STRAWS IN THE WIND - Eladio Dioko - The Freeman

As the country is poised to choose a new president two aspirants have already publicly declared their candidacy, while a third is about to announce her decision to join the electoral fray. To gauge their chances, surveys have been conducted and numbers determined. Who's ahead and whose the tail-ender? It's common knowledge now to most observers. But the question is how did the survey respondents make their choice?

A number of factors must have influenced their option of who is who among the presidentiables. And it's a good guess that these were the salient factors; groups affiliation, track record, celebrity status, and personal traits. There are other determinants, of course, but these four, to my mind, are the most dynamic and operative in Philippine setting, at least. Clearly, these are person-oriented factors. Where's competence and educational attainment? Hardly. Where's conviction and championing of issues? None.

Issues--yes. These ought to be major factors in one's choice of a president. But in the context of Philippine elections issues seldom matter. Which is unfortunate. Issues deal with socio-economic and political concerns and therefore are very critical elements insofar as deciding who should be the leader. Issues imply change and change brings about progress.

Take a look at the current issues that cry out for a leader's advocacy. First and foremost is the issue of an over-centralized government resulting from a highly empowered executive office. True, the Constitution mandates the existence of three co-equal branches-Executive, Legislative, Judicial. But since the executive office holds the purse and runs the government it can bully the other offices if it doesn't get what it wants.

What happened in the impeachment of former Chief Justice Renato Corona is proof of this. When Malacañang nose-led the congressmen into railroading the impeachment resolution, followed by massively bribing the senators to get a conviction, was this not a blatant disregard of a democratic system of justice?

The national government under the present system acts as a magnet to all the financial resources generated in all the local units in the country. The latter get their share, of course, but  this is a pittance compared to what the national authorities get. That's why there are multi-billion infrastructure projects in the capital city or nearby while the provinces and cities outside Manila are bereft of major development initiatives.

Where are the state-of-the art airports in such urban centers as Cebu City, Davao City, Cagayan de Oro, and others? Where are the multi-lane highways or modern seaports to attract foreign vessels? In Cebu the Mactan airport needs another runway while a third bridge connecting Mactan island to Cebu City is urgently needed. Will the national government shell out money for these projects?

The answer is "no." But if local government can be empowered through the adoption of a federal set-up, these projects can surely be made a reality.

Advocating a new system of governance is only one of the challenging issues presidential hopefuls ought to champion. Another issue is massive poverty. Survey shows that one out of three families is subsisting at poverty level.

Lack of employment is the main reason. Jobs, jobs, and more jobs are the crying need of most Filipinos. But how can these be created if not by attracting more investors to pump more money into the economy? How can our FDI (foreign direct investment) be radically enhanced? The figure shows we are the lowest in Asia. Why? The reasons are staring us in the face but our leaders don't have sufficient political will to do something.

These and other issues ought to have been articulated by now by the three aspirants to the presidency. But have they? No, never. One talks of daang matuwid, which is not an issue but a manner of governance. Another talks of sincerity and dedication, which are nothing but personal traits. But the third is quiet and non-committal except to parry accusations of alleged malpractices.

 What's the stand of these presidentiables to the two issues we mentioned? It would be interesting to hear about it.















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