Questions for possible 2010 candidates

I promised Janette Toral that I would take the time to blog about what I think are the important issues for the 2010 elections.

I agree that the macro issues such as economics, the environment, regional development, etc., are all important issues. These form the bedrock against which national development can rise from. I will not belabor the point. Others have done a better job at it anyway.

But given the rather tenuous situation we find ourselves in today, I think that there are special issues, and consequently, specific qualities (or to borrow a term from my profession - competencies) that anyone aspiring to become president should- in fact, must- have. These issues may be more critical in the short term than the larger issues.

I've chosen to frame these issues in the form of specific questions:

1. How exactly do you intend to unify this country, or at least usher in a more constructive form of dialogue among the more vocal and influential stakeholders, that's necessary to get any program of government beyond the drawing board? Given how the influential people in this country tend to sabotage anything that they were not consulted on (or which go against their ideological or political or personal stand) it will be a tall order for any elected official to get anything going. I don't expect people to be on good terms with everyone, that's definitely an unreasonable expectation of a leader, or of anyone for that matter. I personally think that a leader who sacrifices principles or good governance at the altar of popularity is doomed to fail. However, there must be some action plan, some program of action, designed to promote a healthier political climate in this country.

2. What deals did you make with the people who support your candidacy and how do you intend to repay your political debts, if any? Anyone out there who is sincere about becoming President of this country to do good must come to terms with the fact that many among those who support his or her quest for the presidency expect to be repaid for their efforts. These payments may come in the form of government appointments, contracts, political accomodations, etc. What program of action (or mechanisms) will the candidate put in place to ensure that paying off political debts will not get in the way of governance?

3. What is your position on controversial issues? The range of issues include: Birth control and contraception (specifically artificial methods), sex education, land reform, HIV/AIDS prevention, censorship, protectionism, etc. Needless to say, taking the "enlightened" and "realistic" position on these issues carries with it the risk of being alienated by powerful forces in this country such as the Catholic Church. Rephrased another way, the question is, to what extent are you willing to go against powerful forces in order to stand up for what is necessary?

4. Do you have a program on values education? Do you consider this critical to move this country forward? A number of experts believe that so much of what is wrong in our country can be traced to a "faulty" or "problematic" values system.

5. What programs initiated by this current - and by previous administrations - will you continue, or for that matter, discontinue? A number of government money, as well as momentum, is wasted simply because newly-elected leaders and their administrations try to project themselves as "different" from their predecessors. The result is that good projects are often discontinued, only to be replaced by exactly the same projects that were merely given a new spin. In other words, same shit, different packaging. All those efforts to "reinvent the wheel" only snag up the bureaucracy even more. The truth is that most anything can work if politicians only commit to their effective implementation.

6. Will you commit to an overhaul of the whole government bureaucracy instead of simply reshuffling people at the top? Everyone (with the exception of the militants in the bureaucracy of course) agrees that the government bureaucracy is hopelessly bloated. There's just too many people being paid to do absolutely nothing, or are overpaid to do whatever trivial thing that they do such as review transactions that have already been reviewed by four different people. Of course not everyone in the bureaucracy is incompetent or overpaid, many do valuable work and are responsible for the fact that this country continues to function despite the ineptitude and childish behavior of our leaders. However, the fact still remains: The government bureaucracy needs to be streamlined to become more effective.

7. With most of our natural resources already gone (or going fast), the only remaining natural resource is human capital (or people). What program of action do you intend to pursue to enhance Philippine competitiveness through people? Let's face it, this country has not gone belly up despite the many (continuing and lingering) crises because of we happen to have millions of OFWs that continue to prop up the economy with their remittances. Many of these OFWs are terribly underemployed. Many more are hoping to get jobs abroad (or within the country) but don't have the necessary competencies. What we need is a national human resource agenda - one that proposes an integrated solution to the many problems related to people management and development including education, employment, and social security.

8. What exactly do you plan to do to address the problem of corruption in this country? What we need is a more realistic and comprehensive solution, and the political will to implement that solution.

Eight so far. I will blog again when I think of other more specific questions.


I really hope the next administration will create effective changes to help eradicate, or at least lessen, corruption and bribery in our country. According to Transparency International's 2007 Global Corruption Barometer, the poor are the ones most affected by bribery and corruption. We are witnesses to this fact in the Philippines, where even "lugaw" (rice porridge) vendors are required to pay a "protection fee".

I'd like to share the report to your readers:

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