Our vote affects the lives of others | Inquirer Opinion

Our vote affects the lives of others

/ 05:05 AM December 12, 2021

“Kung sino …. ang natitipuhan mo … sige lang iboto mo. Pero wag na wag mong sasabihin na bobo, tanga, mamang (sic) ang mga taong hindi naniniwala sa pinaniniwalaan mo … Hindi dapat basehan ang estado mo sa buhay o paniniwala mo para mang hamak ng taong di naniniwala sa pinaniniwalaan mo… RESPETO TAWAG DOON.” (If you choose … vote for him/her. But never call stupid, ignorant or dumb the people who do not share your belief… Your station in life or your belief does not give you the right to mock people who do not share your belief… THIS IS RESPECT.)

This message is making the rounds on social media. It appears innocuous, an appeal for civility. A closer look, however, reveals flawed logic in it. First, it discourages discourse; second, it raises the bogeyman of rich versus the poor, and that any attempt to convince a person to think differently is a form of disrespect for that person and his or social status.

Perhaps this is tolerable in a situation where one’s decision does not affect the others. I may not like your hairstyle, but that is your preference and I respect that.


In an election, however, one’s vote affects the lives of everyone. The more fitting representation is one of passengers in the process of selecting the most capable ship captain. We are all passengers in this ship for the next six years; thus, we need to talk. The election campaign is the mechanism provided for this purpose.


The choice for the next president is crucial at this stage of the country’s life. Aside from overseeing a humongous bureaucracy, there are multiple national crises that need urgent attention. Many ideas have been put forward on how to vet the presidential aspirants. These ideas can be classified under four categories: character, compassion, competence, and experience.

Character. Good character is equated with honesty and fairness. Is the presidential aspirant forthright in his/her dealings? Is his/her name tainted with unexplained wealth, graft, or corruption?

One prominent politician, now a vice presidential candidate, was quoted: “Walang isang kandidato diyan na hindi nagsisinungaling, kaya hindi dapat nagiging issue ang honesty ngayon” (Every candidate lies, so honesty should not be made an issue). If this is the standard that we hold our public officials to, how can we trust our leaders?

Compassion. Compassion literally means “to suffer together.” COVID-19 brought about so much suffering and poverty. We need a compassionate and healing president.All candidates declare themselves as pro-poor during the election campaign. How do we separate the wheat from the chaff? The best guide is by examining their past record. What has he/she done for the poor? Past actions predict future behavior.

Competence. Can the candidate handle the most difficult job in the country? The president will govern 81 provinces, 146 cities, 21 departments, and 20 commissions and agencies, in all consisting of over 1.7 million personnel. In addition, the elected president faces daunting challenges: solving COVID-19, the recovery of the economy, China and the West Philippine Sea, and the education or “learning poverty” crisis, which could be the most serious. Nine out of 10 Filipino students cannot read at age 10, according to a World Bank report.

The late comedy king Dolphy summed it up with this classic statement: “It is easy to win an election. But after winning, what?”


Experience. We live in a VUCA world. That’s an acronym for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity—a concept used to guide planning and policy responses in an evolving environment where some factors are unknown or even “unknowable.” Errors in judgment could have disastrous consequences. We need the steady hand of an experienced leader.

Yes, we need to respect each other’s opinions. But let us have an open, honest, and factual debate about the candidates we choose to support, or reject for that matter. As Bishop Pablo Virgilio David advised: Do not be afraid to say “I am sorry, I don’t agree with you” — but say it respectfully.

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Tomas C. Vargas is a retired business executive and entrepreneur.

TAGS: Commentary, Tomas C. Vargas, Voting

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