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Inexperience

With just over a month before Filipino voters head for the polling precincts to cast their ballots and pick their new set of leaders, I feel compelled to ventilate my opinions about issues raised against Senator Grace Poe, particularly on her so-called lack of experience to lead this nation.
One only needs to do a quick review of history to find out that there is no job experience that prepares an individual to be a leader of nations or armies. In fact, the greatest leaders of the world didn’t have an impressive track record that marked them for the important roles they played in their nations’ histories. The same can be said about military leaders. Leadership is more of character, an ability to bring together people and forge a national agenda. It is about decision-making and a courage to tackle difficult challenges. Often, great leaders just leap out of the shadows, where they used to occupy positions of little significance.
Perhaps a good example would be General Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower. Before the outbreak of World War II, Ike was just a major doing menial staff work for the flashy General Douglas MacArthur in the Philippines. Ike was a quiet, unassuming army officer who went about doing his work efficiently, meticulously. He was hardly noticed except by his superiors who came to depend on him to deliver on the tasks assigned to him. There was nothing spectacular about Ike.
But in just a matter of three years, Ike climbed through the military career ladder in rapid fashion, ultimately becoming the Supreme Allied Commander who successfully led the combined American and British forces that liberated Europe from the grips of the Axis powers – Germany and Italy. The more popular generals like George Patton and Omar Bradley became his subordinates. Even the irrepressible British general Bernard Montgomery had to play second fiddle to him.
In politics, the late Ferdinand E. Marcos seemed destined to be the country’s best leader. A war hero, Bar top notcher, brilliant Congressman and Senator, Marcos had a track record that many politicians coveted. On top of that, he had a very beautiful wife in Imelda Romualdez. While he had a good start, including the first few years of martial law, Marcos became mired in corruption and human rights violations that he was ultimately toppled down in the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.
Where does this put Grace Poe?
Senator Poe’s public service as chairman of the MTCRB was brief. But she was able to establish a good track record that boosted the public’s confidence enough to make her number one Senator in the 2013 national elections. As Senator, she demonstrated intelligence and courage in carrying out her legislative work. Her highest point was in conducting the Senate investigation into the Mamasapano massacre as chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs in which she showed depth of understanding and probity in delving into the misadventure of an inept commander in chief and his best friend who was suspended as PNP director general.
Apparently, Senator Poe captured the confidence of many Filipinos, and this encouraged her to seek the Presidency despite entreaties of the Aquino administration to recruit her as running mate for Mar Roxas. And I would say that Senator Poe has the makings of a good President. She has an ability to break down complex issues and present them in as simple a manner as possible for people to understand. More importantly, she knows how to get talented individuals to work together. She does not hesitate to seek advice and listen to suggestions. There is no arrogance in her personality.
Finally, Senator Poe has shown she can stand her ground against the so-called tougher male rivals for the Presidency. She thinks well on her feet, and always comes thoroughly prepared in facing tough questioning. During a forum in Iloilo City last February, Senator Poe was confronted by a hostile question at the University of Iloilo. She listened calmly and answered in a cool voice, never showing the slightest trace of irritation, the university professor who threw that question.
Courage and calm under fire might yet become Senator Poe’s greatest asset. The Presidency is not an easy job, and more than on-the-job experience, the individual wielding its powers will need more of EQ than IQ. She finds it easy to navigate through the minefields of politics to pursue what needs to be done, unmindful of the swollen toes which she might step on. Leadership isn’t about knowledge of the job; it’s more of tough character to do what matters most to get the job done.
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Political agenda

Over the weekend, Rommel Ynion published several posts on Facebook outlining his views on what ails Filipino society in general, and Iloilo City in particular. One interesting post dwelt on corruption: Ynion said we should stop complaining about how corrupt our officials are, because there can be no corruption if the people don’t allow it. We deserve the kind of government we have, that’s essentially what Ynion was telling us.

Screenshot 2015-12-28 09.51.26I gave my own observations in reaction to the post. And there followed quite a long thread on our respective viewpoints. There are general agreement that voters are responsible for the kind of government we have. But I argued that voters as we know them now are incapable of making judgments that would lead to choosing leaders who truly look after their interests. Ignorance, brought about by poverty and poor basic services of government, is the culprit.

What struck me as significant is that politics in the Philippine setting has lost its brains. Just take a look at the television and radio commercials being aired — the treatment of vital issues affecting society is skin-deep. Nothing of substance can really be discerned. And the posts made by Ynion could initiate a move in the right direction.

It’s time the electorate demand to read and hear the views of candidates for the May 9, 2015 elections on the burning issues. With the advent of Facebook, Twitter and other social media, it’s possible for candidates to conduct virtual town hall meetings in which ordinary citizens can engage them with spontaneous questions and listen to their viewpoints.

We have reached a point when Facebook and Twitter has become accessible for ordinary Filipinos. Smart and Globe provide free access to their subscribers. Now, any Filipino citizen with a mobile phone can make his voice heard to their political leaders. Genuine leadership  makes it imperative for politicians to rise to the challenge.

So far, in Iloilo City, only Ynion has shown that he possesses the intellectual readiness with his views on issues. If he keeps up with similar posts, he should be able to articulate a well-crafted political agenda that every Ilonggo can ultimately claim as his or her own. That’s because as the discussions get deeper, Ynion will get to understand how people feel and know what their aspirations are.

Ynion might be running for a City Council seat this time, but it doesn’t stop him from assuming a position of leadership in Iloilo City. He can serve as a guiding beacon that would slowly, but surely, illuminate the minds of fellow Ilonggos and make them realize it’s in their power to achieve the changes in their lives.

Change does not happen in a vacuum. It requires a charismatic and determined leadership to make it happen. I strongly believe Facebook and other social media are giving us the singular opportunity to achieve that goal.