The Long View: A question of candidates

The Long View
A question of candidates

By Manuel L. Quezon III
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:45:00 03/26/2009

A year ago I wrote in this space (“The civic imperative: a reflection,” 3/19/08) that our generation’s calling is to rebuild our lost civic culture, which goes beyond insisting on our liberties but also recognizes our obligations to each other, our local and then our national communities. This means reintroducing the concept of debates on local or national issues, not as shouting matches or oratorical fireworks displays, but to present the pros and cons on which the electorate is called upon to render a verdict.

It was also a year ago, in the same piece, that I tried to distinguish the proper areas in which the courts of public opinion and of law should reign supreme: the dividing line being life, liberty, or property hanging in the balance depending on the verdict.

This time, I’d like to focus on something else we’ve lost, and which a restored civic sense can help recover: our alienation from our leaders. Even as so many groups, insisting on their rights, thunder and shrill, the greater majority, being tugged and pulled in all sorts of directions, end up resenting the idea of rights as something relevant only to minorities but apparently never to majorities.

And so while minorities derive comfort and, who knows, even inspiration from their leaders, these same leaders end up representing fewer and fewer people – which makes matters even more frustrating to the majority who feel that these leaders do not – because they cannot – speak for them, much less lead them.

One needs to ask, who made them leaders in the first place? For elected officials, the obvious answer is, The People. Having stepped forward and volunteered their services, these officials competed against others to get the support (votes) of The People. They even get promoted over time, and, in due course, decide to present themselves to The People for the biggest job of all: President of the Philippines. But of all the people who want to become president every six years, only one will succeed.

I used to wonder why the Senate is considered the training ground for the presidency, considering that the latter is an executive position, while being a senator requires an altogether different set of skills. The traditional reason is that, aside from the president and the vice president, only a senator can claim a national mandate; therefore, for any person wanting to present himself to the people, the Senate is the equivalent of the primary system in other countries. A senator has made the cut; can prove possession of a national constituency; and therefore he possesses the proven capacity to seek and acquire a broad national mandate, without which any president lacks legitimacy, and would be doomed to fail.

But I’ve come to another conclusion, and it has to do with what senators are required to do, once they get elected to the Senate. From the start let me make an assumption: the electorate, in pondering who should be president, has a bias for people of action, and not reflection; but men of action are also judged if they are capable of self-control. The hopelessly scholarly and remote and the active but unstable have their roles to play as national sages and gadflies but will never be president.

Consider, then, the example of a senator who, obsessed with his Action Man image, brushes aside questions of parliamentary procedure because he’s too impatient to learn the rules and thinks that the rules are bothersome, anyway (a surprising attitude considering that Action Man is also a lawyer, a person whom you’d assume has a certain reverence for the rules). Such a senator obviously cares for nothing but ambition. He has taken on the job of being a legislator not out of a desire to craft laws, which can only see the light of day if their passage is accompanied by a scrupulous regard for parliamentary procedure, but merely as a stepping-stone to higher things.1

That senator might argue that he is, temperamentally, an executive, and that the reality of our politics is such that the Senate is a necessary stopping-off point to the presidency; but contrast that senator with another senator, equally executive-minded, but who sets his mind to mastering procedure and learning how to craft legislation, no matter how tedious it may all seem.

In the end, the one who brushes aside procedure will be a less effective executive, because his ignorance condemns him to being a blustering blowhard while the one who had the self-discipline – and humility – to learn the rules so as to pay his position and the voters their due will prove a match to any wily bureaucrat trying to take advantage of his boss.

However, here’s another thing to consider. You could, conceivably, become a senator without need of a party, or by hopping from one to another depending on your needs. A senator can be a political butterfly because if necessary, he can afford to be a voice in the wilderness. A president has no such luxury. Being president requires not only a national mandate, it requires a national network of political supporters; you must be able to court not just support in order to be elected, but you must hold that support for the duration of your administration.

Michael MacDonald, in “Why Race Matters in South Africa,” quotes Guillermo O’Donnell and Philippe Schmitter: “Democracy’s guiding principle is that of citizenship. This involves both the right to be treated by fellow human beings as equal with respect to the making of collective choices and the obligations of those implementing such choices to be equally accountable and accessible to all members of the polity.”

