Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 20 February 2016


Any number of times over the past three months or more, the question has been posed to me: “Who are we to vote for?” (Sino ba ang iboboto natin?) Notice, the question is not “Who are you voting for?” because that is not really a polite one to ask. I was asked the question straight out only once, at a dinner where I was guest speaker. And, after swearing them all to secrecy—there were about 500 people—I gave my answer. They all cheered, which surprised me somewhat, since my choices have never been anywhere near the “popular.”

Anyway, I assume that the one asking “Who are we to vote for?” is sincerely asking for guidance—i.e., my answer will definitely influence his/her vote—but since there is hardly any time to explain the whys of my choice, my answer inevitably is: Surely you can judge for yourself. Which is most unsatisfactory, but which, to my mind, is better than giving the questioner an unexplained choice. And by the way, I really believe that voters can judge for themselves if they are given a framework for decision-making, as well as access to information.

In other words, I don’t buy the idea that only, say, landowners or the “educated” (presumably those with high school diploma or college and advanced degrees) should be given the vote, as has been suggested at various times. Ridiculous. Doesn’t anyone remember? Presidents with guns, goons and gold never got reelected (at those times when they could be reelected). The people (masa) just wouldn’t stand for it. They were incumbents, but lost anyway: Quirino, Garcia, Macapagal. The only exception was Ferdinand Marcos, whose “Rice and Roads” program was such a success during his first term that in his bid for reelection, he won even in Manila, traditionally an opposition area. What he did after that, we all know.

Well, what are the criteria against which candidates are to be measured? The MGG 2016 Scorecard has three leadership criteria: effective, empowering, and ethical leadership (kahusayan, malasakit sa bayan, karangalan) with 11 total subcriteria. And the candidates are to be measured against these criteria, with scores ranging from 1 to 5 (1-mahina, very poor; 2-kulang, poor; 3-pasang-awa, average; 4-magaling, good; 5-ang galing-galing, very good). Obviously, the candidate that gets the highest score (55 would be a perfect score) should be the candidate that deserves the scorer’s vote.

As previously noted, the information sheets on the candidates are prepared according to the criteria. The information was taken from the candidates’ own websites and from news sources (all cited). And for those who are interested, the MGG very thoughtfully provides a manual for the use of the Scorecard, starting from how to organize and conduct your own town hall meetings. This is where additional information may be given, received, or questioned.

But even before that, Reader, I invite you to do the exercise at home, between you and your spouse, or the rest of your family who are voters. Follow the instructions of the manual, which require you to cast your votes (before discussing the leadership qualities of the candidates) and then, after the evaluation, see how your votes may have changed.

Remember, this whole process assumes (rather heroically, maybe) that you will vote for the candidate that will be best for the country, not necessarily the candidate that will be best for you.

Don’t get angry at that. Because it seems that the basis for one’s vote is very rarely who will be the best for the country. Sen. Serge Osmeña, rumored to be one of the country’s best campaign managers, lent me a book (based on what happened in the US elections in 2000, I think). The author of the book lists down five components of voter motivation, and none of the five has to do with the country. According to this author, voters choose according to functional value (i.e., will vote for the one who will benefit him/her most), or social value (party, group membership), or emotional value (from a sense of emotional connection, like coming from the same province), or conditional value (contingent on future events), or epistemic value (change, novelty, curiosity).

See? Nothing that speaks to what is best for the country. No wonder the United States seems to be going to the dogs.

Is that true only for the United States? No. We all have heard of people (some of them very well educated and endowed) whose choice of candidate is based on any of those five components—e.g., we went to the same school together, from kindergarten to college; he and my son were classmates; we are from the same province. It hurts me to hear those reasons.

I sincerely hope that at some point before the elections, we will all come to the conclusion that we’ve got to do what is best for the country, not merely for ourselves. And the latest Pulse Asia Survey is very encouraging in that regard: When asked what was the most important consideration in choosing a presidential candidate, the runaway choice was “untarnished character/reputation, not corrupt.” Ethical. Marangal.