Friday, April 8, 2016

How I'm Going to Assess Candidates for the 2016 Philippine Elections

The election season is at fever pitch right now in the Philippines and it's just really sad how it divides the country so much. I've decided to keep mum about my thoughts about candidates since there's so much noise already. I've been keeping my usage of social media at a minimum since a lot of the discussion anyway has been based on feelings. We have not reached the point where we vote for a candidate because we assess their platform. We have been voting mainly because of character and gut feel.

There's so much politicking happening at the national and local level it's so hard to weed through the information. There's been a lot of whisperings over rampant corruption where I live. I used to live a few houses away from an elected official and it's not hard to see what's happening. I always wondered why people are so bent on getting a seat in government. Took a look at local budgets and it explains it all. It has to stop and we should stop voting for abusive politicians.

Anyway, my son is going to vote for the very first time in May. I wondered how we could confirm that his registration is valid. I don't have to wonder anymore since our too friendly Congressman has already sent postcards campaigning for himself (so much for data privacy!). So I asked my son how he was planning to select his candidate. He said he didn't know yet, so I thought of sharing how I'm going to assess candidates based on what is important to me as a citizen.

I am assessing candidates based on their job description. The 1987 Philippine Constitution provides a list of qualifications and general job description of the President and Vice President. The President basically has control over the executive branch and he needs to appoint a gazillion people into office with consent of the Commission on Appointment (he has to do a lot of interviews then!), ensure that "laws are faithfully executed", Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces. The president can suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, declare martial law and may contract or guarantee foreign loans with approval of the Monetary Board. The only qualifications provided are: (1) must be a natural born citizen, and (2) should be at least 40 years old (which technically qualifies me to run for office too).

So knowing the job at hand here's how I am going to assess who I'm going to vote for President and Vice President:

1. The candidate must have the skills and network to find the right persons to appoint into office. He should have a good understanding of what these positions need to deliver so he should appoint the right people (and not just get cronies!). I.e, he should not appoint lawyers to run the transport ministry! Good examples of well placed appointees are Secretary Mon Jimenez for Tourism, and Secretary Br. Armin Luistro FSC for Education (they've really done an awesome job!).

2. The candidate must have a good understanding of what our country needs in terms of security. That's security mainly on the national level and my main concern now is China and terrorism. I will leave my personal security to the local officials.

3. Having the right to suspend the writ of habeas corpus and martial law is BIG. I don't want to just disappear into the night (almost happened to my family back during the Marcos years)! So it must be a president who values this right and would not abuse it.

4. Utang! Back when I was small elders would usually joke that babies in the Philippines are born crying because they are already in debt. I would like to have a President who would only contract debt only if it is really needed. This also means he has to hire a really good tax chief who would get companies to pay the right taxes. And get a fierce Ombudsman and Secretary of Budget Management to ensure that all the government money is used correctly.

5. Other things that are important to me: education, science and technology/ICT, crisis management, infrastructure management, transportation, taxes, international relations, but this generally goes back to #1.

The Constitution has provided only very general guidelines. It didn't event mention the economy (unless I missed that in my reading), but one thing that really struck me was the responsibility of the President to appoint the right people to a gazillion positions. Maybe this is something that we should see as part of their plans and not just see their platform. As a program manager, targets and key results are only as good if you have a proper implementation plan. I do a lot of interviews at work, so if you are a candidate and I interview you, do you think you'd pass my standards?

For the local elections, I'll write another post about it =)