MANILA, December 18, 2003  (STAR) Chasing the Wind By Felipe B. Miranda - Many educated Filipinos go ballistic thinking the only quality people prize in a presidential candidate is the latter’s popularity. Normally rational and fair-minded, these learned Filipinos often lapse into unwarranted contempt and summarily accuse the citizenry as being mostly a 'masang tanga' – a huge mass of irrational, irresponsible and simply stupid people.

Their limbic reaction reflects the fear that in a time of deepening crisis – when the most competent leadership must take the helm of government – the Philippines would be led by tyros in political administration, by people who rise to positions of leadership mainly because they are popular with the public and much applauded in fields that have little to do with national governance. For educated Filipinos, popularity cannot be a substitute for political experience. Consequently, they anticipate a worsening of the nation’s economic and political crises as popular and populist leaders win elections and take over the country’s administration.

Another reason may also explain the vehement reaction of many educated Filipinos to apparently unstoppable, mass-based political wannabes. There is the understandable resentment of the better educated (and often also better-off) as they face the prospect of being directed by those they traditionally perceive to be their intellectual, social and cultural underlings. To the pedigreed and be-degreed of Philippine society, some psychological trauma may be anticipated in having high-school dropouts – witlessly cast by the presumably vulgar multitude into bigger-than-life, heroic molds – take over the lead roles in the dramatic crusade for national recovery.

Come May 2004, educated Filipinos suffering much insomnia now may be in for a surprise. There is evidence that while popularity is a strong factor in current voter preference, most of the public could condition their final choice on what they believe to be the necessary traits a national leader must possess. These qualities augur well for the country’s governance while transiting indisputable crises. They are leadership traits that are subscribed to by the adult citizenry across the board, almost regardless of a person’s area location, gender, socioeconomic status, educational attainment, age, and employment status. Within each sociodemographic grouping, the comparative ranking of these leadership characteristics is practically the same.

Across three quarterly Ulat ng Bayan surveys of Pulse Asia – surveys of nationally representative adults 18 years old and above from April to November 2003 – Filipinos have consistently identified "being intelligent and knowledgeable about government administration (matalino at may nalalaman sa pagpapatakbo ng pamahalaan)" as the most vital trait for any national leader to have. From one-third to four-tenths of those surveyed quarterly hold this view.

Next in line is "being strong willed and able to enforce the law on the common as well as the influential people (may lakas ng loob at may kakayahang magpatupad ng batas sa ordinaryo o maimpluwensyang tao man). About one-fifth of all survey respondents identified this trait as the most imperative for those who would lead the nation.

The other qualities, while also important, are clearly less demanded by Filipinos nationwide. Less than 10 percent of the people surveyed by Pulse Asia identified "fights anomalies in government (lumalaban sa mga anomalya sa pamahalaan)," "prays a lot to God, godly (mapanalangin sa Maykapal o Diyos, maka-Diyos," "has a clean record as a government official (may malinis na record bilang opisyal ng pamahalaan)," "pro-poor (maka-mahirap)," "has integrity and a good reputation (may integridad at mabuting reputasyon)," "courageous (matapang)," "relates well to others (mahusay sa pakikipagkapwa-tao)," "has good work ethics (may magandang sistema sa pagtatrabaho" and "able to produce concrete results (may nagagawang kongkretong bagay).

People’s views on these leadership qualities emphasize the dominant need for a national leader to have not only intelligence but also familiarity with government operations; their views also underscore the public’s recognition of the importance of political will and the uniform application of the law, regardless of one’s political or economic stature.

Furthermore, these publicly most identified qualities take precedence over such traditional concerns as "being pro-poor" or "relating well to others". Even among the poor, "being pro-poor" and "relating well to others" now take a backseat to "being intelligent and knowledgable about government administration" as well as "being strong willed and able to enforce the law on the common as well as the influential people".

Educated Filipinos cannot intelligently depreciate the public’s ranking of leadership qualities as reflective of a masang tanga mentality. (As noted earlier, there is dramatic and auspicious consonance in the nation’s demanded qualities of a leader, regardless of people’s educational attainment, socioeconomic status and other variables.)

Instead of alienating the vast majority of their compatriots who are neither as well-educated nor as well-off, educated Filipinos might try investing more time in persuading them to align their voter preferences with perceived imperative leadership traits.

A truly educated person cannot forsake the hope that between December 2003 and May 2004, most Filipinos will indeed learn the virtue of making their final choice of candidates consistent with what is already generally perceived as qualities that responsible, responsive and effective national leaders must reflect.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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