So, you want to be president?

If the presidential candidate does not value numbers, scenarios and horizon planning, the future will not be good. But if the candidate is conscious of the role as captain of the ship, moving everyone in one direction using a clear road map, the future of the country will be bright.

Note: This column originally appeared in The Manila Times on March 9, 2021.

People have been egging one to run. Another has taken the interview route to make a dent. One is planning a fight in November. Still another was just being floated as a possibility. In all these floats made public, there are no plans being presented, no discussions whatsoever. And it appears that running for the presidency is merely a popularity race. It is interesting how others are already contrasting themselves against the rest when what is being presented is just that: creating a public urgency on the rationale for running. Truly, it is a wrong move in a state of pandemic. Candidates and their supporters need to take stock of this new landscape. This terrain will not sit well with voters when their predicament with Covid-19 is set aside for the tarpaulin play. To do that in Luzon, in the National Capital Region (NCR), shows a lack of strategic knowledge of how NCR voters traditionally behave.

The supporters pushing their respective candidates should think of Rodolfo “Dolphy” Quizon Sr., yes, the comedian, when he was being persuaded to run for a national position. He was quoted as saying that the problem wasn’t really whether or not he would win but what he would do after he won and assumed a government position. Often, we campaigners get the adrenaline rush during campaigns, and upon winning, the hardest part is really governance, putting together a team (mind you, not rewarding campaigners), getting them to work together and putting campaign promises into reality. So, why are there numerous people looking at that “palace” by the river with moist eyes? Do they think it would be easy being president in these pandemic times?

Let’s start listing what the 17th president must do. First, if he or she is elected with a vice president (VP) from another tandem, she or he must be able to bring that VP into the fold, trust him or her and find a common ground for the sake of the country. Hence, if we want all hands on deck, we should get one tandem in and not divide it as we traditionally do for the sake of that myth of checks and balances. We have seen that if the president and the vice president come from different camps, the country suffers.

After dealing with the VP, we go to three critical issues: health, economics and security. With the news of more than 1 million vaccine doses arriving (600,000 from Sinovac, donated by the Chinese government, and 525,600 doses from AstraZeneca), vaccines will be the controlling theme going into May 2022. Which means, we will not have herd immunity. Some areas will remain under general community quarantine and Comelec Resolution No. 10698 will always decide in favor of the safety of voters, thereby creating a totally new terrain where incumbents, who have a decided advantage, do not necessarily mean an easy victory. Health also involves the rollout of Universal Health Care and the call of the Department of Health to renationalize tertiary hospitals. The pandemic shapes the direction of the needed reforms in the sector.

A healthy nation is the foundation for economic growth. With the pandemic, gross domestic product has contracted. The micro, small and medium enterprises that power the nation are suffering because there is no relief being given; unlike France, which picked from its arsenal of economic policies, resurrecting a financial instrument introduced in 1978 and known as participative loans. France would be deploying state guarantees to back €20 billion ($24 billion) of so-called participative loans.The instruments, “conceived in France during the 1970s but never used on such a large scale, would offer investors a blend of equity and debt. They are similar to equity in that they are subordinated to all other debts and often come with a share of profits. But, like loans, they have a fixed interest rate and afford the creditor no voting rights.”

The Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (Create) measure, hopefully, is signed into law before the deadline for the filing of candidacy certificates in October 2021. Included in Create is the expansion of the functions of the present Fiscal Incentives Review Board to better ensure that the existing and future tax perks and other incentives to be granted by the government will be “performance-based, time-bound, targeted and transparent.” An urgent task is also the complementary legislation in the lifting of economic provisions in the Constitution through a simple legislative approach of subjecting those provisions to mere congressional action. Then, there is also the draft executive order on devolution, which is seen as an accompanying measure to the Mandanas ruling, made by the Supreme Court in 2019, which will be implemented in 2022.

Who among the so-called contenders has a clear plan? Would the decision just be based on popularity? Or would voters, aided by social media, be able to discuss issues that matter to them and contenders, offering a clear road map for the country in the next six years? What would be the decision points of voters: 1) what did leaders/incumbents do to better the lives of voters during the months of pandemic last year, and 2) how do we rebuild to pre-pandemic levels, or do we have a different plan with a new trajectory of growth?

 

Leaders make choices that keep them up at night. The presidency is a lonely job because the chief executive makes choices alone. The head of state signs documents that affect 110 million lives. If the presidential candidate does not value numbers, scenarios and horizon planning, the future will not be good. But if the candidate is conscious of the role as captain of the ship, moving everyone in one direction using a clear road map, the future of the country will be bright. And yes, the victor should be the president of all and not just a few. May 2022 is easy to win. Governing with a multifaceted problem such as Covid-19, affecting the health, economy and safety of all, is not a walk in the park. You cannot evolve or learn as you do things as president. Being a catalyst is needed. Solving is apparent. Caring is necessary. And a lot of sacrifice will be asked of the victor. So, you still want to be president? Where is your plan?

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About the Author
Malou Tiqiua is the Founder/General Manager of PUBLiCUS Asia Inc. A noted political management expert in the Philippines and Asia, she brings over 20 years of professional experience in public, private and the academe combined. Author of the comprehensive book on electoral campaigns in the Philippines, "Campaign Politics", Malou is a graduate of the University of the Philippines with a Political Science degree and a Master of Public Administration. She completed her second master's degree (MA in Political Management) from the Graduate School of Political Management, George Washington University.
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