Friday, January 23, 2009 Looking for President Change

Looking for President Change
by: Harvey S. Keh

For the past 2 weeks, one of the major news items that came out was the call of Chief Justice Reynato Puno for a Moral Force to come out and become more active in shaping our country’s future especially in the upcoming 2010 National Elections. This has led to calls for him to spearhead this force and at the same time make himself available as a Presidential Candidate in 2010. Among those that have issued statements of support include Senator Panfilo Lacson and the Ang Kapatiran Party.

This call for Puno to run for President only goes to show that many Filipinos are now looking more and more at leaders with moral ascendancy, credibility and untarnished integrity. This is understandable given the fact that our present government led by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has been branded as one of the most corrupt governments not only in Asia but in the whole world. We have also seen numerous political scandals which have consistently plagued her government more recently the imposition of a ban by the World Bank on 3 contractors that have implemented infrastructure projects with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

A sad reality is despite these numerous scandals and Senate investigations that have been conducted, there has not been one person who has been held accountable or been convicted for these practices of graft and corruption. Yet, when an ordinary Filipino out of desperation and hunger steals a kilo of rice, s/he is automatically put into jail while a government official who continues to steal millions of pesos from the Filipino people continues to enjoy a lavish lifestyle here and abroad.

Aside from Puno, another reform candidate that has often come up is Pampanga Governor and former Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) Filipino of the Year awardee, Gov. Eddie “Among Ed” Panlilio. Many groups have started to talk and convince Among Ed to consider throwing his hat into the Presidential race in the hope of being able to lead a moral revolution for our country.

Among Ed’s story is remarkable given the fact that despite meager resources and the little amount of time he had to prepare for the elections, he was able to topple two well-entrenched political dynasties in Pampanga.

Just a few weeks ago, news broke out that Pampanga won the prestigious Gawad Galing Pook Award for its effective and efficient collection of Quarry taxes which can be attributed to Among Ed’s continuous efforts to promote good governance and ethical leadership in our country.

Finally, many non-profit organizations and peasant groups have recently said that another reform candidate that will make a good President is former Ramon Magsaysay Awardee and Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo.

In his 16 years of being city mayor of Naga, Robredo was able to transform Naga from a 3rd class municipality to a 1st class city that is now the center of commerce and business in the Bicol Region. Aside from this, Naga has already achieved almost all the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) set by the United Nations way ahead of the 2015 deadline. One can see in Naga City that by electing the right leaders, the people’s quality of life can eventually be improved.

Just by looking at these 3 individuals, we can see that we are not lacking in possible reform candidates for our country but I think we should also consider not only their ethical fiber but also whether or not they have shown their ability to lead and govern.

One should also look at their track record when it comes to public service and the delivery of basic services especially to the poor and powerless of our society. We should also look at whether or not they make stands or statements in support of key pro-poor issues such as the extension and reform of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

In a country that is so hungry for change and hope, the worst thing that could happen is we all join the bandwagon and elect a so-called reform candidate only to be disappointed because it may be too late for us to realize that being a man with a good heart and good intentions isn’t enough to help millions of Filipinos move out of poverty. The challenge for all of us is to be patient and more discerning about the candidates that we would like to support because genuine and lasting change doesn’t usually happen overnight.

Harvey S. Keh is Director for Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship at the Ateneo de Manila University-School of Government. Comments are welcome at

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