Being more discerning of candidates 

Published May 7, 2019, 12:07 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat



Atty. Joey D. Lina Former Senator
Atty. Joey D. Lina
Former Senator

Six more days to go and the nation decides who gets to fill up the more than 18,000 national and local positions up for grabs in the coming midterm elections.

The raging battle to win the hearts and minds of 61.8 million registered voters is now at fever pitch with all the disinformation, black propaganda, mudslinging, and other dirty tricks now employed at its nastiest level.

As candidates tear each other apart in the heat of campaign rhetoric in many localities, the political noise could make it more difficult for some voters to sift through the deluge of propaganda and pronouncements that may lead to more confusion instead of enlightenment.

Yet amid the political din, the electorate has an essential role to fulfill – to choose the best leaders. Although the essence of our democracy entails a government run by elected leaders and representatives, people virtually own government, in line with the constitutional principle that “sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.”

It is therefore of utmost importance that people are able to fulfill their role of installing onto leadership positions the candidates who are God-fearing, highly-capable, selfless, and who genuinely have their constituents’ interests at heart.

Indeed, as in any organization, government leadership is indisputably a very crucial factor in our nationhood, and the quality of our elected leaders determines whether our communities progresses or retrogresses. If quality of leadership is beyond reproach, it inspires cooperation and support of all sectors of society in the quest for excellence.

But quality of leadership ultimately depends upon the ability of the people to make the right choices, to elect the right leaders. Pope Francis once said: “The future of humanity does not lie solely in the hands of great leaders, the great powers and the elites. It is fundamentally in the hands of peoples.”

Thus, our future lies in our ability as voters to elect highly-skilled and dedicated leaders who have the correct economic strategy to uplift the lives of Filipinos and the know-how to run the bureaucracy and maximize the use of public funds for the common good.

Considering that we the people virtually own government, we are obliged to organize the government we own. With the elections on Monday, we have the opportunity to organize anew our government by choosing leaders best suited to administer the bureaucracy or function as legislators. And to make the right choices, we must be more discerning.

But with no coherent political party system and no clear party platform of governance, many find difficulty in differentiating candidates from each other in their pronouncements, especially when it is obvious that candidates blurt out their messages simply to suit the audience.

After all, talk is cheap and candidates cannot be prevented from saying what people want to hear. Besides, there is yet no practical way to hold candidates accountable for campaign promises they don’t intend to fulfill. They just cannot be sued for “breach of promise.”

The challenge, therefore, is for voters to discern the real worth of pronouncements made by candidates based on character and track record. For candidates without sufficient track record that can be assessed, the next best thing would be to rely on the perceived ability of these candidates to really walk the talk. And it must be stressed that past positions either in the private or public sector do not necessarily translate to competence. Positive accomplishments in office are a better yardstick.

Ideally, scrutiny of candidates on character and platform of governance should find answers to questions like: Are they suited for public office? Do they have a clear grasp of the workings of government? Do they fit the job description of the position they aspire for? Do their proposals match the elective post in the legislative or executive branch of government?

Will they use public funds with utmost integrity and efficiency? Will they get things done to achieve what matters most especially to the poor: inclusive growth, more jobs and livelihood opportunities, housing for the homeless, quality education, quality healthcare, and many more?

Answers to such questions can greatly help in finding the “gems in a pile of dirt” amid a political landscape containing a mix of all kinds of candidates – from the efficient, compassionate, and sincere, to the grossly incompetent who are clueless on what it takes to be an effective public servant.

That many unsavory characters and undeserving candidates can get elected is a testament to the state of our political dysfunction and the many ills it nurtures: patronage politics, alliances of unprincipled opportunists, nonchalance to issues, vote-buying, overspending, election-related violence, and more.

But let us not be discouraged. Let us remain hopeful. The need to rise above our political dysfunction is imperative. So is the need for more discernment. From our meticulous and careful efforts to come up with the right choices shall hopefully emerge an excellent quality of leaders who are competent, morally upright, and truly devoted to public service.

Email: [email protected]