Personality politics? Not again!

Published October 30, 2021, 12:12 AM

by Tonyo Cruz


Tonyo Cruz

As the election season goes forward, most political discussions and debates everywhere are quickly falling into the trap set by traditional politicians. I’m referring of course to personality politics.

One symptom of personality politics is the recourse to a contest of who has the better personal attributes and personal record among the contenders. The discussions always become heated and descend to the pits where they exchange insults and epithets. 

We don’t disagree that personality is important. But is it the most important? In the ranking of attributes and qualifications for leadership, what should be included and how are they ranked?

In the ongoing debates between candidates and their supporters, there’s an apparent glee in taking down one another, with a laser-like focus on personal attributes and personal qualifications. 

This is partly due to today’s battle over facts and the truth. At least one candidate, for instance, insists on claiming to hold a university degree when the university he claims he graduated from has responded to queries that he did not in fact receive any degree. He only has himself to blame for making such a false claim.

One way of moving forward by leaps and bounds from personality politics is to compel and demand that candidates present their platforms, policy proposals and alternatives.

Political debates would be a lot more relevant to people’s lives if candidates and parties pursue issue-based politics. 

For instance, what are their analysis and solutions to the pandemic? Do they intend to continue the administration’s program or are they going to take us to a totally-different direction?

On the issue of employment, do they also view contractualization as a solution or as a problem that should be solved in favor of the workers? Is contractualization a means to attain prosperity, or is it a hindrance to workers getting a better life?

While on this topic, is there any candidate who stands for a nationwide minimum wage and meaningful wage increases? Or are they all competing to keep wages low or even aim to further lower them?

We’ve also seen reports of farmers throwing out their produce or live in grinding poverty, while prices of rice, vegetables, beef, pork and fish continue to go up. What are their specific programs for farmers and fisherfolk? Will they continue or end rice tarrification and importation? If elected, will they implement agrarian reform? 

What are their views on drugs and the drug war? Are the candidates going to change anything in the so-called “war on drugs”? Or are there candidates who will say and implement a new effort that considers the matter as a public health issue? Who are the candidates who will continue or stop extrajudicial killings? Why?

Who is in favor of the immediate and unconditional grant of a franchise to ABS-CBN? Who will continue or undo the policy on refusing to release Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth? Are candidates going to certify as urgent the passage of such bills on divorce and SOGIE?

Let us demand more from candidates and parties. The failure, refusal or inability to present platforms, programs and alternatives likewise reflect a personality that disrespects their supporters and the voters. If they are really serious in contesting leadership positions, the candidates have an obligation to show not only verifiable qualifications, but also the vision, mission and goals needed to be a credible, effective and responsive leader.

The administration should be ready to defend its record and to prove to the nation that its policies are effective and must be continued. The opposition and non-administration candidates meanwhile have the duty to tell the nation why change is needed, and what those specific changes exactly are. The alternative is political obfuscation: inarticulate, opaque, cannot be trusted, with no clear plans and focused mainly on personality.

We’ve had personality politics since the start of the Republic. We cannot allow traditional politicians to perpetuate such a substandard and inept brand of politics to dominate the country in the next decade. Why? Just look at where we are now.