Therefore, before we even consider those who are eager to present themselves as our next president, we need to ask ourselves: Says who? It is not enough for them to say they want to be president. We need to ask: Who has endorsed their candidacy?

Manuel L. Quezon III.

29 thoughts on “The Long View: A question of candidates

  1. “Being president requires a national network of political supporters; you must be able to court not just support in order to be elected, but you must hold that support for the duration of your administration.”

    Panlilio for president, anyone?

  2. On the importance of the endorser.
    92 Sin and Cory endorsed FVR, and FVR won.Endorsement was considered by us.

    But during 98 and 2004 did endorsement matter?

    Who endorsed Erap?

    In 2004 Estrada endorsed FPJ and the rest is yet to be history.

    I have no question regarding the need for a national network of political supporters.

    Even if in reality we follow the say so of someone, even in endorsing products, di ba parang maki-uso na lang tayo ang dating.O sabi nila ok ito kaya dito ako.

    I know what you meant by endorsement is for people to think,and be guided accordingly.

    Can we really say endorsements are our guides in selecting of candidates?

  3. Echoing Karl, I think it is less important (“important” here not the same as “crucial” — because “crucial” means it has a direct bearing if a candidate would win) to consider who endorses the candidate — afterall, it’s really a sordid, commercial affair on the matter of endorsements; meaning you don’t know if one is being really endorsed, or if one is actually courting endorsements — than it is to discern the motivations of the apparent candidate.

    It is very important to ask why would a person want to run for national office? Does one has the right motivations as well as the necessary competencies to successfully handle the responsibilites the office? To a certain extent, we know the pet issues of candidate, but do we really know them personally, meaning what do they become when issues test their mettle and character — e.g. what happens when it tests their ability to be either authoritarian or libertarian, when faced with the all the trappings that goes with power?. What are their track records? Dito pa lang tsugi na si Lacson, Erap.

    The right motivations and competencies. Which I’m sorry to say the likes of Father Panlilio or SC Justice Puno are only a mirage for whom people project their desire for “moral” uprightness. I mean do we really know who Panlilio and Puno, aside from the cloak afforded by their offices (priesthood, Supreme Court) are? When morality is confined to being either “good” or “evil” (who determines which highly subjective? see why GMA was able to turn the tables on her enemies using the same discourse; why, even Merceditas G. just used the same tactic) — and not necessarily on sound ethical foundations, then our heads will be in the clouds just to escape the horrors on the ground. “Good and evil” talk always focuses on personalities and is enemy-oriented, while ethics is focused on what is right or wrong, to the issues at hand.

  4. Chief Justice Puno is truly the personification of that moral force needed to deliver the country from the present state of moral decadence.

    He has said, “We need moral stewards; they will always remind us that every moral decision has its cost so that we can now translate all these standards of morality, or our principles, into definitive actions. If not, nothing will happen to us.”

    We ask you, Sir, to lead our nation.

  5. endorsements by a political party sometimes doesn’t matter.

    fvr went away from ldp and he won.

    bf threatens to do the same if lakas will not choose him.

  6. Not much that we can do. There are the “winnables” (from surveys), and the “have potentials”, which are far behind. We know that the “winnables” have the greatest chance of winning elections as far as stats goes, though at times the unexpected also rises.

    Here are my takes on who’re behind whom in the presidentiables:

    The “Winnables:

    Chiz………….Danding (and my daughter and her gangs)
    Erap………….KG asked who endorsed Erap. I don’t know.
    Villar………..His business empire

    The “Have potentials”:

    Ping………….Some say GMA, to shave the votes
    Father Panlilio..the Church (but still playing coy)
    Puno………….Ping and TheEqualizer
    Other Oppositionists…GMA,to shave the votes farther.

    You may add your choices to the list.

    Now, basing from this, is there a clear winner already?

    Supposing we base our votes on who are the endorser/s, why should we be doing that? Are we assuming that there is no candidate capable of being his own man/woman?

