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Alba Iulia
Friday, February 21, 2020

What about the 100 million?

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By Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco, LL.M

The biggest spectacle in Philippine politics has begun. Filipinos are witnessing again sublime braggadocio from those aspiring for residency in Malacañang.

Some of whom have gone to the extent of fictionalizing their importance to the country. Whilst some of them will even pontificate about God’s endorsement of their bid even as they obliterate without compunction everyone who gets in their way.

So in dealing with these Presidentiables, it would be good to recall this particular 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 in this literary work can be any one of those who have declared themselves fit for the Presidency. In fact, two of our most recent Presidents have been perfect incarnations of this plunderer in Rizal’s opus. It stands to reason therefore that Filipinos should be more discerning in evaluating those aspiring for the country’s top job in 2016.

We should easily reject the same old spiels on “uplifting the masses out of poverty” or “creating a strong republic” or “paving a straight road”. We should immediately 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.

presidentiables 2016
Three personalities who have already announced their plan to run for president in the 2016 Philippine Elections are (from left) Vice-President Jejomar Binay, Secretary Mar Roxas and Senator Grace Poe.

Let us all remember that in evaluating candidates for 2016, catchphrases may rouse our politics but they project absolutely nothing about our nation’s future.

The plain fact is the electorate deserves to know from these presidential aspirants the specific public policies they intend to translate into decisive action once they assume office. Voters want to hear a narrative that actually addresses the paramount concerns of all Filipinos.

Our population now stands at a little over a 100 million. I think it is pretty clear to all of 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.

For instance, 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. And we will no longer accept slogans or sound-bytes that say absolutely nothing to remedy the fragmented and substandard state of public health care in the country.

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. Indeed, we want Presidentiables to anchor their national development plans on the empowerment of our people through education.

We need to be completely convinced that our next President has a viable action plan to utilize the 100 million economic asset our country possesses. We need a leader who will wholeheartedly commit to implement Section 17 of Article II of the Constitution which says:

“The State shall give priority to education, science and technology, arts, culture, and sports to foster patriotism and nationalism, accelerate social progress, and promote total human liberation and development.”

Therefore, this caveat for Filipino voters everywhere—a Presidentiable who fails to face up to this challenge will most likely be another “governor” in Malacañang come 2016.

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