Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Who is the Reform Candidate in 2010?

Who is the Reform Candidate in 2010?

by: Harvey S. Keh


When the Philippine Daily Inquirer published a story about the leaders of Kaya Natin! discussing with Senator Mar Roxas the possibility of him taking part in a nomination and primary process (to be conducted by a separate group) to help select a common reform candidate for the 2010 national elections, we received various responses from the public. Some reactions were positive saying that they completely support the move to find a common alternative candidate that would champion good governance and ethical leadership in our country. Others were pessimistic saying that it might be too late in the game to actually conduct this process. While others expressed their disappointment saying that Kaya Natin might be mislead to thinking that Senator Roxas is a reform candidate when in actuality he is not.

How then can we determine whether or not a Presidential candidate is actually a real reform and alternative leader that we can entrust our support to?

I have always believed in the saying that great leaders are products of the need of their time. I believe that aside from poverty and the great amount of cynicism that Filipinos feel, the biggest problem is the lack of moral values, ethical fiber and principles of our government leaders. It seems that graft and corruption in our government has become so prevalent that many Filipinos now feel that it is an epidemic that can no longer be eradicated in our society. Sadly, many of us have accepted it as part of our way of life. I don’t think so. Imagine if the billions of pesos that is stolen by our leaders are used to create decent jobs, then I don’t think Filipinos will still be forced to leave their families behind just to earn a decent wage abroad. A reform leader should have a proven track record of moral integrity, upholding the rule of law and fighting against graft and corruption in our country.

A reform leader should also have a proven track record in public service. I agree with my friends and colleagues at the Ateneo de Manila School of Government that good intentions are not enough. A reform leader should be able to also govern effectively thus, s/he is able to deliver basic services to his constituents. It is sad that we have current Presidentiables who continue to look good when speaking in front of the camera but when you look at their track record you would realize that they have actually done nothing to help uplift the plight of the Filipino people. Leaders go beyond lip service to produce concrete outcomes and results.

Thirdly, a reform leader realizes that he is in government to serve and not to be served. Many of our government leaders use their power to gain certain privileges and perks that ordinary Filipinos like us don’t experience. Many of us have seen this while waiting in line at the airport while a so-called “VIP” is whisked away without going through the proper processes. For those of us who drive and are usually stuck in the middle of a traffic jam, we suddenly hear a loud siren coupled with a convoy of vehicles who don’t even respect traffic rules just because their passenger is a government official. We have even heard stories of government leaders using government funds and road projects to benefit their own companies. Now, these same government leaders are spending millions every month posing in TV and Radio commercials trying to get the support of people by showing us that they actually understand our plight. I hope we will be more discerning and no longer be fooled by them.

Fourthly, a reform leader is not beholden to the ruling elite and oligarchs in our country. Sadly, many of our current leaders continue to place the interests of a few rich businessmen above the interests of millions of suffering Filipinos who continue to live with less than P 100.00 a day. This happens since in every election, a candidate would need to spend millions or even billions to have a fighting chance and this becomes an opportunity for the ruling elite to “buy” the support of the candidate in the form of huge campaign contributions. Thus, I have always said that the challenge is for all ordinary Filipinos to chip in their own share of resources no matter how small to help support a real reform and alternative candidate. We already saw it happen in Isabela and Pampanga wherein ordinary people chipped in to help elect Gov. Grace Padaca and Gov. Eddie Panlilio.

Fifth, a reform leader should have a solid track record in helping the poor and powerless in our society. A more recent test of this was the push for the extension and reform of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARPER). Land reform is very critical in solving our current state of poverty given the fact that the agricultural sector is one of the leading industries in our country today. Sadly, despite the fact that our farmers ensure food security for each one of us, they themselves continue to live in poverty due to their lack of ownership of land and adequate support from government. Many of our current Congressmen and Senators are against this since this will go against their own personal interests given that many of them come from landed families.

Finally, a reform leader should be someone that can make every Filipino believe and hope again for a better future. S/he must be someone who can unite and inspire all of us to believe that anything is possible if we all work together to promote good governance in our country. A reform leader is humble enough to admit that s/he is not the savior of the country but rather his or her role is to serve as the captain of the ship that will help move our country to a common vision of prosperity and a better quality of life for every Filipino.

Will 2010 be the year that we will finally be able to elect an inspiring, morally-upright, effective and ethical reform President?

Many people don’t think so but I continue to believe in the greatness and the goodness of the Filipino people whom I know if given the chance will always choose to vote not for the most popular but for the right leader for our country.