties contributes to the aggravation of our inability to compel winning candidates to deliver the promise, if there’s any, of their own political parties. The people will be left empty handed when the reckoning time to deliver their campaign commitments arrives.

Patronage politics

The people themselves are essentially part of the problem. Many of our voters don’t fully understand the role of Congress, which is to primarily craft relevant and effective laws that would pave the way for progress and the perpetual protection of our basic rights. It’s common knowledge that voters eventually demand financial and material support from their congressmen, local executives and senators. The duty to make the best laws possible is not on top of the expected deliverables.

This unfortunate confusion on the constitutional roles of Congress and the executive officials also helps in the vicious cycle of corrupt sourcing of funds that will be channeled to the communities with the twisted notion of public service. The pork barrel, camouflaged in different forms, are embedded in our annual national budget. This must be absolutely ended.

False hopes

If our elections can be the vehicle for the solutions to our economic and political degradation and decline, then we must be very progressive already and way ahead of our neighbors because we do this ritual every three years. How come we are not a rich nation despite our abundant human and natural resources? We are far from being a country where everyone can enjoy the benefits of a vibrant democracy.

Until we immediately institute the most basic electoral reforms, we will always fail in selecting the best and most capable leaders. Remember the cliché, doing anything twice and expecting a different result is foolish. We’ve been doing our elections not only twice.

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Ariel Nepomuceno is a businessman with companies in agriculture, energy and logistics.

BONGBONG MARCOS

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