The Poe challenge

One major flaw of our political culture is the lack of focus on platforms or programs of government.  For the longest time, our politics has been heavily based on personality and popularity.  This weakness has been challenged only by a small portion of the electorate, and mainly those belonging to activist groups, political analysts and keen observers.

Ever so slowly, this seems to be changing in small ways. We have seen baby steps during the recent past electoral campaigns where candidates especially for national positions, have been quizzed on their positions on social, economic, and political concerns in forums and media interviews. This gave voters insights on the issues these aspirants would prioritize if elected into office.

However, to me this is superficial. Beyond personal credentials, voters need to know and study much more. We need to know the entire programs of candidates for executive positions and the legislative agenda of those seeking to represent us in Congress.

While ideally, those running for public office should be the one to entice us into voting for them because of the quality of life that people can have if they are in office, this may be more of a dream than anything. The reality is, the majority of those wanting to “serve the people” are served by the status quo.

Just check who are running. Most are scions of political dynasties or wealthy families, or backed by big business. What kind of interests do they, their families, and their “investors” most probably represent? Will having a mature, critical, and intelligent electorate be good for them?

We cannot expect these aspiring public “servants” to challenge the status quo because it serves their purpose. They want to stay in power and maintain their economic clout.

Therefore, it is up to us, the people to demand that candidates’ accountability begin as they declare their intent to run for office. It is up to us to demand that candidates make public their program of government and their plan of action so we can appropriately size them up and decide to vote or not vote for them.

A positive development has just happened.

Neophyte Senator Grace Poe, after many months of keeping the public guessing, has accepted the challenge of running for president.  Her declaration is not surprising for those who have keenly followed her statements and activities the past months. However, the more interesting thing for me is the manner by which she declared her intent to vie for the highest office—she also unveiled her platform of government.

Poe is a neophyte senator and critics do not tire of pointing this out particularly after her out-of-line statement at the height of the Iglesia ni Cristo controversy.  Even some supporters were disheartened because the senator’s pronouncement may have revealed a shallow understanding of the issues involved.

But this neophyte senator has shown veteran and more experienced politicians how to declare a candidacy. And that is by telling the people the problems that she will address, and her goals in addressing these problems if she wins.

Another thing that is not publicly known is the process by which the Poe camp put together her platform. They consulted people. Perhaps they talked with experts and technocrats but I know that they also sought the help of people from the ground. I have friends, heads of sectoral organizations who were asked by Poe’s people about their issues and advocacies. This, to me, is a good sign.

Of course, supporters of other candidates just hooted and downplayed Poe’s platform as mere promises—an SOP that all candidates do to get votes, and nothing more.

Objectively speaking though, Poe’s platform is the most comprehensive and detailed that we have heard from all who have manifested their desire to be president. Certainly it is not perfect because there are social and human rights issues that were excluded like women’s and LGBT rights. Still, by far, Poe’s platform is way better than the general statements we have so far heard from veteran politicians.

Vice President Binay, the populist that he is, never bothered to give specifics as to what he will prioritize if he gets to Malacañang.  He always just refers to what he and his family did to Makati with the promise that he will do this to the whole country, full stop.

Former DoTC and DILG chief, and PNoy’s anointed one, Mar Roxas merely said that he will continue with and expand this administration’s “daang matuwid”.  He has yet to expound what is meant by this almost cryptic statement.

And both declared their candidacies much earlier than Grace Poe.

Remember that the senator also said that in the future, she will deal with the details of her platform. Let us remember this. I have repeatedly said before that beyond the presence of a platform (which is very important), the “how to get there” is as vital.

I would like to see a six-year (the president’s term), annual plan of action on each point in the platform.  Annual benchmarking will help the Filipino people measure the success or failure of the next administration. The plan will be the guide posts by government in serving the people. If Poe does this, she will really be a candidate of substance.

Binay and Roxas, and other presidential aspirants who have yet to declare intent have been challenged by Poe. They have time to spell-out their government programs. The Filipino people should demand that they rise up to the occasion.

Let us begin to substantially veer away from personality and popularity-based politics. Let this electoral campaign period become a battle of platforms of government.


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