The Philippine (1987) Constitution spells out the minimum qualification to become the President
of the country. It turns out that provisions are fairly inclusive – apart from citizenship, age and residency, among others, a candidate, male or female alike, need not have an academic background let alone an actual completed academic degree. All that is required is ability to read and write and not even in just English. There is no point in misrepresenting a college degree since that is unnecessary and only reflects a cheating streak. Nor is it necessary to be a professional: an auto-mechanic or a PhD – as well as a professional politician at the national and local levels — equally meet the minimum qualification to become President of the Philippines.

The Constitution neither specifies how many parties there would be in the pursuit of becoming
President of the Philippines. Though admittedly there may have to be adequate resources to put up a platform, what is more important is being able to reach out to voters, persuade and convince them to select and elect a candidate as President. If a candidate vows to plant the Philippine flag in an island disputed by the Philippines and China to display patriotism (aside from kissing the flag), and many voters agree, the candidate becomes President of the Philippines. If another candidate promises a new society (or a reprise of previous historical vow), and most voters agree, the candidate wins hands down. If one candidate promises to eliminate corruption, or end drug problems, or lift all of the poor, and voters believe him or her, he or she becomes President. There might be a candidate claiming to be anointed by God to lead the country, and if voters subscribe, that candidate becomes President. On the other hand, some candidates may put the fear into the minds of voters that a candidate is the last card for the country, and if believed by many, the Presidency is assured for the candidate. Candidates may also exhibit a character that a large swath of voters identify with from boorish behavior to foul mouth to even misogynistic trait (aka authenticity), a candidate win. If Jesus Christ were a candidate for President of the Philippines, He would have to be like Filipino voters as sinners instead of voters emulating Him to be free of sin. He should win. Indeed, some religious elders dictate who voters should elect based on a direct message from God.

In short, candidates vie, candidates woo, candidates vow, promise and commit to as long a list as voters can take, some seriously some not so seriously. Talk is cheap and voters can easily be conned, bribed, or intimidated – no, convinced. And come election day, after all is said and done, the candidate who had successfully generated the preference of most Filipino voters becomes the President of the Philippines.

The reckoning comes the morning after – has a flag actually been planted, did a new society
emerge, has corruption been eliminated and the poor lifted, among many questions relating to the
declarations of candidates. Invariably, given our history, hardly have these vows, promises, and
commitments been fulfilled. Our national hero Jose Rizal was probably right in saying that we deserve the government we get (elect). And this seems to be a persistent and recurring result of every election even as we pride in hefty turnout in the practice of exercising the sacred right to vote.

Beyond the minimum qualification to become the President of the Philippines, there must be a
better way to choose among multitudes of candidates sifting through slogans and jingles, distinguishing what’s real and fake, rising above built-up bandwagons and momentums, and just clearing minds of the underlying noise different platforms imbue.

First, consider a candidate’s accomplishing experience above the minimum qualifications –
meaning a solid record of dedicated service that would mimic what the President of the Philippines would do. This means combining legislative history and executive functions, the former for formulating or sponsoring laws that address the country’s needs and the latter for carrying out actions that recognize but overcome policy and bureaucratic hurdles (often ignored or short-circuited by local executives who may also be candidates) and emerge as part of first if not significant responders to all crises from natural calamities to the pandemic. Accomplishing is clearly a visible top-up that voters can see as a matter of actual record.

Second, consider a candidate’s inspiring behavior that challenges the country’s underlying root of
economic and social malaise. For example, a candidate who runs against a well-embedded dynastic incumbent and wins not only inspires but demonstrates that dynasties can be defeated fair and square. After all, Philippine population has increased 5-fold between the 1949 and 2016 elections. Yet the number of dynasties has remained more or less constant with effective stranglehold on the body politic. Inspiring would be an understatement that would increase the tribe of candidates who challenge structural problems through the ballot box and prevail spreading a new cadre of leadership.

Finally, consider a candidate’s promising potential as President of the Philippines arising from
being accomplishing and inspiring. This is different from promises and vows which are bereft of actual experience but hinge on hypothetical conditions. Promising potential derives from a solid record of accomplishment and inspiring behavior. That candidate would likely be an effective President of the Philippines continuing to carry out at the highest level what have been accomplishing and inspiring.

Qualifying to become President of the Philippines does not require a voluminous CV. There is no
prohibition from being a candidate that most Filipinos can aspire who meet minimum requirements. What is needed is to reach out to voters who express their beliefs and convictions through the ballot box. Whether the winning candidate in fact delivers may or may not elude the reality. Just ask the voters who expressed their preferences in past elections if they would elect again the candidates they selected and elected. The answer casts the destiny of the Philippines.