With so many overcrowding the 2010 presidential race, it may not be so easy to avoid a no-holds-barred campaign. Negative campaigning could rule the day as all gloves come off and the parties expose and exploit each other’s dark secrets. Is that good or bad? Bad perhaps for those who have a lot to hide, but probably good for us who need to know more about our candidates.
If we can but agree that government is not entertainment, that an election is not a beauty contest, and that more than popularity and charm are needed to run a government, then we should welcome knowing more about the hidden lives of our candidates.
Until now, all we know is their media image. Unverified and unverifiable surveys and uninhibited hype have tried to perpetuate these images in lieu of the truth about the candidates. Do we really know what kind of human beings they are? Are they morally and intellectually fit for the office they seek?
We do not seem to care. It seems enough for us to be able to say that Manny Villar used to be poor, that Noynoy Aquino is the son of Ninoy and Cory Aquino, that Gibo Teodoro is the candidate of President Arroyo, that Erap Estrada counts on the masa, that Mar Roxas is married to Korina, that Edu Manzano is a game show host, that Loren Legarda has great billboards, that Jojo Binay runs Makati, and that their fate depends on the surveys.
But if we really want to be part of the electoral process, we need to know, at the very least, the candidates’ moral character and professional competence. This is a conditio sine qua non for our responsible and intelligent participation in the process.
First, character. This is the first building block of leadership. It defines a person’s personality, his or her relationship with others, his or her private and public life. If he or she has no control over his or her carnal appetites, that person is likely to have no control over his or her appetite for power or material wealth. If a person thinks nothing about his or her marriage vows, that person is not likely to think any better of his or her oath of office. If a person is a serial adulterer or one of loose moral character, he or she is not likely to be the soul of honesty, purity or justice in public office or anywhere else.
It is imperative, therefore, that the candidates’ personal lives be known to all, beginning with their state of health, mental and physical. In that respect, we could perhaps adopt the admirable practice in the United States, where despite the society’s moral permissiveness, no one may seek high office whose public record is tainted with even just one known adultery, past or present.
Of course in Europe, some streetwalkers and transvestites have been raised to parliament, and some divorced politicians have landed in the highest places. But these are polyamorous and neo-pagan socities whose norms are different from ours. Our experience with a president with multiple households has not been good for the country, the government or even the president himself. We cannot have another such president, or even a vice-president of the same moral mold.
After character, comes competence. The most morally upright individual will not do, if incompetent. In fact, no morally upright individual will want to take on any position for which he or she is not qualified. That would be rank dishonesty, corruption and injustice. Not unlike putting a blind man on the bridge of a ship to steer it to safety through a storm in the high seas.
We have had that very same experience at least a couple of times now. We cannot, we shouldn’t, wish for more. The cat that burns its butt on a hot stove learns never to lie down again on the same stove even after it has gotten cold. We would be less than cats if we do not learn from past experience.
Several years ago, somebody asked Dolphy, our greatest living comedian, to run for president. His reply was quick: “Ayoko, baka manalo ako.” (“I don’t want, I might win.”) Unfortunately we only have one Dolphy; the other celebrities are not nearly half half as bright. It is now up to us to deal with them.
At all levels, we are plagued with a diseased understanding of politics.
1) Loren Legarda strangely announced her vice-presidential candidacy before she could find a presidential candidate. This normally is not done. After Manny Villar finally took her into the NP, the first thing her NPC partymates said was that they were supporting her but not Villar. They are simply not part of the deal. The guy who picked up a hitch hiker on the road may or may not have a smooth drive from here on.
2) Former Sen. Ralph Recto, who had been Arroyo’s Socio-Economic Planning Secretary after his unsuccessful Senate run in 2007, resigned his Cabinet post without any known policy conflict with Malacanang. Then he walked into the Liberal Party which welcomed him as a senatorial candidate.
The issue here is honor, not party loyalty, which no longer exists. In any administration, a Cabinet member shares the responsibility for the success or failure of the policies of the administration. If the Arroyo administration has failed Recto was partly responsible for that failure. Inside a casino no one could go to the cashier to claim any winnings after losing his game. But that’s exactly what happened here. Recto seems luckier than everybody else, including the LP, whose loss is now Ralph’s gain.
This, however, is not an isolated case. Some administration senators are seeking reelection not as administration candidates but as “guest candidates” of parties in the opposition. Only in the Philippines.