On May 12, a year before the 2016 national elections, De La Salle University (DLSU) hosted a forum on leadership dubbed #PHVote: The Leader I Want at the Natividad Fajardo-Rosario Gonzalez Auditorium. The event, organized by social news network Rappler and the Building an Inclusive Democracy (BID) Consortium, and endorsed by the Philippine Political Science Association, was attended by individuals representing different sectors in society. Two panel discussions were held during the forum.
In his welcome remarks, DLSU Vice Chancellor for Lasallian Mission Br. Michael Broughton FSC acknowledged the diverse audience present during the event. “Each of us has different backgrounds, and possibly, very different views on what a leader should be. Leaders are very important in every group since they bring us closer to our mission and vision,” spoke Br. Broughton. “With that said, I would like to ask you: What are the qualities that your leader has that makes him or her the ideal leader?” he inquired.
During his introduction, College of Liberal Arts (CLA) Dean Dr. Julio Teehankee recognized the collaboration of the BID Consortium for organizing the event. The group is composed of DLSU’s CLA, Ateneo School of Government (ASoG), Asian Institute of Management Rizalino S. Navarro Policy Center for Competitiveness (AIM RSN-PCC), and the University of the Philippines (UP) National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG).
The challenges we face
The first panel discussion, moderated by Cheche Lazaro of Probe Productions, revolved around the challenges that people face in line with the upcoming elections. “Are we ready for issues? Are we going to vote on the basis of issues?” Lazaro asked, kickstarting the discussion.
AIM RSN-PCC Executive Director Dr. Ronald Mendoza began the discussion as he tackled the issue of political dynasties in the Philippine government, claiming that the phenomenon is present in every province in the country. While Dr. Mendoza stated that one advantage of political dynasties is that it provides for “a long runway for reforms” by citing Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew as an example, he mentioned that a monopoly of political power in the case of dynasties can lead to political inequality, which can then lead to economic inequality. According to Dr. Mendoza, “The dominance of some families in our political sphere is showing and affecting our economic sphere.”
Dr. Walden Bello, former member of the House of Representatives under the Akbayan party list, enumerated several issues faced by aspiring candidates in the Philippines, noting difficulties concerning inequality, poverty, problems in electricity, and climate proofing, among others. “The next administration must place development front and center,” stated Dr. Bello. Ultimately, he concluded, “One of the greatest challenges is saving democracy in this country. […] The next administration may well be our last chance to convince our youth that democracy can deliver.”
Prof. Winnie Monsod of the UP School of Economics presented a contrast of the Philippines’ per capita income growth (1.58 percent) with that of other neighboring Asian countries (ranging from 3.40 to 6.18 percent) between 1960 and 2009. According to Monsod, two major factors for the difference in growth rates are government policies and institutions. “We have something to do with that because we are the ones who elected these people into government,” she said. She also explained that institutions such as corruption “affect most developing countries, but [the Philippines] more than most.” However, despite the prevalence of bad governance and corruption, Monsod remained hopeful for the future. “There is hope for us, if the youth of today votes for someone who is competent and has integrity,” she stated.
Transparency International Philippines Executive Director Dr. Cleo Calimbahin emphasized the need to change perspectives regarding Philippine politics. While demanding honest, competent leaders with vision that “must include providing better service to the Filipino people,” Dr. Calimbahin expressed that citizens must “also have a shift in our response to the government.” She stated that citizens must demand accountability and show volunteerism by being both vigilant and vocal in order to combat bad governance.
The leaders we want
Rappler Multimedia Manager Patricia Evangelista moderated the second panel discussion, during which speakers exchanged views on the characteristics of ideal leaders.
ASoG Dean Antonio La Viña recounted his discussion within the Movement for Good Governance and the Moral Force Movement in detailing what leaders should be, capturing the ideal leader in three words: effective, empowering, and ethical. La Viña further described such as being a leader who will spearhead the country to surmount climate change to “reorient the economy for climate resilience and low emissions,” a leader who will build peace “with a vision of inclusive and holistic peace and justice,” and a leader of the diaspora with “an economic vision so no one is forced by economic circumstances to leave the country.”
Dr. Francisco Magno of the DLSU Jesse Robredo Institute of Governance highlighted “three Is” in an ideal leader: integrity, inclusiveness, and innovation. According to Dr. Magno, a leader must have integrity and must affirm adherence to principles. Further, he stated that a good leader must value inclusiveness and introduce opportunities that induce engagement among government, citizens, and non-state organizations and encourage participation of vulnerable sectors. He also stressed the importance of innovation or the use of new ideas and methods in response to current and potential problems. “We rely on old institutions to solve present and emerging problems,” lamented Dr. Magno. “Solving today’s collective action problems requires collaborative governance.”
Prof. Leonor Briones of UP-NCPAG drew attention to the different types of leaders, but ultimately described that leadership is largely political, regardless of whether the ideal type of leader is the modern manager, the moral exemplar, the inspirational leader, or the stern enforcer. Briones also warned of the pitfalls of hyperpresidentialism, a condition where despite the three branches of the government being supposedly co-equal, “a dominant executive [takes over] and a system where the two other branches of the government [become] weak.” According to Briones, “such a situation is dangerous and threatens the balance of power among the three branches.” Because of this, Briones stated that a strong president must be guided by a competent cabinet and professional advisers.
After the panel discussions, the audience was given a chance to direct their questions to the speakers during the open forum sessions. To conclude the program, Rappler CEO and Executive Editor Maria Ressa formally launched PHVote: The Leader I Want campaign, which bridges journalism, modern technology, and crowdsourcing. “In this day and age, technology makes every person in this room very powerful, but we cannot do it alone,” Ressa expressed. “We need to come together and collaborate to choose the leader we want.”
In her closing remarks, Rappler Managing Editor Glenda Gloria communicated, “Hopefully, this time around, in a field where voters are more engaged and involved, [and] where technology will help them with various tools to be better informed and to take action, [we] ought to realize that in no other time in Philippine history are they more empowered. Hopefully, we finally get to elect the leader we want.”