Past Philippine Presidents

Past Philippine Presidents

I have been looking at the Presidential candidates for a while now. I have taken time to evaluate things. There are six candidates for President:

  • Manuel Roxas II
  • Roy Señeres
  • Grace Poe
  • Rodrigo Duterte
  • Miriam Santiago
  • Jejomar Binay

The order is not by chance. It is my ranking of candidates. I will not get into Senators and Congressmen. These are decisions for those back home anyway. This opinion will be my last election-related article.

Mar Roxas

Roxas has by far the most experience in national government. He has held several positions as secretary of different departments, and has been Senator and Congressman. He knows how the complex jungle of Philippine government works. He also has shown the capability to find analytical solutions and implement them in organizations, such as Oplan Lambat-Sibat and Oplan Listo within the DILG. He may at times get impatient or annoyed, and sometimes may have lacked the feeling for “on the ground” situations. Yolanda and other matters were lessons learned for him as well.

But programs like Bottom-Up-Budgeting show that he understands the basic issues of LGUs when it comes to planning their expenditures and managing their funds. Some Philippine LGUs, I have been told, rely on loansharks for financing. BUB is like Pantawid Pamilya, but for local government units – it helps and teaches good habits. It gives money, but attached to responsible planning.

And hopefully liquidation. As for some unliquidated Yolanda funds, connecting them to Mar Roxas like some do is a big stretch and sound like pure malice to me. But I do hope he listens to Leni Robredo, when it comes to the people. He should know how to appoint the right Secretaries for a good Cabinet, having done similar jobs before. This will be his main job, coordinating a Cabinet. Another of his jobs will be convincing the Senate and the Congress pass the right laws, he was in both and knows the political game well. Hope he makes good use of LEDAC so that priorities are set and kept in lawmaking.

Roy Señeres

The dark horse in the race has good ideas. He has been an ambassador. He is non-dynastic. He understands the common people. But his ideas are too focused only on taking care of OFWs. This is not enough to run a nation. He should have tried to be a Senator first. He might be a good person to consider for a Cabinet position, taking care of OFWs after Binay. To gain more experience in national government. Candidates outside old political families are still rare. More of them next time I hope.

Grace Poe

She might have good intentions. Her ideas of how to get things done are pure fantasy. Her way of dealing with some situations does not show depth of character – some might see it as treachery, maybe she is naive and misled by Chiz Escudero. Well, if she is naive, she is not ready. If she is too weak to deal straight, she has to learn to be stronger. She might be OK in 2022 – if natural-born or if the requirements have been changed by then. She does know how to talk to the people, and most probably feels for them. But that is not enough to be able to become Philippine President.

Rodrigo Duterte

He does not in my opinion understand what it takes to be President. One recent example: his stance on “feeding rich ambassadors“. Anyone who has any curiosity on diplomatic practice – and even basic Filipino hospitality – will know that it is normal to treat one’s guests well. Ambassadors represent other countries one has relationships with. Besides, most diplomatic receptions are not sit-down dinners, they are standing receptions with canapes. And not all Ambassadors are rich. Some may even come from poor families and made it to the top by being excellent in their job.

His ideas about shutting down infrastructure projects are nonsense as well. A country has contracts and obligations. One can suspend contracts to scrutinize them. But a country that is not predictable and reliable in its international dealings loses trust. Trust is a very important capital. Germany’s trust in the Philippines I think was damaged by NAIA3. This has gotten better now.

What I did like about him is his hands-on mentality, and how he talks to ordinary people. But it is too much of the saloon cowboy mentality. A big ship, a country, cannot be driven like a banca.

Miriam Santiago

Too old school and inflexible. Her legalistic approach is outdated, she would just throw out EDCA and jeopardize Philippine national security. Even assuming she is healthy.

Jejomar Binay

Not trustworthy in any way. Boo! A man who shows subservience to the Pope, but expects subservience from others “below him” is suspect. I like people who are treat everybody the same way, no matter what rank they have. Respect people (Mayor Duterte, the Pope must be respected, Mar Roxas watch your tone with common people at times) but don’t bow to them – Leni is perfect in this.

Leni Robredo

Leni Robredo is my preference for Vice-President. She combines growing competence with a totally new approach to dealing with common people, so far unknown in Filipino national politics. Could be a good President come 2022, the first after Magsaysay outside the usual political families. Exposure would help her gain the necessary national government experience.

Joey Salceda

At the provincial level, there is Governor Joey Salceda of Albay who is like Robredo in approach. But he is staying in Albay. Most probably because he cares and does not want to leave his people. Maybe because he also knows that the Filipino people do not yet have the same unity as Albayanos. They would be much more difficult to lead. I do not envy any honest Filipino President.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 23 January 2016