Election days come and go. But the struggle of the people to create a government that represents all of us and not just the one percent—a government based on the principles of economic, social, racial, and environmental justice—that struggle continues.
— United States senator Bernie Sanders
IF we were in a perfect world, we would certainly elect our next president based on demonstrated qualities of competence, integrity, and compassion, and in an ideal situation, it would be so easy to choose who does possess such qualities of leadership among our presidential candidates.
But we live in an imperfect world and we have a dysfunctional setting that is so, so far from what is reality. This is why so many of our fellow Filipinos show preferences for candidates who are more deficient than others when measured against the yardstick of ideal leadership.
Still, most of us blame our predicament on the low level of literacy among our people because literacy is an important factor in choosing our leaders, though it is not the primary problem that many perceive it to be.
To make it clear, allow me to pose a question: How do we explain the big support dysfunctional leaders get among the upper class that enjoys high literacy, compared to the support they get from the lower class which is plagued with low literacy?
Much more, we also ask how we explain the fact that our grandparents elected highly competent and upright leaders even if they had lesser education. And on top of this, our ancestors had limited access to information compared to the vast ocean of information at our generation’s fingertips which we call the internet and social media.
Yet more than literacy, the main culprit for our deteriorated concept of ideal leadership could be traced to our tainted and weakened concept of what is right and wrong. Our people’s sense of right and wrong has become diluted and polluted with so many toxic societal issues that give rise to many variants of right and wrong—so much like Covid-19 that has now mutated into so many strains that are all deadly and highly contagious.
Actually, we have a poisoned sense of right and wrong and this explains why a leader who espouses a policy of killings as a solution to our drug problem remains widely popular and so does a leader who is facing plunder charges rates high in the senatorial race.
Our concept of right and wrong has indeed become contaminated because there has evolved in our culture a narrowed view of what is good. What is good is no longer viewed from the perspective of community and country but from the limited perception of personal interest.
We see people favoring extrajudicial killings as a solution to our drug problem because it is good for the personal safety of so-called law-abiding citizens.
We also see people who will vote for politicians who plundered the nation’s coffers because they are perceived as generous in handing dole-outs to the poor.
And we see so many of our countrymen who will vote for the deposed dictator’s son because he is seen as a fresh breeze of air that would spell change in our lives aside from being counted as one in our ethnic affinity.
What has now evolved in the reality of most Filipinos (and especially the electorate) is a crooked habit of judging right and wrong on the basis of compartmentalized issues that resonate personally, regardless of how terrible a leader’s track record there is a plethora of other issues. Our concept of right and wrong is not viewed from the perspective of what’s good for our country but from the viewpoint of personal benefit.
Another matter that has clouded our concept of right and wrong in our assessment of the presidential candidates is the fact that we’re judging them not on their leadership qualities, but on the perceived failures or imagined successes of past leaders the candidates are identified with. But we shouldn’t blame all of these on the people’s misconceptions. We should also point fingers at those who are running our electoral process as most of our candidates are accepted not because of their qualities and degree of integrity but on their capacity to fund a nationwide campaign that would entail, say, hundreds of millions if not billions of pesos.
The fact is, you may be good for the country but the Commission on Elections would brand you as a nuisance candidate if you don’t have the money to back up your candidacy. And with that said, not all is well I suppose.