What makes a candidate viable?


Former Senator Atty. Joey D. Lina

While some politicians already declared their desire to run in the 2022 elections, many are hesitant to make their intentions known. With barely a week left before filing of the certificate of candidacy begins, some potential aspirants seem to be still in a quandary on what position to run for, or if ever they will run at all.

For many of these potential candidates and their supporters, the nagging question that desperately needs to be answered is whether or not such political contender is truly viable. And if not, how does one become viable?

It is no secret that Philippine politics continues to be dominated by personalities, some of whom are motivated purely by selfish interests. There is a lack of a real honest-to-goodness political party system where political groups present the electorate with clearly differentiated platforms, policies, and points of view on vital issues, allowing voters to sufficiently scrutinize their offer before making an informed choice and voting wisely.

Ours is vastly different from other democracies, particularly in the US where potential aspirants undergo rigid public scrutiny through primaries, town hall meetings, and media- sponsored public debates where issues are effectively threshed out and discussed thoroughly, and where the character of candidates can be more keenly observed and assessed.

And with the rigid scrutiny in these public events, lesser known candidates with messages that captivate the electorate become viable and are suddenly catapulted to the top of the heap.

In the Philippines, however, the process of choosing candidates is based mainly on survey ratings and public perception that many believe can be manipulated, especially nowadays with the use of trolls pervading social media.

Indeed, the most glaring manifestation of our political dysfunction lies in the fact that our brand of politics remains personality-driven without a clear and coherent party platform of governance.

If we had a truly functioning party system in the Philippines, citizens would be involved politically as card-carrying members of political parties or political movements which analyze and propose solutions to national and local problems. Voters would be presented with an array of programs and platforms of governance, as well as highly qualified and principled candidates who embody the party’s principles and have gone through the party’s selection process to identify competent, compassionate and God-fearing leaders for the nation.

Unfortunately, having a true party system in our country is still a dream. For the longest time, local and national candidates are either self-proclaimed or anointed by power blocks or vested interest groups. The candidates are winnable because surveys say so, and because they have resources to mount a well-financed and organized campaign. Programs of government presented are often good only on paper but are hardly mentioned as basis for choosing candidates.

But despite the lack of a genuine political party system, something can still be done to salvage the situation. Those of us who aspire for a better Philippines must take concrete steps to scrutinize candidates. Are they suited for public office? Do they have a clear grasp of the workings of government, and are they fully prepared to run the bureaucracy?

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

In my Teleradyo program Sagot Ko ‘Yan last Sunday, I had an interesting discussion with Dr. Aries Arugay, one of the youngest political analysts in our country, who gave his insights on what makes a good leader.

A truly good leader, he says, is one who is a good institution-builder. He or she should not be egoistic and should see that it that programs and projects greatly beneficial to the people are continued even beyond the term allotted.

Dr. Arugay is optimistic that although slow in coming, the evolution of the voting behavior of Filipinos would eventually lead to maturity despite more fumbling ahead. He said today’s youth are digitally wired, always connected to the Internet, are more demanding, and they seek more from politicians.

He is also agreeable to the idea that the qualities of good leaders should include commitment to God and country which can be seen in one’s track record. Competence, knowledge and experience in governance are also a must. He says there is no substitute for preparation. A crash course on governance is not sufficient. Studying the complicated system of governance in the Philippines must be cumulative, he says, and cannot be simply fitted into a crash course.

Could good intentions be basis for electing our leaders? Citing the common idiom that even the road to hell is paved with good intentions, Dr. Arugay says outcome, and not intentions, ought to be the correct basis.

The capability to win is also an essential factor, he says. Filipinos don’t want to waste their votes. With their “segurista” attitude, voters want to be somewhat assured of a candidate’s success at the polls, and it’s the reason why candidates seek alliances to ensure their electability.

Indeed, there are a lot of qualities needed to make a candidate viable. But there’s no doubt the ideal candidate should be one who can convince voters that he or she is God-centered, competent, committed, and has the right strategy to bring about positive change in our country.

E-mail: finding.lina@yahoo.com