The job application for the highest positions of the land is now open. I refer to the start of the official 90-day campaign for candidates racing for national positions in the May 2022 polls. Every six years, the presidential elections include voting for the president and vice-president with their senatorial slates.
I do not mean to treat the government as a corporation by calling it a “job application”. Nor do I mean that government should be run like one. By constitutional mandate, the government is of the people, by the people, and for the people. On the other hand, a corporation is of the shareholders, by the shareholders, and for the shareholders. The former is for public service, while the corporation is for private profit. If the government is turned into a money-making machine and self-aggrandizement, it’s an abuse of authority. It is corruption.
But, isn’t running for a government position similar to applying for a job in a company? Yes and no, as I already made my premises clear according to the mandate stated in the fundamental law of the land, the Philippine Constitution. Clearly, any legitimate organization – private or public – would not want to take in just any applicant who is endorsed by some padrinos. I only wish to emphasize the tremendous bigger-than-life responsibility on the shoulder of the candidate for president whose multifarious state functions impact the well-being and rights of our citizens and all sectors of Philippine society. In his hands are the lives of 109 million Filipinos. Therefore, I would like to call each candidate a job applicant who shall have to put their best foot forward to show 65.7 million voters come May 9 that they are the best choice among the rest.
The position being applied for carries with it enormous powers. The president serves as both the head of government and chief of state. As Chief Executive, the president heads the government’s executive branch, including the Cabinet and all its executive departments. What makes the job so daunting is that the president is also the Commander-in-Chief in command of the entire armed forces. In addition, the President is Chief Administrator, Chief Diplomat and Chief Legislator by submitting priority bills for legislation. These multiple hats make up the overall job description of the president, so it behooves one to be most prepared and competent for the job.
Compared to a corporation, the general qualifications that the Constitution requires for a candidate are basic and easy to comply with. One has only to be a natural-born Filipino, a registered voter, must be able to read and write, 40 years of age on the day of the election, and a resident in the Philippines ten years before the election is held. Any Juan and Jaime, Eliza, and Maria can apply, go to the Comelec and file a certificate of candidacy!
There’s a caveat, however: why the less rigid qualifications for the government positions and the more tedious selection process for job applicants in a corporation? In the application list are 10 presidential candidates, nine vice-presidential candidates, 64 senatorial aspirants, and 177 party-list groups. In the case of the Philippines, the president and vice-president are separately elected and 12 senators are chosen. In March, the election campaign for more than 18,000 local positions – congressional, provincial, city, and municipal – will start for the grab.
Philippine history is replete with serious issues of misgovernance, deeply-rooted strong patronage and government malfeasance of top executives that continue to nuance politics down the line across the country. We can’t afford to fall prey to failed promises and abuse of power anymore. Despite good laws adopted from international best practices, the formidable problems of corruption, incompetence, and lack of service delivery have constantly confronted the presidency and government for decades. Why? For one, elections are driven by personality politics and traditional political families as if they are the only ones qualified for the job. Voting is largely influenced by the candidates’ popularity and name recall rather than by track record of accountability, transparency and competence.
The selection committee – the electorate or the registered voters – should take time to get to know all candidates, not just remain cheerers and campaigners for their own. After two presidential forums, interviews, and face-offs in the past weeks, the candidates have now proclaimed themselves officially as applicants to the highest positions in government last February 8. They will now embark on a nationwide campaign compliant with Comelec rules and health protocols to win the electorate’s support. Will cheating and violence be a thing of the past during the Pandemic? That is wishful thinking, according to political analysts.
Meantime, the Pandemic is leaving deep wounds on the economy, has stunted the growth of industries and schools, with millions of jobs lost, resulting in the worst unimaginable unemployment crisis. COVID-19 continues to mutate, and the challenges for universal health care, covid response and uplifting the quality of life of the people demand fast, holistic and science-driven response. Yet as we try to enter a new phase of life – the new Normal—massive changes in the labor, economy, education, industry, and communities worldwide require new innovative systems and practices to address decades-old problems left neglected even before the Pandemic. Many organizations are now reassessing and pivoting quickly toward better practices to respond to new needs, especially in selecting the leaders and workforce to ensure the right people are in the right jobs and to see that high potentials among the applicants are on track to progress into future leadership roles.
Why shouldn’t the people and the state do the same? Shouldn’t we also raise the bar of expectations and set a high standard for the candidates’ job applications for the country’s top positions? If I were the company owner and I had to take in a new hire for a critical part of my company, especially during these times of uncertainty, I would surely ask my prospective applicants to show their PORTFOLIO. In highly competitive presidential elections, this should be a positive requirement for every candidate to present one’s purposeful collection of works that shows the applicant’s accomplishments, efforts of work, results, and progress, and other achievements in one or more areas that serve national interests. After all, it’s the taxpayers’ money that will pay and foot the salary and all expenses of the incoming president and the government for the next six years. End patronage politics now, give way to meritocracy!