RAISING THE BAR: HOW DO WE CHOOSE OUR NEXT PRESIDENT?
Admit it. We all have our own standards in life, not because we just want to, but because we believe that we deserve such kind of quality control. Afterall, we want the same thing - an improved quality of life not just for ourselves but for our fellow countrymen as well; and what would be a better situation to impose these standards than in choosing the next leaders of our country? If you are still wondering, here's why we should set the bar and how to raise it...
“A boxer, a porn star and a dictator’s son: it’s election time Philippines-style.” This is the title of Philip Sherwell’s article that recently made rounds on the internet. It’s no surprise that this caught public attention because the circuslike, laughable, and sorry state of Philippine politics is even more highlighted during elections.
The Philippines is known for having an intriguing pool of candidates, many are weeded out as nuisance, but some remain as legitimate contenders. Expectedly, the aspiring candidates for the top post in the government did not disappoint.
As of writing, there are 97 people who are running for the presidency in the coming 2022 national elections. COMELEC has yet to announce who the nuisance candidates are. Among the hopefuls are a well-known diet guru with a large number of followers on Facebook, a former celebrity, and a boxer-turned-politician.
Certainly, in the next elections, there is a need to re-assess our standards in voting. The way we elect government officials appear to have been taken over by patronage politics, political dynasties, and popularity contests. The level of education of voters and economic realities we are in make elections vulnerable to those who aim to hack it – votes are easily bought, voters are misled through the media and the internet, and the entire election process is disrespected. It is as if the choice no longer belongs to the electorate, rather, it is manipulated by those in power. Now, more than ever, we need to ensure that our voices are truly heard by refusing to be exploited and raising our standards in making our choices as to who will lead our country.
Qualifications to run for President
Article VII, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution provides that no person may be elected as President unless he possesses the following qualifications:
- Natural born citizen of the Philippines
- Registered voter
- Able to read and write
- At least 40 years of age on the day of election
- Resident of the Philippines for at least 10 years immediately preceding the election
These bare minimum requirements were put in place to give equal opportunity to every natural-born Filipino to run for office. An anti-elitist requirement that took into consideration those who are less fortunate so that “those who have less in life should have more in law.” This gave the opportunity for promising persons with humble backgrounds to aspire for the presidency. Conversely, it also allowed those who have no sincere intention to serve the public to vie for power.
This being the case, many lawmakers have attempted to expand these requirements. In fact, the late Miriam Defensor Santiago, a constitutional expert, even proposed that a college degree should be enshrined in the Constitution for elected officials.
This is not a bad idea considering the tendency of Filipino voters to choose candidates based on fame or status. While a good educational background does not necessarily guarantee a candidate’s fitness for the presidency, it is interesting that the requirements for running are even less demanding than what the corporate world or service industry requires of its potential hires.
But come to think of it, we do not actually settle for the sub-par. Filipinos have the highest expectations of our Ms. Universe pageant representative. We claim that our national athletes will bag a gold medal despite not having enough resources. And the “Marites” in us, ascribe the highest standards of righteousness and morality to celebrities. So, in reality, we can actually impose high standards if we choose to.
To better appreciate the qualifications set by the Constitution, we must see it for what it is – the bare minimum. But we should not stop there. So, while the law requires the minimum, we should look inside and ask ourselves what qualities should we look for in a president?
A good track record
“Success breeds success” anyone who aims to lead the country should have the credentials to win our votes. But while past performances will not guarantee their future success, it is certainly far better than voting for someone who doesn’t have a proven track record.
A strong vision for the country’s future
Anyone who aspires to lead the Philippines should have a clear vision for the country’s future. It is not enough that our leaders can solve our current problems. He must also have the foresight to propel our country to greater heights.
Has political knowledge and skill
Having strong political knowledge and skill for a president is a no-brainer—it is perhaps the most crucial quality a president should possess. And in a country where its policies are being questioned left and right, it is paramount that our next chief executive is able to assess what his constituents need.
Listens to the marginalized
One of the fatal flaws in democracy is that the voice of the minority is always drowned by those of the majority, leaving the problems of the marginalized unsolved. A great leader, however, listens not only to the deafening voice of the majority but also to the few, whose voices are not loud enough to be heard.
An efficient organizer
As head of the state and leader of the executive branch of the government, it is imperative that the next president must be competent in managing the different government offices. If there is anything that the current global situation has made evident, it is the need for efficient and inclusive government service. After all, the performance of a single executive department reflects on the kind of leadership that the president has.
These standards define a certain level of achievement and proficiency that we must consider in choosing our candidates so that they can provide what we deserve – a better country; an improved state of living. Thus, if we want to create social impact, we must perform our civic duties and it starts with you voting for our country’s next leaders wisely.
Cover art by Angelica Flores Juan