Constitutional perspectives in choosing our new President

Published February 21, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Atty. Arturo D. Brion, LL.B., LL.M.

THE LEGAL FRONT

J. Art D. Brion (Ret.)
Atty. Arturo D. Brion, Ll.B, Ll.M.

(Part II)

The President’s role, as our top executive and as Article VII of the Constitution provides, is to execute or implement the policies that the Constitution expressly commands or that are embodied in laws that Congress has passed on its own or upon the President’s recommendation.

Thus, except for those directly provided by the Constitution, our policies emanate either from Congress or from the President himself whose actual role, therefore, goes beyond mere executionor advocacy: he actively lays down policies, sets policy directions,and subsequently translates these policies into actual results benefiting the nation.

From this arrangement can be discerned the qualities of presidential leadership that the nation requires. First, we need a President who must be capable of relating to the nation’s character, circumstances and needs.  Second, he must understand and have a genuine feel for the Constitution and the principles on which it is founded. Third, he must have a good sense of the actions appropriate to the national situation and consistent with the Constitution. And last but not the least, he must have the competence and the capability to translate national policies into tangible results.

A working grasp and understanding of the Constitution should be a basic, although unexpressed, qualification for the Presidency; one who neither knows nor understands the Constitution may qualify as President in terms of the formal requirements for the office, but should never be elected to the office by a discerning electorate who understands the significance of the presidential role.

The recognition and awareness of the nation’s character, circumstances and needs that a President requires, on the other hand, are necessarily rooted in the his talents and beliefs, nurtured from early childhood and shaped by his life and governance experiences.

Eventually, the President’s effectiveness and results will largely depend on his overall competence and leadership, i.e., the sum total of his native talents, the enhancing education and training undertaken, the decision-making and implementation skills he developed from his real world experiences, and his personal drive and political will. All these, a nation under our current situation, acutely needs.

Whether our candidates actually qualify under these terms is not a question that can be answered by theories, assumptions or by bare and unsupported claims or pretensions.  The electorate can only sufficiently decide if it will inquire and examine the candidates closely, based on hard evidence of personal history, past performance, and demonstrated capabilities, not on the basis merely of claims, debating skills or endorsements.

The relevant questions to ask relate to the qualities of leadership mentioned above -his developed talents; his grasp and understanding of the Constitution; his knowledge of and sensitivity to the nation’s situation, needs, and their required responses; his overall executive capability and competence; and his will and determination to succeed.

Beyond competence is the question of integrity – i.e., of being honest, upright and morally strong – as the Constitution directly demands.  The most dangerous president the electorate can choose would be the competent but corrupt who can hoodwink the nation through his knowledge, skills and manipulative abilities. Integrity, in other words, is thus a prerequisite that, hand in hand with competence, cannot be disregarded.

While the electorate can and should inquire, this course of action is now largely theoretical, i.e., easier said than done under our country’s present circumstances. The stumbling block, ironically, under our present realities is the Constitution itself and the actualization of its granted freedoms, particularly, freedom of speech and of the press (Article II, Section 24; Article III, Section 4).

Currently, we have very little effective measures in place to regulate and prevent the abusive exercise of the freedoms of speech and of the press. Through the wonders of the internet, everyone with basic computer skills can now widely broadcast his views with very little deterrence except the threat of libel, a supposed ax that hardly falls these days. Hence, many now feel free to air their views without any regard for truth, accuracy and decency as they can get away with their illegalities.

The media playing field is likewise very uneven as candidates have scant effective defenses against unfair and misleading questions and slanted publications aimed at sinking candidates’ electoral bids by casting them in the worst negative lights. False news a bound; even fact checking efforts are not at all equally applied to all.

Under these circumstances, only the Comelec, as the agency established to guarantee fair, free and credible elections can act with the hope of telling results pursuant to its powers under the Constitution (Article IX[C])to “enforce and administer all laws and regulations” relative to the conduct of elections and to prosecute violations, acts and omissions constituting election malpractices.

Right now, the Comelec does not appear to have pro-active measures in place to assist the electorate wishing to inquire about the qualifications, plans and programs of candidates outside of the uneven media that everybody now relies upon. We have yet to hear of widely-publicized and Comelec-managed information boards that citizens can go to or inquire from for ready and reliable information. We have yet to hear of Comelec-sponsored debates whose panel of reactors are impartial, unbiased and motivated only by the desire to present to the electorate the kind and quality of candidates before them.

The areas calling for inquiry are many with the most critical already described above. The nation now only waits for official government action that would ably and responsibly guide the voting public in making their electoral decisions.

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