    Still, if we base our votes on the kind of endorser a candidate have, which endorser do we think is better between Danding and GMA?

    Do we have much choice?

  7. I think it’s gonna be Chiz. He’s got Danding and his money and party behind him. GMA might even support him secretly in the hope her ‘inaanak’ will be kinder to her than will the others.

    The youth vote, quite a huge block, is one big factor. I suppose they will be looking for someone of their kind, seeing that the old ones have a rather old, decrepit, arthritic, corrupted, uncool, unhip, low tech, non-upgradeable ways. Parang computer ba. kahit anong gawin mo, old model na.

    Puwede ring parang eksena sa family car: “Dad, tabi ka nga at akong mag-drive. Kanina ka pa nagkakalat!”

  8. Like it or not, if GMA chooses not to run but endorses (openly or not) another candidate, that candidate will have a big advantage over everyone else.

    First of all, as Manolo has pointed out, GMA has a diehard following. By Manolo’s reckoning it’s about 20% to 25% of the electorate. In this kind of environment, where several candidates can run for President and run-off elections aren’t held, that’s a huge advantage for the incumbent. That was the winning advantage for FVR in 1992, having been endorsed by the incumbent. Although I believe that it wasn’t enough. FVR still made use of pro-administration local officials to cheat and get him over the hump.

    Secondly, GMA has the financial resources and the organization to enable a winnable candidate to make the final hurdle. All GMA has to do is to back a candidate who has a high level of acceptance. Since most Presidential candidates are presently in a dead heat, as most political pundits proclaim, it’s a matter of picking out who would be most cooperative, if not malleable.

    Thirdly, GMA may be unpopular to most, but she has the goodwill of many because she her term was significantly stable economically. The Peso was relatively stable, the stock market hasn’t been as rocky as stock markets in more developed economies, real estate, BPO, and the OFW remittances have held up. We haven’t fare as badly as Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea. By Filipino standards, that’s a fantastic accomplishment.

    These are thoughts to ponder. The present situation does put the incumbent in a pretty good position to dictate the terms in the next several months.

  9. Who has endorsed their candidacy?

    No one. Since the death of the 2 party system the presidential election has been a tupada. But I’m not endorsing a revival of that system. I’m leaning towards a primary election system held at least 1 year before a presidential election. The primary election is free for all. Even a tambay can run. Only the top 3 will be considered as presidential candidates.

  10. “Who has endorsed their candidacy?”—-Manolo

    What matters to me is the quality of the candidates, what are their qualifications, what are their capabilities? I don’t really care who endorsed them, that third party endorser is irrelevant, in fact every voter should have their own decision–even siblings.

  11. and that’s the idea of true democracy–voters decide on their own based on relevant data about the subject. the problem most of the time is we don’t discuss the issues, we don’t dissect the candidates. let’s discuss where they came from, who are their cohorts, ano ang kanilang plataforma, doable ba? may mga gulugod ba yang mga kandidato? bakit iyong iba hindi pwede? corrupt? bakit? kailan nangyari ang corruption? hindi ba sila pwedeng ma-reform? napakaraming dapat pag-usapan tungkol sa criteria para maging successful good candidate, iyon ang pag-usapan.wala akong pakialam kay cojuangco, kay gma, o sino mang pontio pilatong magdidikta kung sino ang iboto.

  12. What the Philippines needs is a man with a strategic vision and specific policy to bring this country to better conditions and wealth for the lowest citizen.

    Puno’s morality will not make our workers eat better.
    Villar’s money will not make our workers send their kids to school
    Loren’s charm will not make our workers have better roofs.

    What is the problem of this country? Poverty. More than 60% live below the poverty line, the latter a very low definition of poverty compared to other countries.

    How do we solve poverty? We do not have any specific solution from the leaders being mentioned?

    Who is working on a poverty solution? Nobody among the presidentiables.

    The problem of this country is economic. The solution should be economic.

    The economic problem is poverty. The solution is increasing the purchasing power of the people.

    The problem is lack of purchasing power. The solution is increasing the worker’s wages.

