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Sunday, January 6, 2008

Will you buy a brand without a real product?

AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
Sunday, December 30, 2007

Would you want to buy a bar of soap when all you will be getting is an empty box with its brand name? Would you buy an empty can of soft drink only because you like the brand?

Essentially, that was the gist of my talk as resource person to the November 20 Round Table Discussion organized and hosted by the National Institute for Policy Studies and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation at the Astoria Plaza in Pasig City.

Fellow resource person, the respected political analyst Ramon Casiple, articulated the underlying currents now being faced by the country as it goes through a period of transition management.

I opted to discuss what I believed was the one important missing element in our country's political direction and this is the absence of a real product, one that will carry us forward to a vision.

In previous electoral exercises, we merely voted for brand names. We bought the brand of choice but these brands did not represent, much less, deliver, real products. Such is the nature of personality- oriented Philippine politics. We select from among personalities rather than solid programs that prescribed solution to economic and social problems.

Unlike voters in the developed democracies like the UK and Australia, many Filipino voters choose their leaders on the basis of name recall or other similarly superficial criteria such as the likability of a candidate or whatever one happens to hear from friends or read in the papers.

Majority of Filipino voters are not well-prepared to appreciate the importance of ideology in a political party, platform or program. Instead, they have been used to being force-fed bluff and bluster promises of politicians during the campaigns, most of which invariably end up in the cesspool of unfulfilled promises.

The British or Australian voters on the other hand vote on the basis of party ideology and platform and will make a selection with reference to present relevance and needs of the times.

British voters, for instance knew when to change a great Prime Minister like Winston Churchill who steered their nation through the perilous period of World War II when they realized that the country no longer needed a war time Prime Minister but a peace time reconstruction government management team.

Just recently, Australian voters struck an end to the 11-year stewardship of Prime Minister John Howard by electing a Labor Party majority in Parliament.

In other words, the British and Australian voters vote to install approaches to governance and not personalities representing nothing. This is why the British and Aussies live in a first world country and Filipinos live in a third world country where inane showbiz or sports personalities have better chances of getting elected over competent but relatively unknown public administrators.

If our voters had the sophistication of the British and Australian voters, exceptional local executives like Mayors Sonny Belmonte, Jojo Binay, Bayani Fernando and Dick Gordon (when he was Olongapo City Mayor and Subic Freeport Chairman) — who have chalked sterling accomplishments — will be the most sought-after presidential candidates. Instead, an already failed president, Joseph Estrada, will win a presidential election if one were to be held tomorrow.

More than ever, our country needs real leadership — the kind that will show the Filipino a mirror to his past and a pathway to redemption. Real leadership isn't merely telling people what they want to hear and then prey on their ignorance. Real leadership is enlightening the people — making them realize who they are, how they came to their present predicament, who brought them there and most of all how they can exit from their generational cycle of poverty.

Nobody is doing this among the front runners for the 2010 presidential elections.

Nobody from the ruling coalition or the not-so-united Opposition is seen attempting to enlighten and empower the Filipino in order that they can help themselves and arrest the continued slide of the country. They are all engaged in the same level of politics that brought us to this sorry state. All their activities and efforts focus on how to look better than the next competitor (brand) and not on how to deliver a superior program of government (product).

When our people cannot even discern who can serve them better between Joseph Estrada and Sonny Belmonte, Manny Pacquiao and Jesse Robredo — this is the price we are now paying for keeping most of our people in their backward state. You know that your democracy is screwed when you really have good people to elect but your people are simply not enlightened to vote for them.

We have to junk this type of politics we have allowed to fester, a type of politics that cannot produce development at all. The brand names that are now being promoted represent this product that has long ceased to be relevant.

Continuing with this type of politics is like insisting on using the analog cellular phone in the era of digital technology. Surprisingly, most Filipinos will not be caught with an analog cellular phone these days and yet when they vote they still patronize the same 'analog' type of politicians.

Is there anyone who will emerge to enlighten this nation and lead it to a higher, more enlightened level of politics — one that is truly for the people, by the people and of the people?

That is the challenge of our times. That is the requirement of the future we all want to have.

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