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QUESTION THE BOX

A partnership planting the seeds of hope

These last six years should have opened our eyes to the dangers of electing a president and vice president with contrasting platforms and goals.

We had a boorish chief executive backed by overzealous supporters, and a vice president who delivered even when she had few friends in the government. We could have had a president who accepted his limits and allowed the vice president to take over programs for which she had both the courage and expertise. Instead, we got a Six-Year Ego Party.

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Electing a president-vice president tandem should be strategic. We cannot simply put two candidates together because “they look nice,” or “they speak in the same loud voice,” or “they’re both women.” These labels are mental shortcuts to the actual work that has to go into making the choice. We need to scrutinize their promises so that we know how to hold the candidates to account.

Take, for example, the Leni Robredo-Kiko Pangilinan pairing. On the surface, their platforms seem mismatched: Leni speaks about transparency in governance and strengthening infrastructure so that it can support those at the margins; Kiko talks about increasing food security and boosting agriculture.

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Closer inspection and reflection, however, show that these platforms are part of a cohesive program that has to do with gradual, deliberate change.

We begin with the problem of corruption. One aspect of it is greed; but there, too, is the enabling infrastructure that allows government officials to amass disgustingly large amounts of wealth. An opaque, bureaucracy-burdened government tempts people to seek easier ways for their affairs to be resolved, hence the use of bribes to expedite processes, the recruitment of relatives to speed up discussions, the giving of favors to get one’s way.

In recent years, however, we’ve seen the Office of the Vice President (OVP) pass auditing and quality assurance checks, with minimal funding, maximum output, and full transparency, all while trolls try to wear the VP down. The OVP is proof of concept: A government doesn’t need more funding or better internet to be effective. It has to follow its own procedures, make these procedures more efficient when necessary, open itself to criticism, get the job done, and serve the people.

The OVP went to the root of the problem of corruption: the secrecy, the lies, the ability to remain sinless until one gets caught. Leni’s advocacies reassure us that we need not settle for inefficient, opaque governance for the sake of merely having a government.

We now turn to Kiko. We would go hungry without our farmers and fisherfolk, and yet they are treated with the least respect in a society that seems to delight only in new roads and bridges. Kiko brings agriculture back to the center: he speaks for those who were ignored when the government chose to wage a drug war and build shiny things over deeply rooted problems. Kiko’s advocacies tell us that we must take nothing for granted: Our farmers and fisherfolk have always been poor, but they should not remain poor all because the powers-that-be choose to keep them at the margins.

Contrast Kiko with, say, Sara Duterte, whose advocacies include changing the system of government and imposing mandatory military service. These are paraded as solutions to a supposed lack of unity. If the country were a field, these so-called fast actions would be equal to burning healthy crops along with the weeds.

The Leni-Kiko tandem, on the other hand, is about studying the soil, sowing the right seeds, helping plants grow. Look at the first fruits of this movement: Young people are reading about history while working for their future—unlike many of their elders who choose to be nostalgic about an authoritarian past while being blind to its truths.

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The Leni-Kiko tandem, therefore, is not only about helping the marginalized. It is about re-examining and fighting the realities that we assumed would never change. They are proof that farmers can win back their lands, that we are in control of our seas, that we can have an honest government that works if we are willing to do our part—if we are willing to hope.

On May 9, may we vote for a tandem whose consistency is deeply embedded in its ideals. May we vote not for the government we are tired of, but for the country that we can still become.

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