    Remember, the minimum wage in the US is US$7.00 per hour (P350/hour)and their gasoline is about P28 per liter. The min. wage in the Phil is less than P350/day for many regions, and our gasoline is P36/liter.

    We are looking for a presidentiable that can resolve this paradox, not a presidentiable that is the most charming, or the most prayerful.

  13. grd:

    not all those endorsed by inc won in the elections.

    isa pa- playsafe naman yata sila kung mamili eh. pinipili nila yung sa tingin nila eh mananalo para lumabas sa taong bayan na sila ang nagpanalo.


  14. @GerryM

    economics? e saan natin kukunin ang pera na ipandadagdag sa sweldo ng mga manggagawa natin?




    let’s just take everything as it is and let it evolve.

    my advice to those who have visions for this country: study the current system well and see how you can work with it. then when you are capable of implementing changes, do everything you can to INFLUENCE how our electorate and political system will evolve.

    the only problem is how to ensure that your vision remains intact the moment you are up there.

  15. “e saan natin kukunin ang pera na ipandadagdag sa sweldo ng mga manggagawa natin?”-Liam

    magandang tanong. ang sagot…sa mga mayayaman.

    ang nangyayari kasi dito sa atin, parami ng parami ang mga naghihirap, samantalang paka-unti ang yumayaman, pero ang mayaman na sobrang yaman ay lalong yumayaman.

    ito ang dahilan: maliit ang minimum wage, idagdag pa ang ‘contractualization’ na uma-alis sa security of tenure ng mga manggagawa. sino ba ang author ng ‘contractualization law’ na ito ng makalbo? serious na tanong, hey, anybody? sino ang author ng ‘contractualization law’, please? Manolo?

    Suggested solution: raise the minimum wage and abolish contractualization; pass a law banning the manufacture of sub-standard product, raise the standard of quality of all manufactured product so that Philippine industry can compete with the world. This will industrialized the country and boost exports. This will contain/stop the migration abroad of our technical and professional experts.

    Easier said than done. Because the politicians who will make the law…sila ang mayayaman, at sobrang yaman…at sila ang maa-apektuhan ng batas na kagaya ng pagtaas ng minimum wage. iyong iba namang politiko na hindi pa sobrang yaman ay hawak naman sa leeg ng mga mayayaman. Walang solution kung ganun.

    Therefore, what we are looking for is a president who can make a difference, who can do the impossible to happen, who has the will to make things happen, that will solve the problem.

    Bakit naman sa ibang bansa, the same company, for example Philips sa Taiwan, they can afford to give Filipino factory workers P20,000 plus monthly wages, samantalang dito sa Pinas magkano lang ang bigay ng kumpanyang ito, same company, sa mga factory workers nila, siempre ang minimum natin, na hamak na maliit.

    O, ‘di ba?

  16. The problems are much more complex than simply taxing the rich to give to the poor, or mandated increases in wages in order to bring up the standards of workers. It isn’t that simple.

    First of all, capital is very elusive. If an administration comes out openly against capital, there will be an exodus of wealth. Investments will dry up. Few, if any, new businesses will open and many existing businesses will close or simply remain static. Employment will suffer. So this is very tricky. No candidate in his right mind will openly antagonize the business sector.

    The solution would be in better enforcement of tax laws. That requires a degree of competence, political will and integrity. All of which are absent in any government we have had. It would also lie in better administration of government funds, so that bids are not rigged, waste is eliminated and savings can be incurred for more social spending. But would that be asking too much?

    Mandating wages helps only to a point. It is a known fact that compliance of wage orders in the Philippines is very low. Medium and small-scale businesses will also suffer, because they are less able to afford than large businesses.

    There’s also the reality that underemployment is an even bigger problem than employment. There are just too many Filipinos with not enough to do, and too little productive businesses that can provide them with gainful employment. So there’s a chicken-and-egg problem here, too, between growing businesses or growing employment opportunities.

    Before mandating higher wages, government has to ensure that it can implement the law and that businesses will comply. Before it can do that, it has to cleanse the bureaucracy because that is where there are complications. Cleansing the bureaucracy will take up tremendous time and effort. And, again, political will. This alone is a huge undertaking that can bog down and paralyze any administration. Will there be an administration willing to take that dilemma by the horns?

