By By Atty. Romulo P. Atencia
The Choice for President
posted 30-Jan-2016  ·  
4,392 views  ·   0 comments  ·  

Thomas Jefferson recalled that in the past the people in general were considered little more than cattle, to be governed and controlled by those possessing wealth, education and power, and kept under subjection lest they undermine the stability of the government. The Founding Fathers introduced the revolutionary idea that government could rest on the reasoned choice of the people themselves, which was thought absurd in other lands at that time. "It is comfortable to see the standard of reason at length erected, after so many ages, during which the human mind has been held in vassalage by kings, priests, and nobles; and it is honorable for us to have produced the first legislature who had the courage to declare that the reason of man may be trusted with the formation of his own opinions."

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He also declared: "Shake off all the fears and servile prejudices under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear”. Great words, indeed, from a draftsman of the U.S. Declaration of Independence; the nation's first secretary of state; second vice president; and, as the third president, the statesman responsible for the Louisiana Purchase. The reason why people choose a new president and other government officials lies, perhaps, in Thomas Jefferson’s concept of government.

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Unfortunately, Jefferson’s grandiose scheme and words do not work in our country. With a few notable exceptions, “the reasoned choice of the people themselves” do not appear to be reasoned. There is still rampant corruption, inefficiency, incompetence  and apathy in government. Worse, people are still hungry. The Philippines' poverty line for 2014 marks a monthly per capita income of Php10,534 a year. According to the data from the National Statistical Coordination Board, more than one-quarter (25.8%) of the population fell below the poverty line the first semester of 2014, an approximate 4 per cent increase since 2013. The decline in poverty has been slow and uneven, much slower than neighboring countries who experienced broadly similar numbers in the 1980s, such as People's Republic of China (PRC), Thailand, Indonesia or Vietnam. Furthermore, one out of 10 families couldn’t meet their basic food needs. Nevertheless, the estimated number of poor families remained steady at around 1.6 million.

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There is a Chinese proverb that goes like this: “Talk doesn't cook rice.” Too, a quote which expresses an idea entirely different from Jefferson’s has surfaced in modern cinema, thus: “I don't trust society to protect us, I have no intention of placing my fate in the hands of men whose only qualification is that they managed to con a block of people to vote for them.” (Mario Puzo, The Godfather). It is now a common belief that the president’s priority must be to solve the problem of poverty and security. Unlike a tribal leader, the job of president of a country does not revolve anymore on just solving conflicts in his tribe; it involves solving conflicts with other, oftentimes more powerful, nations. It also includes providing security of the people from domestic and foreign threats, including terrorism. Other countries attained economic, social and human development and security largely because of their great leadership. Our world still have many great leaders. Although the citizens are vital in developing any country, the head of the government or state has the main responsibility to lead that progress. It is believed that these are the yardsticks for measuring the worth of the candidates for president.

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The next presidential election in the Philippines is scheduled on Monday, May 9, 2016. This will be a part of the 2016 general election where elections to the Senate, House of Representatives and local government above the barangay level, including the  Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao shall be held.  This will be the 16th presidential election in the Philippines since 1935, and the sixth  presidential election since 1986. Looking back at the presidents of our country chosen by our people, the common choice cannot be said to have been really wise, with some notable exceptions. This could be due to the immature and corrupt politics in the country. But, “reasoned choice of the people” or not, the people must still be the ones to choose their leaders. The alternative -- to be ruled again by kings, dictators, and tyrants -- is unthinkable to even consider.

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If, after mature consideration, nobody measures up to these standards, one may consider voting for Robin Hood. No, not the popular action star of local cinema, but Robin Hood, the heroic outlaw in English folklore who, according to legend, was a highly skilled  archer and swordsman who is often portrayed as "robbing from the rich and giving to the poor". In one version of the legend, Robin Hood is pictured as a Saxon noble, living near the castle of Nottingham. By various means he was forced into a life of banditry, using his cunning and skill-at-arms to relieve bishops, nobles, and servants of the king of gold and jewels levied from the oppressed peasants. Robin collected a band of supporters, his "Merry Men" around him, dressed in green. He spends his time fighting the cruel Sheriff of Nottingham, and, ultimately, King John, who had usurped the throne from the rightful King, Richard I (Coeur de Lion orLionheart). The personal courage of this celebrated outlaw, his skill in archery, his humanity, and especially his levelling principle of taking from the rich and giving to the poor, have in all ages rendered him the favorite of the common people. In 12th century England, Robin and his band of marauders confront corruption in a local village and lead an uprising against the crown that will forever alter the balance of world power. Too bad he is only a legend and may never even have existed ……

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