What makes #TheLeaderIWant? Walking the talk, students say

Steph Arnaldo
Keep it real, students remind candidates

GROUP PARTICIPATION. Students got the chance to ask their candidates a question during the forum's town hall segment.

MANILA, Philippines – Rappler’s #TheLeaderIWant Senatorial Forum not only hosted 9 senatorial candidates at the Leong Hall of Ateneo De Manila University on Monday, March 4, but also a packed hall of students, eager to learn more about the kind of future leader they want – and if any of the 9 fit the bill.

Nine senatorial hopefuls – Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano, Mindanaoan civic leader Samira Gutoc, reelectionist Senator Bam Aquino, former Bayan Muna representative Neri Colmenares, opposition senatorial candidate Erin Tañada, labor leader Leody de Guzman, human rights lawyer Chel Diokno, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, and labor leader Sonny Matula – took the floor. 

Post-forum, Rappler caught up with a few university students to ask them if the forum had helped them decide what kind of the leader they want for the Philippines, and which candidates fit the bill. 

Must walk the talk

Students said that a true leader must be someone of integrity – someone who can walk the talk, no questions asked. “He or she must back up what they say with their actions,” student JP said. 

Alongside integrity, a leader must also possess honesty and the determination to follow through promises. “I want someone who is honest, who will back up what he says, and someone who is actually willing to do something for the people,” said James.

There’s also need for “flowery words,” student Jomar said. “I just want a leader that is competent enough to bring change to the country.”

Undeniably, many want “change” – but Ateneo student Roxanne acknowledges that not every leader is brave enough to instigate it. “The leader I want is someone who is not afraid to execute change and will not shy away from the challenges that imply change.”

Country over self

Another trait that students admire in a leader is selflessness. “A leader is someone who doesn’t seek his/her own benefit, instead, he is willing to serve the people,” Ateneo student Kim said. 

A leader who is genuinely concerned with the welfare of others, more than their own, is someone they would like to see leading the country.  

“He should be willing to sacrifice for the country that he strives to change. I’m supporting Bam Aquino and Samira Gutoc, because I feel that they are great people – they really represent the people, especially Samira since she represents women’s rights,” Kim added.

Another student, Amiel, also chimed in, agreeing with Kim that a true leader is one who puts the nation’s interests as a priority instead of their own, while also citing his own candidates of choice.

“The leader that I want is someone who puts the nation’s interests as a priority instead of their own. I support Diokno, since I feel strongly about him and his views and intentions as a senatorial candidate,” Amiel said. 

Genuine, brave heart that fights 

What also makes a good leader is the quality of his heart, some students said, including Tia, who wishes for her leader to be genuine and kind.

“I want someone who champions excellence, truth, and justice. Somebody with a genuine heart for the people, who will champion their causes, especially for those who have less in life,” she said.

But other than heart, a leader, to other students, needs a pair of strong teeth, as well. “We need somebody who can fight for us in the Senate,” Naomi, a student, said. “Somebody who can represent the majority of the Filipinos well.”

“I want a leader who will fight for human rights and inclusivity,” Mikee said. 

“And also accountability and an independent judiciary,” his friend Camille said.

Truly, many students have personal issues they wish their leaders to fight for, includling Ralph, whose main concern is the environment.

“I want to see a leader who can take care of our environment, and at the same time, make sure that the country still develops. Development is inevitable – as long as they’re not exploiting the Earth.” 

A leader must also be willing to do the dirty work – even if that means digging deep into the past to fix the present, according to Sofia. “We need people who are concerned with what’s happening now, but are also willing to fix what was broken in the past.” 

“I support Gary Alejano, Samira Gutoc, Neri Colmenares, and Chel Diokno, because I see that their words are truthful. They’re willing to fix it. That’s very important for me, because I don’t believe that you can move forward to a successful future if you don’t focus on the past and present,” she said. – Rappler.com

Steph Arnaldo

If she’s not writing about food, she’s probably thinking about it. From advertising copywriter to freelance feature writer, Steph Arnaldo finally turned her part-time passion into a full-time career. She’s written about food, lifestyle, and wellness for Rappler since 2018.