  17. first thing first, let us make sure that all the votes will be
    counted correctly and that the rightful candidate will get all his counted as his. how can we be sure that the winner is the person voted by the people? this is where reforming the COMELEC and civic vigilance is very important.

    if fixing COMELEC is not viable this coming 2010 presidential election then we only have “us”, the voters, to depend on to make sure that whoever the winner is, is truly who we voted for. it our responsibility, moral obligation and civic duty. we should take this seriously and with pride.

    as long we leave it to same people in the COMELEC to count our votes then i think nothing much will come out of it. sad to say this, but only during erap’s presidential election that the true winner of the election won. fvr cheated and so did gma.

  18. where to get the money to raise wages? simple eliminate corruption by electing honest and decent persons to our government. imagine the money we can have if we can eliminate at least half the corruption in the government? and i think there is nothing wrong with our nation’s laws, it is just that they are not applied and imposed properly, “selective justice”. more injustice than justice results “justi-is”.

    lagi na lang sabi ng mga lider natin na kunting “tiis” muna dahil darating din ang pahahon na giginhawa ang buhay ng masang pilipino. pero hanggang ngayon ganun pa rin. ang mga mayayaman lang lalong yumayaman at mahihirap ay naghihirap pa rin.

    so it all comes back to having to make sure we have a fair, clean and honest election, void of “massive cheating” and dagdag bawas scheme. we sould make election cheating a capital crime and punishable by life imprisonment with no pardon or no clemency.

  19. Raising wages and giving incentives to labor are not moves against capital/business. Proof: progressive industrialized countries.

    True, in a new environment, many businesses who insist to stick to the old ways will die.

    But, with a new kind of governance that know how to make things happen can change the landscape conducive to the emergence and thriving of new business system replacing the old.

    Give business a clean environment and a good chance of making profit and, like grass in fertile soil, will thrive and prosper anywhere in the world…even in the Philippines.

  20. Manolo,

    Is it so much to ask, if you happen to know, who is/are the authors of the contractualization law? Please lang.

  21. “Who has endorsed their candidacy?”

    We all learned from Political Science that in democracies, politics is all about compromise. While appearing to voters as a man of principle, a leader must be able to bring home the bacon, if not the pork, by building coalitions and finding acceptable compromises. This in order to pass the budget, get priority legislative measures (by only a simple majority), etc.

    As it is the art of compromise, politics will always be in a collision course with morality. I dunno, but is there a successful politician with the right moral behavior?

    Is Among Ed willing, able, and ready to compromise to be a successful and effective president. Maybe the reason why he is being asked to leave the priesthood.

  22. Incentives to increase productivity are fine. But increasing wages alone doesn’t solve the problem, especially in the Philippines, where there is a huge surplus of labor and not enough businesses providing employment.

    Mandating higher wages will punish those who faithfully comply. At the same time, it will not make much of a difference to those who don’t comply with wage laws. And those who don’t comply are in the majority. They also happen to be small and medium enterprises. They will only be forced into the underground economy.

    Besides, government is presently helpless in ensuring compliance. It doesn’t have the resources, the organization, nor the political will to ensure compliance. It only engages in “ningas cogon” methods of investigating firms, which usually ends up with some money changing hands and investigations suspended.

    Anyhow, surveillance won’t be attacking the root of the problem. The problem is that we don’t have enough businesses to provide employment for everybody. How do we provide an environment where businesses can thrive and provide full employment? Unless we solve that problem, there will always be an imbalance between demand and supply of labor, with supply far outstripping demand. In such a situation, employers always have the upper hand. It’s a “buyer’s market”, so to speak, wherein the buyer (employer) can set the terms while the seller (prospective employee) doesn’t have much choice but to accept the terms set by the buyer. The seller knows that if he doesn’t accept the buyer’s terms, the buyer can always find others willing to sell at his terms.

  23. great column, great writing. thanks, mlq3, for creating such a fine read. by the way, a leader need not have all the talents in the world. he could go average on those. but for him/her to be able to inspire a people, now that’s something.

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