There is something inherently flawed in the way we choose our leaders. We’ve been so used with having to bargain for the cheapest that we ended up having rotten leaders who lack vision and are incapable of leading.
This 2010 election is crucial in giving us another chance to change the course of our history. Not that I believe only elections can bring forth these necessary changes our country thirst for, but they can be the start.
How do we choose our leaders?
What we need this time is to find a simple metaphor to guide us along the way. And a tienda, a quintessentially Ilonggo public space, although I know it lacks the sophistication, will do just fine.
An ordinary market-goer, whenever he goes to a tienda already has something in mind regarding what to buy, the quantity of each item, a limited amount allotted for all the goods he will purchase, and possibly a list of priorities so that in the event he runs out of cash he would be able to buy only the essential.
But before we proceed, let us set exceptions. Unlike in a real market economy, Philippine elections are not governed by known economic laws. For although there is a disproportionately high demand for good leaders, the supply is dismally low; this does not mean, however, that all voters go scurrying to vote for these few candidates. In fact, most of the time these few dependable candidates fail to get a seat in government. The law of supply and demand is ignored.
These elections also do not heed the limits set by diminishing marginal returns as despite the wealth these politicians have amassed from shady dealing they have during their terms their greed remains unabashedly unsatisfied. If their term expires, they prod their wives, sons, or daughters-in-law to temporarily take their place, run for a public office, and continue their legacy of sacking of public coffer until it runs dry.
And neither do these politicians give any respect for the law of comparative advantage. They are so full of themselves that their egos which have long elephantiphized are beyond redemption. (My apologies for the elephants.) For them they are the only people able to effect change based on visions that are totally detached from reality. They can have anyone who gets in their paths be erased from the face of the planet at whim.
Still up until this point we have not yet given a concrete answer to our question. What qualities should the leaders we place our trust on this coming election possess? Very similar to a crowded Sunday market, elections in the Philippines are even more eclectic, anarchic if you want to go extreme, filthier and characteristically more disarrayed. But despite the humdrum, we realize that we are all capable of surviving a Sunday market alive with a basketful containing everything in our list or at least the barest essentials that our meager budget afforded us. But why can’t we survive our elections unscathed? Why do we always find our list wanting? Why do we end up having rotten goods in our baskets? Why do we have to shed innocent lives every time we hold elections in the country?
What do we look for?
1. Trustworthiness. We do not just buy anything from anyone. We buy goods from people we know we can trust. All social contracts are based on trust. Without it, everything will have to be done in a stringent manner where neighbors mistrust each other. This is not cost-effective as contracts will have to be made and signed even for a purchase of simple items. Politicians spend fortune just so they could gain this trust, or at least a semblance of it. So we find ourselves being flooded by comatose-inducing political ads that are too successful in revealing the inner stupidity in our politicians all in the name of gaining our trust at least as long as the election fever is still up.
2. Accountability. We often unknowingly buy goods that do not met our specifications; we do not hold ourselves accountable for it as it is the responsibility of the seller to guarantee that what we’re buying is only the best. So we return it as it is our right as a consumer. The same is true in elections. We expect our leaders to be accountable for their actions. To give us nothing but the best public service in exchange of the trust we have given them.
3. Quality. We do not just look for the minimum if we can afford the best. What we have with us, our votes are too precious to be wasted on mediocre goods. In order for a person to run for public office, he needs minimum qualification: a Filipino citizen, certain age depending on the office he is running, literate, that is, he is able to read and write his name (this I am not sure of ). But do we stop here? No definitely not. We should expect a lot from our leaders. That they should be really good at what they are doing, that they should have high moral standards, and that they should have unquestionable capability to lead. This goes back to how much value we place on our public offices. If we vote for rubbish it is because we do not have high regard on governance and the future of this nation.
Despite the cacophony of noise, blaring jingles, and multi-colored ads this coming election, we all must maintain a clear mind that will keep us from getting swayed by politicians whose vision is a selfish vision for himself and his herd of friends. For the young people, this is our shot for change.