This article was originally published with The Manila Times on February 21, 2019.
The campaign season will officially start soon. To date, a lot of content dissemination and advertisements are already happening. Last weekend, we were at the Dolphy Plaza in ABS CBN to watch the first series of Harapan 2019 where some senatorial hopefuls were to discuss and share their vision, platform and agenda for the citizenry in the quest of getting the voter’s big yes.
I was actually expecting some form of debate to flex my mental muscles, but feigned a disappointed sigh as I realize no debate was going to happen; that instead it will be a one-way cascade of information based on taped interviews conducted. The questions were then based on the stories of identified Filipinos featured in the show.
In parallel, there were also several interesting national issues asked. I will not dwell on the fast talk segment because it was mostly categorically answered with incomplete context due to time constraints.
Here is the summary. Bam Aquino spoke about his pending security of tenure act to address end of contract issues. He also mentioned how he envisions the Senate to be an independent body devoid of influence from the executive branch. Glenn Chong shared his fight on the automated election system and how this, as a baseline, becomes a critical element in the development of our country and therefore creating the need to have a hybrid election system.
Both Jiggy Manicad and Larry Gadon pushed for their agenda on agriculture, especially on industrial sectors. I have to commend Gadon for wanting to lower the electricity rate in the country. I am sure everyone will welcome that but I do want to understand how that can be done considering electricity in the Philippines is not even state-owned and therefore will depend very much on the private sector.
Willie Ong emphasized his public health advocacy and how every Filipino should be covered by the state with proper health insurance in this day and age.
Hearing these from all the candidates, the key takeaways we got are:
Our leaders must have the knowledge and qualifications to create legislation. Out of all the candidates asked, it was only Pilo Hilbay who did not agree that one has to be a college graduate in order to run for public office. Makes me think: the recruitment and hiring process in the private sector is so stringent and competitive given the so many requirements needed like background check, references, due diligence, achievements and many other things. If this can happen in the private sector, what more for a country of 110 million of which a senator should be more than capable to lead? The qualifications do matter, especially if we want to transform how we run this country.
Let us move on from motherhood statements and instead provide concrete actions. Describing your platform via motherhood statements only take advantage of the ignorance of the Filipinos. Remember that in the last globally conducted survey, the Philippines ranks as the 3rd most ignorant country in the world. We need to hear the actual approach and steps to be taken to appreciate the platform the candidate is proposing, similar to pitching a business idea to your stakeholders. Of all the candidates in the first Harapan 2019 series, it was Francis Tolentino who articulated concrete steps he intends to take should he take a seat in the Senate. He mentioned existing laws and how some of these must be amended to address the changing needs of the society. He also shared statistics of other countries on criminal liability which gave us a sneak peek on how the rest does it which made for good insight and perspective in the end.
There is power in the electorate more than ever especially at this point in time because getting the information is quick and easy thanks to technology. This is a call to action to encourage everyone to be out there to exercise their right to choose the leaders they want. Evaluate the candidates and assess how realistic, practical and relevant their programs are since these leaders will have the accountability to execute their programs. Check for consistency of actions. The electorate must be able to appreciate the hows and whys of those given because they have the power to choose the next set of leaders. Moreover, this is the best time to exercise critical thinking and decision making in choosing the new leaders.
Kay Calpo Lugtu is the COO of Hungry Workhorse, a digital and culture transformation firm; Co-Founder of Caucus, Inc. and Deputy Director of Global Chamber Manila. Her advocacies include data privacy, financial literacy, and nation-building. The author may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or, to the more cautious now, at email@example.com.