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Breaktime

And that’s the bottom lie

/ 03:24 AM January 25, 2016

FROM the start, the Comelec said it did not want to force candidates to join the presidential debates for the 2016 elections.

In fact the Comelec only used its power to require media outfits to sponsor three presidential debates in the next couple of months leading to the May 2016 elections.

So the Comelec was only banking on that —the promise of national television coverage, free of charge to the candidates, as if they would really worry about the costs of media ads that run by the billions of pesos.

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Its chair, Andres Bautista, said the Comelec believed that the absence of any candidate in the debates would send bad signals to the electorate, and the bottom line would be, well, it would turn off the voters.

Really, did politics in this country change overnight when nobody was looking?

In the past, and I tell you no lie, various media outfits and civil groups took it upon themselves to hold nationally televised debates among presidential candidates.

The leading contender in various polls in those days did not show up in the debates.

It was proven that joining the gabfest was not, never, to the advantage of the survey leaders.

And—guess what—the no-show candidates still won!

Perhaps the Comelec would have to commission post-debate surveys to gauge public reaction to the positions of the candidates, particularly on critical issues that they would tackle in the debates.

That way the debates would probably have practical appeal to the candidates. Something like, no show, no part in the survey!

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Granted that, by law, the Comelec perhaps could not compel candidates to take part in the debates, but it must still do something to make the debates become permanent fixtures in our elections process, a “must” for any candidate.

Indeed, those seeking public office, especially the presidency, should level up their discourse, and they could not resort to the usual election fares of name-calling and black propaganda, plus a dash of scandal here and there.

It is the most basic of democratic principles that the electorate be well informed of a candidate’s platform of government, so that the public can make wise choices in the elections.

Economic issues, for example, would come into a fore in the forthcoming elections, as this country would soon stand in the crossroads of economic development.

In the private sector, think-tanks already declared that the Philippines was finally out of the boom-and-bust economic cycle of the past 60 or so years, and it finally came to a real chance of making a go at economic maturity.

But they also figured that the next administration would have to address a lot of concerns.

Take the buzz words “people empowerment!” It was in vogue during the administration of former President Fidel V. Ramos, and many really agreed with it.

Could we say that the people truly have been “empowered?”

The next President hopefully would give it some real meaning through the creation of millions of jobs for instance—decent jobs, and here in this country, not abroad.

Like it or not, anyway, the lack of decent jobs and livelihood opportunities here would remain an issue in May 2016 despite the improved prospects of the Philippine economy.

Based on the government’s Labor Force Survey last October, there were more than 2.3 million unemployed Filipinos. Officially!

But of course we knew that the government was a bit tricky in its employment statistics, because Filipinos who were “not actively looking for jobs,” would be excluded in the work force without any question.

In other words, more Filipinos would be jobless than what government figures would indicate, or what they would want us to believe.

And, what were the kinds of available jobs here?

Unfortunately, they also could not fall under what the guys down here would call quality jobs. Most of the so-called available jobs were short-term jobs, some contractual stints that would end after three to five months. In the Pinoy urban dictionary, they have a term for it. That is, “endo,” meaning, “end of contract.”

In the absence of jobs for Filipinos, the government, instead, encouraged them to be entrepreneurial, although the problem was that there were not enough opportunities even for entrepreneurship.

That people could put up their own businesses, for them to create their own jobs and to become their own bosses, should be the best way for the government to achieve what economists called “inclusive growth.”

To be fair, the Aquino (Part II) administration launched some programs to link up business with underprivileged communities, such as the “sustainable livelihood program.”

Believe me, the program should still be in its infancy today, and such a partnership between business and poor communities is something the next administration ought to continue.

The business community also put its bet on another game changer, and that was the access to free or even just affordable education for millions of Filipinos.

The next President should thus work on an honest program to give every Filipino complete access to quality education.

This year, the country would be shifting to the K-12 curriculum, right in time for a brand new administration.

Question: How many Filipino families could afford to send their children to school, considering the additional expense from the K-12 program?

According to a survey—the Functional Literacy, Education and Mass Media Survey —one out of every 10 Filipino children (6 to 14 years old) and youth (15 to 24 years old) was out-of-school in 2013.

That meant at least 4 million individuals were not getting proper education. It would mean further that their chances of finding good employment would already be shut.

It would be bad for this country that, according to economists, would soon see its economic blossoming through sheer demographics.

We might have the millions of able bodied individuals to give the extra push to the economy, but the question would still be how well or how badly educated were they.

And let us not even talk about graft and corruption, or the peace and order problems, about which people would really want to hear from their presidential candidates in the forthcoming debates.

No doubt about it, the big deal in the elections should be the platform of government of the candidates.

Yet, political analysts always talked about the personalities of the candidates, which they invariably equated with “winnability,” and so they shunned serious talk of the political party platforms.

To be fair, the concrete and realistic action plans that we hear about today mostly came from the Liberal Party, which of course tried to veer the election noises away from personalities, particularly that of their standard bearer, Mar Roxas, who nevertheless was said to have all the right business and management background, plus actual experience, as against all the other candidates.

Really, how qualified are our candidates? That is the issue in May 2016.

And the only way for the public to find out would be how the candidates would discuss things in the forthcoming debates.

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TAGS: Business, Comelec, economy, elections 2016, News, poll debates
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