Manila Bulletin : As COC filing ends, let’s begin our assessment of candidates

9 October 2021

By Manila Bulletin

October 8, 2021, the last day of the filing of certificate of candidacy (COC) of candidates for the election in 2022, was a pivotal moment. It formally gave us, the Filipino nation, a list of personalities who want to take up the cudgels for the top job in the country, primary of which is our post-pandemic recovery.

Voters have a wide array of candidates to choose from – Manny Pacquiao, Isko Moreno, Ping Lacson, Bongbong Marcos, Leni Robredo, and to the others who dared to express their intent to become president. They have different ideologies, from as mundane as their campaign colors and hand signs, to as complex as their stand on good governance and pandemic response. But all of them, in their words and deeds, have expressed their intent to unite the country and to elevate the Philippines to a better place than it is now. And that is a good start.

The next candidates for president – including the vice president, the senators, and those who filed COCs in the local level, plus the partylist groups – would face a plethora of issues. The most urgent, perhaps, is the pandemic, which will not go away soon. The pandemic may still ravage the world in 2022 and the new president may take his or her oath of office with a face shield on. When the new president sits down with his or her newly-minted Cabinet members, this should be on top of the agenda.

The pandemic, however, is just the tip of the iceberg. Below it is a colossal mix of issues, discords, and disputes that have impeded our economic growth and nixed our full potential. Poverty, unemployment, and hunger are at an all-time high. Students are left behind in learning. Our forest covers and marine life are dwindling. That’s just the domestic agenda. On the international front, there are territorial disputes starting with the issue on the West Philippine Sea, and of course, how to navigate the diplomatic intricacies between the US and China.

What is trickier is how to face the political arena after this administration. Will the next administration dismantle the policies of the past regarding the drug war? How about projects such as the “Build, Build, Build”? Will the rehabilitation of Boracay and Manila Bay continue? Indeed, the job for president is not for the faint of heart – or for the one lacking in intellect. Good intentions may go far, but in the world we’re living in, a president must be a visionary at the onset.

Filing a COC is a humbling act, indeed. The candidate opens oneself to the public, and with that, criticisms whether constructive or not. Political pundits have said that this election season would be the most divisive as all the tools for campaign will be used – even fake news, dubious online accounts, and black propaganda. That is expected but voters now have to be more circumspect; they have to know how to separate the fact from the fake, to know how to discern between the voices of reason and the bashings of a troll.

Though the formal campaigning is set by COMELEC in early 2022, election fever is turning up. There will be more public appearances of candidates, more posts about them on social media platforms, and more subtle ways of campaigning. These are not surprising as we’ve witnessed these in past election cycles. What must be different now is that we look behind the political circus and discern well because this is not only a pivotal time for voters, as what we do now would have an effect on those who still can’t vote – the next generation of Filipinos.