COMMENTARY: Wanted: A Non-Plundering Vice President

MELBOURNE, Australia (MindaNews / 24 March) – The sad fact is Filipinos have not been properly invested in choosing a good Vice President (VP).

Joseph Estrada, the VP of President Fidel V. Ramos, is a convicted plunderer, pardoned only by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the VP who succeeded him after his unceremonious and abrupt departure from Malacaňang.

True to script, Mrs. Arroyo was also indicted of plunder after her term as president ended and is currently detained while her trial carries on. And no longer a surprise, the current VP and probably the most feared candidate in this year’s presidential race, Jejomar Binay, is battling plunder accusations left and right. And if it were up to the Ombudsman, he may be on his way to the detention center as well.

This VP can be our strike three. But we should not allow this to happen. We must instead do everything we can to end this cycle of plunder. It is thus imperative for voters see this year’s Vice-Presidential contest in an acutely different light.

Let us set aside the conventional view that the VP is a mere “spare tire”. Because the holder of this post does not necessarily have to be a lame duck official or a lackey of the administration whilst in office.

On the contrary, the VP can be a stalwart in government. She can champion reform advocacies in the Cabinet with the power of persuasion which no other official in the executive branch can ever have.

It is just so unfortunate that none of our most recent VPs have lived up to this potential. Seems the desire to plunder the national coffers always gets in the way.

After a particularly divisive electoral exercise, forging national cohesion is one crucial task the right VP can take up. Believe or not, there is currently no state mechanism in place which can actually nurture solidarity amongst Filipinos. And I think we will all agree that attaining our collective dream of living the good life depends highly on reversing this untenable status quo.

Whilst we do not want to suppress the native loyalties still apparent among the psyches of Ilokanos, Kapangpangans, Ilonggos, Cebuanaos and so forth. It must still be emphasized that the recognition of our indigeneity should never equate to our fragmentation along ethnic lines. National unity and regional diversity are not mutually exclusive realities.

Obviously, all Filipinos are equally responsible over matters affecting the nation as a whole. Moreover, the development of the nation boils down to the degree of cooperation we are each willing to invest for the common good. The challenge therefore for the government is to establish a framework that will allow Filipinos to connect and coordinate with each other to work on national goals.

If this critical task is assigned to the next VP, then she can oversee the delivery of the following mandates: 1) creating a coherent and comprehensive transportation network and 2) making the internet speed in the Philippines the fastest and cheapest in the world.

I am aware that all presidential candidates have vowed to invest in the construction of roads and train lines. I also know there are currently a host of infrastructure projects lined up for this purpose. But the fact remains none of these activities are to be undertaken within the context of an integrated nationwide transportation framework.

As far as elevating our internet speed to the highest tier possible, this is an absolute must. Being an island nation, utilizing facilities and applications available in the web is the cheapest and surest means of communication. Besides, to have such a distinction for the country is only fitting given our top place in the BPO industry. Not to mention, it will also keep the multitude of our compatriots working in various parts of the world connected to home.

Obviously, the scenario envisioned here is the existence of infrastructure that eliminates distance and cost as hindrances to the further integration of the population. Indeed, an environment which enables, and even encourages, deeper and more sustained engagement between Filipinos.

Clearly, the task contemplated here for the next VP plays a significant role in national development. It stands to reason therefore, in addition to being picky with a candidate’s competence, the electorate has to be exacting with character as well.

We are now in the second half of the campaign period and our choices for the next VP have been narrowed down to three.

The two male candidates are extremely well-liked senators because of their populist views. After all, both lawmakers famously share a penchant for pandering to the gallery. Which explains the lack of significant reform legislations in their respective portfolio. Like many of their colleagues in Congress, they basically fit the bill of a traditional dynastic politico.

More critically however, both VP aspirants are notoriously unapologetic beneficiaries of Martial Law. Given that one of the biggest criminal acts of plunder occurred during this darkest period of our national life, their unrepentant outlook should be a grave cause of concern for all of us.

Whereas the only female candidate in the race is a true stand-out. Her background in grassroots community work completely distinguishes from the pack. She is widely known as a legal professional with a social conscience.

And most importantly, her track record in Congress reveals that she is staunch supporter of local autonomy and a proven advocate of good governance. Two leadership qualities we desperately need for our government officials to have.

Electing the VP candidate who will not have plunder in mind in the six years should be easy.

(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.)