IN THE early days politicians presented themselves to voters possessing the right credentials and a long experience in public service. Recent elections however have seen various personalities more than willing to throw their hats into the political arena even without the necessary preparation.

Jose Torres, a history professor at De La Salle University, considers many of the 2016 candidates as “neophytes” trying to conceal their novice status with a celebrity image.

The image of politicians, Torres argued, has been reduced to a dispenser of various favors, leading the public to root for a candidate with a “Messiah complex.”

“I do not think there will be any difference in the candidates today unless you have a voting population that is ‘intelligent’ enough to look at the qualities, [not the candidate] as a popular figure, but rather the qualities of leadership in governance,” Torres told the Varsitarian.

Reynold Agnes, political science professor at Far Eastern University, said programs and projects implemented by the officials in government positions were more important than experience.

Aside from political experience, comparing presidential candidates should also be based on credentials, performance, achievements, advocacy and stand on major issues, said Dennis Coronacion, head of the UST political science department.

The only qualifications of the president outlined in Article VII, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution are: being a natural-born Filipino citizen, a registered voter, 40 years of age at the day of the election, must know how to read and write, and must be a resident of the Philippines for 10 years preceding the elections.

Political system ‘regressed’

Compared with the past five decades, the current political system in the Philippines has “regressed,” but the political agenda of the candidates have remained, Torres said.

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Escuela de Matronas

“The system of politics worsened and so has the public’s understanding of it,” he added.

Carmel Abao, political science professor at Ateneo de Manila, said political tactics have also not changed much from past campaigns.

“[Politicians often] appeal to emotions, mudslinging and patronage-based tactics,” she said.

Agnes said targeting the emotions of the people was a traditional strategy used by the candidates, and was very effective in winning votes.

Coronacion agreed, adding that voters were fond of good-looking and approachable candidates carrying a clean public image.

“Citizens base their votes on blood relations leading to clan-based politics, while others cling to material incentives that develop to patronage politics,” he said.

Candidates’ resumes

Among the expected 2016 candidates, Sen. Grace Poe topped the Social Weather Stations survey last June 18 as the preferred choice for president and vice president.

However, she has only served in government for five years, having been chairwoman of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board from 2010 to 2012 before being elected senator in 2013.

Vice President Jejomar Binay, who has long been open with his plans for a presidential candidacy, has been a public servant since 1986, when he was appointed officer in charge-mayor of Makati City. He served as mayor until 1998 when he became ineligible for reelection after serving three straight terms.

His wife Elenita warmed his seat from 1998 to 2001. Binay again served as mayor from 2001 to 2010. In 2010, he was elected vice president.

Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, who obtained the endorsement of President Benigno Aquino III on July 31, has served in government for 22 years. He first served as a member of the House of Representatives, then was designated by presidents Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as trade and industry secretary.

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Mushing around the bush

Roxas became a senator in 2004 before serving as transportation and communications secretary in 2011 under Aquino. In 2012, he became interior and local government secretary.

Coronacion said Roxas appeared to be the most qualified candidate, but lacks the support of the public.

The role of the Church

Given the shallow nature of political contests in the Philippines, the religious leaders have become one of voters’ main sources of guidance and reflection.

“The [Catholic] Church can be a good source of enlightenment for the voters,” Coronacion said.

However, Torres said that the Church only steps in when moral values and religious freedoms are being threatened by bills or political advocacies.

The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), established in 1991, is one of the Catholic initiatives aiming to transform the electoral culture of society. PPCRV monitors the tabulation of election results and works to prevent election fraud.

Torres commended Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle’s role as a public commentator, which allows the prelate to reach out further to the population.

“The efforts of the Church not to condemn politicians but the immoral values per se will help the people to shape their perception of the government,” Torres said.

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