Tremendous burdens on the next president

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez - The Freeman

In proclaiming the winner, we need to look back to the predecessors. The next leader, as head of state and head of government, will face a devastated economy with a ?13-billion debt, a country under constant threats of a Chinese or Russian attack, with people who are divided, all demoralized, and in frantic search for an inspiring and unifying leader. Let us look at the records of the last 16.

The first president was a 28-year-old general, landowner, and ilustrado. He is Emilio Aguinaldo from Kawit, Cavite. He was not elected by direct voting but by the Tejeros Convention of less than 500 delegates coming only from Luzon. Visayas and Mindanao were not represented. Bonifacio was allegedly cheated by the first "Hello Garci” anomaly. When he complained, he was arrested, tried by a kangaroo court and summarily executed in the mountains of Ternate. The second was Manuel Luis Quezon, a 37-year-old lawyer and fiery orator from Baler who worked for our independence. He was followed by Jose P. Laurel, a 52-year-old Batangas lawyer who was forced upon us by the Japanese invaders.

The fourth was the 66-year-old Don Sergio Osmeña from Cebu, brilliant but not aggressive enough. He was beaten by his close friend who bolted their party, the Nacionalista Party, and founded the Liberal Party, Manuel A. Roxas, a 54-year-old Bar topnotcher from Capiz, our fifth president. He died after only two years in office. His vice president and partymate, Elpidio Qurino, a 58-year-old lawyer from Ilocos Sur, became our sixth president. Quirino appointed a famous guerrilla leader, Ramon Magsaysay from Zambales as his national defense secretary. Magsaysay became very popular and he was pirated by the Nacionalista Party to challenge his boss. The 46-year-old mechanic who married the daughter of his employer, became our seventh president in 1953.

When Magsaysay died in a controversial plane crash, his partymate and vice president, Carlos P. Garcia, a 61-year-old lawyer from Bohol, became our eighth president in 1957 and won a term of his own later. When Garcia ran for reelection in 1961, he was beaten by the vice president, Diosdado Macapagal, a 51-year-old Bar topnotcher from Pampanga. He had only one term. Ferdinand Marcos, a 48-year-old Ilocano who was then Senate president became the tenth president in 1965. He was reelected in 1969 in an election marred by massive terrorism, vote-buying, and all kinds of shenanigans. In 1972 before his second term expired, he declared martial law, and ruled as a dictator, which caused the massive devastation of the economy and violations of human rights. He was ousted by the EDSA Revolt in 1986, after 21 years of dictatorship.

The first female president was the eleventh, a 53-year-old widow who never had any experience in government. She was besieged with seven coup d'etats but survived and was followed by the twelfth president, the 64-year-old General Fidel V. Ramos. Then Joseph Estrada, a 61-year-old playboy, actor, and long-time mayor of San Juan became our thirteenth president. He was also ousted and replaced by the vice president, GMA, the 54-year-old daughter of the ninth president. GMA was our fourteenth president. And the fifteenth president was the 50-year-old bachelor son of the eleventh president. The sixteenth president is the incumbent. He promised to end drugs, corruption and contractualization. None of his promises were fulfilled. The nation is now in shambles and we are looking for a healer.

The seventeenth president has a very grave responsibility to the country and to the people. Challenges involving the Philippine economy, national security, public health and public education systems, crime, corruption, poverty, and disaster preparedness. It takes a superman to be on top of all these challenges. Most of all, the nation is wounded, the people are fragmented. There is too much anger, resentment, and hatred. The last elections left too much to be desired. Our democracy is in grave and imminent danger. Only God can heal our country and bring back hope to the Filipinos.


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