One of the questions I playfully—but with a serious thought—ask to my future lawyer friends is: why do the Constitution only requires for “presidentiables,” or any electoral position wannabes, for that matter, the mere ability to read and write, aside from being a natural born Filipino and at legal age? Yet supermarkets require at least a college degree for a salesman position. Does this mean that better (in terms of education and preparation) people are in the private sector, rather than running the government?
Of course, this is out of jest, a tasteless conversation even, if you must. And surely the constitution only wants everyone to have a fair chance in vying any electoral post in the land (we wish!). But really, the framers of the constitution must have something in mind other than giving everyone a head start for presidency. And for the 2016 national elections, this issue of being “inexperienced” has become an even stronger debate after surveys and pledges of support flows for first-termer Senator Grace Poe and her vie for the presidency. Critics call her a too-ambitious neophyte, and advised her to gain more experience through another senatorial term before considering the presidency.
Again, if the Constitution requires for a candidate to merely able to read and write, who can accuse the likes of Poe as inexperienced? The people backing her up are no joke—the two richest and most powerful Mannys in the land-Manny Pangilinan and Manny Villar.
To be able to quantify and compare the inexperienced to the experienced, why not let historical facts give us clear picture of how the neophytes and the experts differ?
Disclaimer, though: I am not a pro-Poe. Like most of us, I’m still seeking and learning. But I fully understand that my vote for this election will dictate the turnaround of this nation, especially with vital issues such as the surfacing of the country’s rich gas deposits, the brewing conflict at the West Philippine Sea, and the ongoing exposures on government corruption.
The Late Dictator Ferdinand Marcos
Noteworthy: Almost everyone agreed that Marcos was an experienced genius. Reading his profile at Wikipedia, he is indeed a legend! He is too good to be true, excelling at almost all field he participated. True enough, the Philippines was Asia’s tiger economy during his regime, second only to Japan. Great infrastructure that still stand up to this day were constructed during his time (I will give you the task to research that individually—I have limited space here).
Career Ending: Noted dictator, accused of severe human rights violations, accused of stealing millions of dollars of cash, gold and other pricey government assets, installed cronies that still stand to this day, died but his remains remain unrested because many refused him the honor to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
The Late First Female President Cory Aquino
Noteworthy: Neophyte. Withstood several coup attempts. Mother of Philippine democracy, inspired other nations to stand against their government and fight also for their democracy. Promulgated the 1987 constitution and several strong political reforms. Advocate of human and civil rights.
Career Ending: She died an inspiration. Millions mourned her death, and which sympathy outpours made possible the untimely presidency of son Benigno Aquino III.
Former AFP Chief Fidel V. Ramos
Noteworthy: Experienced especially in the field of military, tactics and intelligence. Under him, the country experienced a period of political stability and rapid economic growth and expansion. Secured major peace agreements with Muslim, military and communist rebels which renewed investor confidence in the Philippine economy. Aggressively pushed for the deregulation of the nation’s major industries and the privatization of bad government assets. During his time, the Philippines was dubbed as Asia’s Next Economic Tiger (source: wikipedia.com).
Career Ending: He is the last president to “graduate” honorably. Currently he remains active in social and civic activities. His ideas and opinions remain respected and sought for to this day.
The Box-Office Action Star Joseph “Erap” Estrada
Noteworthy: His films inspired many. I’m sorry—that’s all I’ve got here. Well, I rather mention that he served and is still serving a rather long political career starting from being San Juan Mayor since 1969, if only to make this paragraph longer.
Career Ending: Quoting from Wikipedia, by the end of Estrada’s administration, debt reached P 2.1 trillion in 1999. Domestic debt amounted to P 986.7 billion while foreign debt stood at US$52.2 billion. The fiscal deficit had reportedly doubled to more than P 100 billion from a low of P 49 billion in 1998. Despite such setbacks, the GDP by 1999 posted a 3.2 percent growth rate, up from a low of −0.5 percent in 1998. Moreover, domestic investments started to increase from 18.8% of GDP in 1999 to 21.2% of GDP in 2000.
Also, he is the first President to grace what has become a tradition of serving at jail for plunder.
The Intellectual Economist, former First Daughter Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
Noteworthy: During her incumbency, the annual economic growth reached 4.5% and expanded every quarter; an accomplishment higher than what her three (3) immediate predecessors accomplished. The economy grew fastest in 2007 compared to the last 30 years. The economy was one of the few to avoid contraction during the 2008 global financial crisis, doing better than other ASEAN countries. She made tough economic decisions, including the Value-Added Tax, putting back the country to a better economic shape.
Career Ending: Known as too ambitious for her own good. She supported the overthrow of Estrada while being his vice-president and became an on-the-spot president. Won another six-year term but ended in jail for election fraud and election sabotage cases.
What have we learned from this account? That maybe, there is no perfect president after all, yet we cannot settle still on the “lesser evil.” There is always a better though unpopular choice.
Going back to our earlier question, I would like to believe that the framers of the constitution saw that it is not about the experience or the intellects that can bring a nation to its feet—the president will have a full cabinet of intellectual, experienced and managers to draw advice and actions from. But, what a country need is a person who can merely read and write, but with a full heart to know what his/her people need the most, with a clear, sincere conscience not to use his/her power for personal agenda that threatens the interest of the people, and with a clean name to use his/her power and authority without question to his/her fidelity to the nation.
In conclusion, the framers of the constitution placed the burden of choosing the right president in our hands. We cannot afford to remain misinformed, biased or “hired” voters. With this mere qualification, even a psychopath can run for presidency (wala pa ba?).
Perhaps, because the EDSA revolution fever was its heights during the drafting of the constitution, they believed that we now know better. That surely we will go forward as more responsible, smarter and deviate compromise.
I believe that despite all the negative things reported over the news, we still have it. When we act together as a nation, perhaps they are right after all.