COMMENTARY: Wanted: A President of All Filipinos

MELBOURNE (MindaNews/12 March) — The Presidential election is not a contest for the weak. There can only be one winner here.

Therefore, it is only reasonable to see competitors in this race literally, and in most cases also financially, go all out. Not even surprising to watch them employ every legal trick in the book to gain whatever possible advantage over the others.

On the other hand, given the high stature of the public post they are all gunning for, it is also justified to expect aspirants to actually demonstrate the level of statesmanship befitting the Office of the President.

Sadly, this is not the case with the current crop of Presidentiables. All of the five have revelled in the divisiveness of the electoral process with their appetite for projecting an “us versus them” narrative in their respective campaigns.

More accurately, all of them have chosen to display the “I-am-correct-and-you-are-wrong” paradigm when presenting their case to voters. Thus, personal attacks on one another is not unusual.

Self-aggrandizing and over-selling one’s suitability for the office has been the norm. Take the idea of “daang matuwid” for instance. Truth be told, only a candidate with moral ascendancy can rightfully use this notion as a core campaign thrust. Six years ago President Noynoy Aquino was simply fortunate to have the ghost of his deeply beloved mother behind him.

Obviously, Mar Roxas is not as lucky. Hence, “daang matuwid” in this election is plain and simple trapo rhetoric. Same as the over-the-moon promises constantly coming out of the mouths of the other candidates with their penchant to pander to the howls and cries of the gallery.

Additionally, the five Presidentiables are not even shy about engaging in emotional blackmail. Often using the plight of the marginalized, which can be whoever is clicking at the moment in the consciousness of the public, to idealize their image. Case in point here would be Grace Poe and foundlings.

Over-all, the 2016 presidential campaign has been a shameful political spectacle. Sadly, this is just par for the course. Our standards upon which we judge the behaviour of presidential candidates are indeed low. And I highly doubt this can be radically changed anytime soon.

Nonetheless, I still believe the current five can salvage a little bit of honor as the campaign period approaches the midway point. They still have a chance to show the electorate that even though they are relentless and passionate in campaigning for the top job, they can still stay true to the oath of the office. And that is to consecrate oneself to the service of the Nation and not just to followers, friends and family.

Henceforth, they should only commit to measures that actually connect Filipinos. First proposition that comes to mind is the creation of a coherent and comprehensive transportation network.

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.

Note that the ultimate goal here is for Pinoys in Batanes to be able to travel to Tawi-tawi, and vice-versa, at an affordable cost, with relative ease, and in comfort. Indeed, for every Pinoy, wherever he may be, to be able to go wherever he may wish without unnecessary hassle nor suffer an adverse impact on the family budget.

Furthermore, a commitment to have the fastest internet speed in the Philippines is an absolute must. This is an audacious goal but certainly not an impossible one. Besides, to have this distinction for the country is only fitting given our top place in the BPO industry as well as the multitude of our compatriots working in various parts of the world.

Finally, I think all Filipinos will agree on the urgent need of institutionalizing national cohesion in the Philippines. Propositions which can meet this objective is still worth pursuing as the electorate anticipates the second presidential debate in Cebu. For instance, an independent economic and planning agency, as particularly commanded by Section 9 of Article XII of the Constitution, which represents the depth and breadth of Filipino diversity.

The governing body of the current National Economic and Development Authority could be re-organized to be comprised of provincial representatives appointed by the governor for a fixed term. However, for this office to effectively function as the national congregation of the various communities in the country, it should not be a mere advisory council. It should be designed to have legitimate policy-making functions as well.

It must be emphasized however, that the purpose of establishing such an institution is to ensure that important national policies are formulated through a deliberative process whereby the views and insights of the regions are duly considered.

Furthermore, such an office could also encourage cooperation and collaboration among local governments. And thus fulfil the aspiration of Section 2 of the Local Government Code to make “self-reliant communities” as “more effective partners in the attainment of national goals.” Under this set up, coherent and comprehensive development planning for the country can finally be achieved.

To conclude, the recent media polls suggest that the next occupant of Malacaňang will be a minority president. Nevertheless, this eventuality should not preclude the installation of a national leader who can truly fulfil the office for all Filipinos.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Micael Henry Ll. Yusingco is a practicing lawyer and a legislative consultant. He conducts research on current issues in state-building, decentralization and constitutionalism.)