Sunday, October 18, 2015

A surplus of presidential hopefuls


My October 1, 2015 column.
On the first day of the filing of certificates of candidacy for national positions last Monday, a total of 22 individuals trooped to the national headquarters of the Commission on Elections to manifest their supposed earnest desire to offer their lives in the service of country and the Filipino people as President. As of Thursday evening, there were close to a hundred presidential hopefuls! The number was astonishing because for a while back there, most of us were actually bewailing the utter lack of choices for the 2016 presidential contest.  
Of course, we all know that the number of hopefuls would be decimated in a few weeks’ time when Comelec declares some, if not most of them, as nuisance candidates. Nevertheless, there are a lot of things that can be said about the surge in the number of people who actually believe in their heart of hearts that they could and should be President of the Republic of the Philippines.
We can all take an optimistic view of this development and convince ourselves that this is reflective of the very wide, deep, and fertile pool of talent that we have in this country. When we come to think about it, it’s not farfetched to imagine that in a country of 100 million people, there are more choices other than Mar Roxas, Jejomar Binay, Grace Poe, and Miriam Defensor-Santiago. This view, however, is shot down —and rather fatally, at that—by the fact that a sizable number of those who filed their certificates of candidacy seemed like people who desperately need to have multiple sessions with a shrink. How else does one explain the fact that we have someone claiming to be an intergalactic ambassador who said he was urged to run by aliens among the bunch?
I like the humor theory submitted by some people. This theory says that what we witnessed this week was really yet another expression of our innate sense of humor. We’re just the kind of people who allows moments of levity even in the most tragic or saddest circumstances. We have been known to crack jokes, or even stage practical jokes, to break the tension out of very stressful situations. Unfortunately, this theory presupposes that those who filed their candidacies had higher thinking skills to grasp the concept of irony or satire, something that seems unlikely given the rambling and often nonsensical gibberish they spewed after they filed their certificates of candidacy.   
Someone I know insisted that those who filed their candidacies for president deserve, at the very least, our empathy. She said she still believed deep in her heart that despite the seeming absurdity of the situation, those people were still driven by the overwhelming desire to contribute to making this country great again. An extension of this belief was about how those people were really activists taking matters into their own hands; presumably, they’ve had enough of the the inability of government to make things work in this country so they were rising to the occasion. I would have gone to Comelec to applaud those people if we saw indications that altruism was truly behind their behavior.   
This leaves us with just two more theories. First, people’s perceptions of the qualification requirements for the presidency have reached an abysmally low level—it seems many actually think anyone can step up to the job. It’s difficult to disprove this perception because we did have a President who was an undergraduate and we have people like Emmanuel Pacquiao who keeps on making public statements about how the presidency can be part of his destiny. And besides, it really is true: the qualification for the Presidency and the Vice Presidency as written in the Constitution is ridiculously low —we ask more from production workers and utility people. Am sure the framers of the Constitution had good intentions; making the Presidency a possible career path for anyone with grit and gumption can be inspiring to any growing child. But I am certain they did not foresee the circus that is happening at the Comelec offices, either.
The last theory is what most people believe in, which is that we just have too many people in this country with too much time in their hands, who apparently have nothing better to do with their lives.

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