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Voting Wisely Is So Important for the Philippines

With elections a little over a week away, Filipinos need to take a long and hard look at who they are choosing to lead them for the next three to six years—Scenes from elections past. Ballot boxes piled high curbsidefor the Philippines is a country sorely lacking in leadership. For decades we have been electing celebrities, entertainers, and relatives of past and present politicians who are totally unfit for public service. They have neither the training, the experience, nor the intellect needed to properly do the job voters elected them to do.

If anyone doubts this to be the case, they only need look at how far down the Philippines has fallen since it gained independence from the United States in 1946. Back then the country was a serious player in all of Asia. Philippine business was world-class; most multinational corporations had their regional offices in the greater Manila area. Philippine schools were top-notch, and graduated scores of Filipinos who could make it to the top rungs of Fortune 500 companies. Wages during the Fifties and Sixties were higher than most other Southeast Asian countries, so much so that a few roads and bridges built then used less expensive foreign labor. Manila was on the cutting edge of everything, from modern business practices, to fashion trends, to art and architecture.

All that was then; the golden decades of the Fifties and Sixties are now but a fading memory to those old enough and lucky enough to still remember. The Philippines today is without doubt a third-world country. Manila is now a dirty and polluted back-water city, and young Filipinos migrate to far-flung destinations settling for low-paying jobs eschewed by local residents of their host country. Philippine colleges and universities no longer rate globally the way they used to; even the Philippine stock exchange rarely merits the occasional mention from financial news broadcasters like Bloomberg and CNBC.

Filipino optimists point to Fitch and now Standard and Poor’s upgrading of the Philippines to “investment grade” as a sure-fire sign that the country is on its way to first-world status. But back in the sixties, we were told that too. And back then, we were way ahead of most of our Asian neighbors. But something has gone terribly wrong because the Philippines has stagnated while the rest of Southeast Asia sped forward.

What happened? We’ve had bad leaders! Even today most are unqualified; more than a few are outright thieves. For decades, the Philippines has been run by incompetent grandstanding amateurs while neighboring countries chose their best and brightest to lead them. Take a look at the candidates running today. Most are traditional politicians with no new ideas to promote and a lot of bad habits to perpetuate. And as long as the electorate continues to see nothing wrong with electing them into office, the Philippines will continue to be mired in mediocrity. The sick man of Asia, despite its present jolt of adrenaline will remain an “also ran” who will never quite make it to the top. Unless Filipinos start to send a clear message via the ballot box and prevent unqualified candidates from ever holding public office. Published 5/3/2013


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