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Choice for president

IN A FEW days, we will go to the polls to elect the country’s next president, vice president and other national leaders.

Five candidates—Vice President Jejomar Binay, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Sen. Grace Poe and former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas—are aspiring to succeed President Aquino.

The campaign for the presidency has been bruising and, at times, nasty. Some candidates threw the rules on civility and good behavior out of the window in their effort to attract public attention and, hopefully, votes.

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The three presidential debates gave the public an insight into the candidates’ platforms and their plans in tackling the problems of the nation. Some of the solutions they proposed have raised expectations that may be difficult to fulfill in case they are elected.

The intensity and vitriol of the campaign can probably be felt most on social media. The trolls and disparaging statements for and against the candidates are horrible. The devil will suffer indigestion from the exchange of harsh words.

Apparently, some candidates organized teams to monitor news reports and comment about them in cyberspace.

If the posted material is favorable, its author is praised to high heavens. If it’s adverse, he is bashed or bullied and, in some cases, wished the worst things that can happen to a human being.

Qualifications

Setting aside campaign rhetoric and media hype, let’s take a close look at the candidates who are seeking the people’s mandate to lead our country in the next six years.

If experience in governance is the sole criteria for election to the presidency, Binay should be the hands-down choice. His positive accomplishments in Makati City, where he was mayor for decades, cannot be denied.

But the problem is, he has integrity issues that remain unresolved and are presently the subject of graft cases in the Sandiganbayan.

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Outside of general denials and claims that the charges are politically motivated, he has not presented any evidence to disprove allegations he enriched himself and his family, while in office.

If, as he has repeatedly said in his campaign, he will do to the country what he has done in Makati, the nation could be in serious trouble with him as president.

Credentials-wise, Defensor-Santiago would make a good president. She is intelligent, although sometimes she is bitchy and arrogant, and has kept her nose clean in her long years of public service.

Unfortunately, she has serious health problems that make it difficult to justify her election to the presidency. While she says she has conquered the Big C, her physical appearance and demeanor during the debates indicate she is not in tip-top condition.

National governance demands a fit and hale president. A country of more than 100 million people can’t ill afford to have at its helm someone who is not physically capable to take on that 24/7 job.

Corruption

If crime and corruption are the country’s only problems, Duterte deserves to be president. Indeed, these are significant obstacles to the country’s progress and development.

At this late stage of the campaign, however, the public has yet to hear from Duterte his detailed plans in solving the country’s other equally important economic and social problems.

His repeated preference to the use of a “mailed fist” policy in dealing with criminal elements is scary. The peace and order problem cannot be solved by giving law enforcers the authority to be prosecutor, judge and executioner of crime suspects.

A public official who admits to ordering or approving the killing of 1,000 or so Filipinos for violating our laws, and finds nothing wrong with badmouthing people and having extramarital affairs has no moral right to assume the highest position of the land.

In Poe’s case, her inexperience and questions about her citizenship and residency are strong arguments against her election to the presidency.

Her work as chair of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board and three-year stint as senator are insufficient to qualify her to be the country’s chief executive.

There is no room for on-the-job training in Malacañang. The country’s pressing problems do not have the luxury of giving its president time to learn the ropes in national governance.

Selection

Besides, if elected president, Poe will have to contend with her qualifications to the presidency being questioned at the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, which her critics vowed to do after the Supreme Court earlier refused to pass upon those issues.

The filing of that suit will engender, if not cause, political instability in the country. Unless Poe gets a majority vote, rather than mere plurality considering the number of candidates, the legitimacy of her election will be fodder for discontent for those who did not vote for her.

And in the event she is unseated for failure to meet the citizenship or residency requirements, it will be the turn of her supporters to feel aggrieved and make life difficult for whoever is elected vice president on May 9.

A repeat of the political turmoil that marked the transfer of power from then President Joseph Estrada to his vice president, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, will not be in the country’s best interests.

Given these circumstances, I believe Roxas deserves to be president of our country. His name has not been sullied by any corruption issue. He has more than fulfilled his quota for exemplary public service.

He had his share of faults when he headed two Cabinet positions, but that should not detract from the fact that, among the candidates, he has the gravitas to succeed President Aquino.

And for good measure, I will vote for Leni Robredo for vice president. She stands out among her fellow candidates for integrity, sincerity and competence.

For comments, please send your e-mail to rpalabrica@inquirer.com.ph.

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TAGS: Business, elections 2016, Jejomar Binay, Mar Roxas, News, Rodrigo Duterte, Sen. Grace Poe, SMiriam Defensor-Santiago
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