The President we need for the battle we face

What kind of leader does the nation need for the bloody battle against lawlessness that the first part of this article, published on Tuesday, warned about? And which presidential candidate best fits the bill?

In contrast to the false image of good governance foisted on the nation by pro-administration media, President Benigno Aquino 3rd has in truth unleashed unprecendented crime, contraband and congressional sleaze on our nation.

Crime incidence, the undeclared or underdeclared value of imports, and pork barrel outlays have all tripled since 2010 (see http://www.manilatimes.net/the-battle-we-face-and-the-president-we-need/237779/).

Hence, the nation and our next leader face a monumental struggle against syndicates, smugglers and scammers - including many leading politicians - bent on expanding their clout for another six years.

If this cabal of lawlessness continues its nefarious advance, which has already spawned a million crimes a year in the past three, and P4 trillion in smuggling in 2010-14, as detailed in Part 1, the Philippines could well go down the devilish path of Latin American narco-states, where criminal syndicates wield immense political power.

This is the paramount challenge facing the nation and the next President. The tsunami of crime, contraband and corruption threatens not just peace, prosperity and progress, but democracy itself. If lawless elements further expand their power through their political allies, as they have increasingly done under Aquino, then they undermine the sovereignty and welfare of the Filipino people.

The next Chief Executive must enforce the law

Hence, the next leader's top task is to put out the conflagration in lawlessness, and rein in lawbreakers on the streets, at the ports, and in the corridors of power. Criminals and contrabandits must face justice, and corrupt officialdom held accountable and not allowed to inflict graft on the citizenry, as has been done at the Metro Rail Transit, the Manila international airport, and the Land Transportation Office.

In that struggle to enforce laws, rules and standards, the next Chief Executive must possess three indispensable qualities.

First, he cannot be part of the administration that unleashed the lawless scourge on the nation. For all this writer's personal regard for Mar Roxas, a colleague in the Arroyo Cabinet, he is standard-bearer of the Liberal Party and his campaign is directly benefiting from the election war chest amassed by the LP since 2010.

Moreover, Roxas was in charge of two Cabinet departments - Transportation and Communication, and Interior and Local Government - under whose watch the unprecedented crime wave and the egregious MRT and LTO anomalies burdening many millions of Filipinos, happened.

Even if Roxas admits and pledges to address Aquino-era excesses, his victory, if it happens, would only show that the powers-that-be can gorge themselves on jueteng, smuggling, and public spending lucre, and still stay in charge and continue shielding themselves from accountability. That would spur even more lawbreaking.

The new leader must be battle-tested

Second, the next leaders should be battle-tested, for the war on lawlessness will be tough, nasty and bloody. Jueteng, drug and crime lords, smuggling kingpins, and corrupt politicians will fight with no moral or legal strictures whatsoever.

For all his Wharton education and his years in business, politics and government, Roxas has not fought against powerful forces ready to decimate their opponents. Neither has Grace Poe, who may be wholesome, upright and learned (she studied at the Jesuit-run Boston College), but has never faced ruthless, lawless foes.

But Miriam Defensor Santiago, Rodrigo Duterte and Jejomar Binay all have. The lady senator gained fame in the 1990s as a judge sending hoods to prison, despite death threats. She doesn't flinch at firing guns and once graced the cover of Asiaweek, the regional newsmagazine, pointing a pistol at the camera.

Davao's mayor, of course, is no stranger to bloody battles with criminals. Indeed, many fear he may be too eager to use violent force in enforcing the law.

As for the Vice-President and former Makati mayor, his life-threatening tussles with the ruthless and powerful happened during the Marcos dictatorship. As a human rights lawyer, Binay stood up to the martial law government and military, braving the ever-present threat of being tear-gassed, beaten, arrested, tortured - or worse.

In the battle against lawlessness, we need a battle-hardened fighter like Rodrigo Duterte, Jejomar Binay, and Miriam Defensor Santiago (not necessarily in that order).

Which tough guy can you live with?

In choosing the VP, mayor and senators, one key consideration is the negatives each one brings. Which of these worrisome factors can the electorate live with most easily? - that question may well point to the best leader for the country now.

Santiago's main drawback is her health. Having ended successful cancer treatment less than two years ago, she still faces the threat of malignancy within the six-year presidential term. That possibility of life-threatening disease could generate instability.

For a good number of voters, the corruption ascribed to Binay and the liquidations attributed to Duterte are enough for them to look elsewhere. Still, unlike issues with other candidates, Binay and Duterte's negatives can be addressed somewhat with public and media vigilance and legal action.

Indeed, both the people and the press would be far more watchful of the two men - the opposite of the unwarranted trust toward Aquino - and that wariness is in fact the best way to guard against corruption and human rights abuses.

In the end, of course, the nation will elect a President with all of his or her pluses and minuses. Then we must unite behind the winner and battle Aquino's legacy of lawlessness. So help us God.

Source: Manila Time