2022 Philippine Elections

#PHVote Dialogues: Does a president reflect or impose values?

Michelle Abad
#PHVote Dialogues: Does a president reflect or impose values?
In a #PHVote Dialogues episode on Rappler, media workers and artists reflect on how Filipinos can choose a good president

With the growing list of names being floated to run for the top positions of authority in the country, should Filipinos expect the president to embody their values?

While the president should supposedly represent the values and identity of Filipinos, history has shown that those occupying the highest position in the land tend to use their own values to try and influence the people, according to resource persons at Rappler’s #PHVote Dialogues on Wednesday, July 28.

Manila Standard news editor Joyce Pañares, poet Alfonso Manalastas, Linya-linya creative director Ali Sangalang, and Rappler multimedia reporter Camille Elemia joined the discussion hosted by Bea Cupin, Rappler’s Life & Style and Entertainment editor.

#PHVote Dialogues are part of #WeDecide: Atin ang Pilipinas, Rappler’s 2022 Elections coverage.

Reality of personality politics

When a president chooses what he values, that includes the people who are close to him.

While Filipinos choose the president, the president appoints his right hand men and women – Cabinet secretaries, and other influential positions. The panel reminded Filipinos that choosing a president will always be a package deal.

In President Rodrigo Duterte’s case, he brought his closest allies from hometown Davao with him to help make decisions that affected Filipinos on a nationwide scale.

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The Philippines has a very “personalistic” political culture, Pañares said. She lamented how there is “no real culture of political parties,” which would explain the shifting alliances. “Even the culture would shift depending on who is sitting in authority,” she added.

Para magkaroon tayo ng political party reform, dapat ipasa ‘yan ng Kongreso. Pero sila mismo, nagbebenefit sila sa ganitong sistema,” said Elemia. (In order for us to have political party reform, Congress needs to pass it. But they themselves benefit from this kind of system)

“So how do we expect them to pass something that will go against them and their families?” she added.

Number one ‘influencer’

Sangalang, who used to be on the speechwriting team of the late former president Benigno Aquino III, recalled how Aquino’s values influenced his staff.

[Ang pangulo] ‘yung number one influencer, at mag-ti-trickle down siya sa lahat. Kami ang unang nakakita noon. Kung ano ‘yung values and principles na nakikita naming lumilitaw sa kanya, ‘yun yung lead namin,” said Sangalang. 

(The president is the number one influencer, and that trickles down to everything. We were the first to see that. His values and principles, as we witnessed them, we took that as our lead.)

In Duterte’s final State of the Nation Address on Monday, July 26, he went on his usual line about his administration’s deadly war on drugs. But according to a Pulse Asia survey conducted a month before, Filipinos wanted to hear most about jobs and the economy. Only 17% wanted him to discuss the drug war.

Manalastas, who is involved in grassroots advocacy groups, noted that Duterte does not often directly address the youth and marginalized groups. Sangalang, meanwhile, said that a president should be someone who trusts his people.

Kung feeling niya siya lang magaling at walang ma-contribute ang mga tao, paano natin i-re-resolve mga problema natin?” he said. (If [the President] thinks only he is competent,and other people cannot contribute, how can we resolve our problems?)

Voter registration is ongoing until September 30. – Rappler.com

Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a researcher-writer at Rappler. Possessing the heart and soul of a feminist, she is working on specializing in women's issues in Newsbreak, Rappler's investigative arm.