MELBOURNE, Australia (MindaNews/21 Dec) — It is almost guaranteed that 2015 will be a colorful year. One year removed from the biggest spectacle in Philippine politics, we are bound to witness a lot of braggadocio from those aspiring for residency in Malacañang. Certainly not beyond these folks to fictionalize their importance to the country. Some of them will even pontificate about God’s endorsement of their bid even as they tear each other down like ravenous dogs. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us, the electorate, to filter through the dirty noise. It would be good then, to remind ourselves of a passage from one of our national hero’s works, The Indolence of the Filipino—
“The good curate,” he says with reference to the rosy picture a friar had given him of the Philippines, “had not told me about the governor, the foremost official of the district, who was too much taken up with the ideal of getting rich to have time to tyrannize over his docile subjects; the governor, charged with ruling the country and collecting the various taxes in the government’s name, devoted himself almost wholly to trade; in his hands the high and noble functions he performs are nothing more than instruments of gain. He monopolizes all the business and instead of developing on his part the love of work, instead of stimulating the too natural indolence of the natives, he with abuse of his powers thinks only of destroying all competition that may trouble him or attempt to participate in his profits. It matters little to him that the country is impoverished, without cultivation, without commerce, without, industry, just so the governor is quickly enriched!”
The “governor” described above can be any one of those who have declared themselves fit for the Presidency. Precisely why Filipinos should be discerning in evaluating those aspiring for the country’s top job in 2016. We should reject the same old spiels on “uplifting the masses out of poverty” or “creating a strong republic” or “paving a straight road”. We should rebuff the rehashed story of being poor once or of being one with the poor. We should definitely spurn “soapbox pronouncements” that are only inspired by the news of the day and filled with spin and stop-gap measures. These are all catchphrases that may rouse our politics but they project absolutely nothing about our nation’s future. Voters deserve to know from these presidential aspirants the specific public policies they intend to translate into decisive action once they assume office. We want to hear a narrative that actually addresses the paramount concerns of all Filipinos.
For instance, our population now stands at a 100 million. Given the pressing global environmental concerns, food scarcity is a very distinct and frightening possibility. Therefore, we must insist that presidential candidates present a comprehensive food security plan. Food production and climate change is a curious mix. We expect our top leader to know what needs to be done to find the balance.
Another fundamental concern with such a massive population is to decrease the number of the uneducated and the unhealthy. Hence, we want a firm commitment to establish a genuine comprehensive national public health management framework. But we want to hear the specifics beforehand. Again, we will no longer accept slogans or sound-bytes. And as far as improving our education system is concerned, promises of more classrooms and textbooks will not be enough. We want to hear a specific policy to uplift the quality of educators. We want to hear concrete ways to increase their pay and definite steps to enhance their training.
Interestingly, while still on the topic of our massive population, recent economic reports indicate that the country is now a huge consumer market. And if forecasts about our economy are to be believed, market growth will still be on the upward trend. Accordingly, we want entrepreneurship in the country to expand but we also want the conduct of business to be socially responsible. Hence, we want to hear rational proposals from Presidentiables on creating a genuine and modern consumer protection framework without any of those burdensome regulations. We expect industries to be established that will make us competitive in the global economy. But we will never stand for exploitation of any form.
Finally, it has also been reported that remittances from overseas workers is the key component of our growing economy. Past Presidents have hailed these fellow Filipinos as modern-day heroes. The most responsible act any government could do for this group is to make sure they can stay easily connected with their families back home. And yet our government does not seem to be bothered at all that our country has one of the slowest internet speeds in the world. It is disappointing as well that our airports continue to be appalling given that our economy is reliant on people who rely on this infrastructure. Hence, we also want to know of actual plans on putting our internet connectivity and all our airports at a world-class level. Both of these demands are imperative as matter of recognition to the contributions of overseas workers. But they can also be a big boost to tourism and domestic trade.
Our politicians are truly an entertaining lot. But it is clear to us now that being good at speaking carabao English or being cute like Nora Aunor does not cut it anymore. And as we have recently learned, having a pedigree of honesty and nothing else, is simply not enough. We need to know that our next President has a viable action plan to implement for his term in office. Particularly regarding the socio-economic cornerstones mentioned above. Therefore, this caveat for all voters—a Presidentiable who fails to unveil one next year will most likely be another “governor” in Malacañang come 2016.
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Atty. Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco is a practicing lawyer. He is the author of the book, Rethinking the Bangsamoro Perspective. He researches on current issues in state-building, decentralization and constitutionalism)