We are about to enter the ludicrous circus that is Philippine politics—not that America’s seems much better at the moment. But for our delectation and amusement here come the circus, clowns and all.
What I would like to see is (1) that we have four candidates to choose from. In regard to Grace Poe, I would like the Supreme Court justices to read the well-conceived columns of that highly respected former Chief Justice Art Panganiban that demonstrate the compassion and humanity that Pope Francis calls for. I ask them to reflect very, very carefully on the decisions they reach. Decisions that could decide the future of this country. And consider the spirit of the Constitution, over technical interpretation.
The same, too, for Rodrigo Duterte. It is abundantly clear to anyone, except for some benighted individuals (what do they see as their mission in life, I wonder) that Martin Diño intended to run for president. The form says so, it says as its heading CERTIFICATE OF CANDIDACY FOR PRESIDENT. Nothing could be clearer than that.
The first sentence says “I hereby announce my candidacy for the position of MAYOR, city/municipality of Pasay City, in the May 09, 2016 National and Local Elections… ”
But why is this sentence needed at all when the heading tells you what the form is for? Anyway it’s a minor technicality that should be just brushed aside with the intent being clear.
I hope the SC justices give us the choice. Then I’d like to see (2) debates. Many debates. Not just one or two, but debates in all major cities of the country, with mandatory attendance of all four. Five, if you include Miriam Santiago. But the lady seems too frail to me for the rigors of the campaign trail. Debates where strict rules apply and the compere is tough and strict—no interruption, sticking to time limits, and answering questions directly. And the questions should be a closely guarded secret so there can be no preparation (and candidates inspected for hidden earpieces). With 30 percent of the time for questions from the audience, which must be brief. For both the candidates and the audience the compere should have a microphone cut-off switch—and use it. No Filipino politeness here. I’d be happy to do it, I’d stand for no nonsense.
The debates should be required to be shown on all TV channels—at prime time. Cut off the soap operas for once. Let’s accept that people are intelligent. Let’s give them every opportunity to know the capabilities of the candidates so they are knowledgeably informed and so that they can decide with wisdom.
I’d also like to see (3) a similar thing done for those running for the Senate, but we might be swamped and the logistics would be challenging. The real solution here—an absolutely impossible dream—is that those running solely on their popularity and public awareness just quietly withdraw for the sake of the nation. We need well-experienced, knowledgeable people cognizant of the issues that affect a society. Not simpletons who warm a seat. Show some patriotism, step down. Allow those with the capability to be chosen. And, some won’t like this, I put Manny Pacquiao at the top of that list. Manny is a superb boxer, one of the world’s all-time best, but he is not a legislator. He has no experience relevant to the task. He attended only seven of 70 congress sessions in 2014, didn’t even warm the seat. He should stick to the other very worthwhile things he is doing. Manny, set the example, withdraw.
Next I’d like to see (4) strict adherence to Comelec rules—by everyone. Liberal Party members are not exempt. Already there are oversized posters in non-approved locations. On the flimsy excuse that it’s not yet the campaign period. Well, starting Feb. 9 it will be.
Those posters must come down. And spending must be carefully monitored. Namfrel has done a great job in the past, I urge more to join it. It’s time the public, not the politicians, took charge.
And here’s another (impossible?) one: (5) let’s stop uncovering dirt. I think we’ve heard enough, had enough of all the mischief of the candidates. Let’s concentrate on evaluating the potential for performance of each of them. This is where the media can play a positive role—just refuse to publish dirt. Unless it’s a fully proven fact, just ignore it, particularly if it comes from a political source. Restriction of the right to free speech? I don’t think so, just wise discernment of what matters.
Then there’s (6) I have a list of the issues that will determine the future of the country that I would like the “presidentiables” (what a great word) to state their position on. Unfortunately this column doesn’t have the space to list them. But let me mention just one because it could result in the greatest change to how the Philippines moves ahead. And that’s the Constitution. It is in need of change, it was a reactionary Constitution that was not considered with the thoughtfulness a constitution requires. Removing the restrictions on foreign participation in the economy is a no-brainer—for everyone except President Aquino—it needs liberalization. On the political side, discussion is needed on what is the best form of government to suit the Philippines, not just be a US copycat. Unitary or federal? Presidential or parliamentary? And what form of those. A constitutional commission should be formed immediately to go into depth and bring to a vote of the people in the 2019 midterm elections.
In the meantime, time for a glass of champagne to celebrate the start of what promises to be a really exciting year.
Happy New Year.
Finally as the year ends we say farewell to Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc, a truly wondrous woman. We will miss you.
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