[OPINION] Wanted: A perfect president

TWO years before the end of the six-year term of President Rodrigo Duterte, social media networks have been ablaze with criticisms of Philippine presidential wannabes that people don’t like.

And, in the U.S., a few weeks before President-elect Joe Biden assumes office, Trump fanatics are grieving over the loss of their “greatest president since Lincoln,” while spouting dire warnings about the oncoming Biden tenure. Of course, the Biden-ites are eager to experience a period of civility after four years of President Donald Trump’s chaotic and divisive tenure. They expect relief in Biden’s centrist policies while the progressives in his party are said to be planning to see their liberal agenda eventually implemented.

Exactly what does “progressive” and “liberal” mean? Socialism? Free health care, education and other benefits paid for by the tycoons but not by “average” or “middle income” Americans? Of course, businessmen — not just tycoons — don’t relish the idea of carrying the weight of a welfare society. They are asking: where do these pseudo-socialists draw the line?

The other day, someone told me that in the U.S., those earning $400,000 a year are now merely middle income. So what does make of retirees making less than $2,000 a month from Social Security? And how about those unable to feed their families and pay the rent on their hovels?

In the Philippines, the self-appointed soothsayers and social media kibitzers dislike outgoing President Duterte for being “what he is and what he is not.” Fill in the blanks.

They have also expressed dismay over the reported presidential ambitions of Manny Pacquiao. Why? Because, fill in the blanks.

They also think Sen. Bong Go should go to (fill in the blanks) instead of aspiring for Malacanang. Why? Because he is allegedly a Duterte Mini-Me.

As many kibitzers don’t relish the idea of a President Sara Duterte (anooo?? Duterte na naman???).

They think she will be as prone to violence as her father. In such a case, they would prefer Sen. Ping Lacson?

Or maybe, they would like Ronnie Poe resurrected in Sen. President Tito Sotto? Or would they rather have former President Fidel Ramos? Or Erap Estrada? Or Imelda Marcos? Or Bongbong?

Everyone I have asked has only been able to describe the things they dislike in a presidential wannabe. But no one has been able to adequately describe the “ideal” president.

Following is a Facebook exchange between me and a friend who was one of the finest account management persons to come out of Philippine advertising. He was also a former president of a telecommunications company and a former senior executive of a multinational firm. In sum, a pretty intelligent and knowledgeable individual.

My post read (loosely translated from the original Tagalog): “With due respect to my friends, what are the qualities of an ideal president? Brilliant like Marcos? A great speaker like Ninoy Aquino? Wealthy like Mar Roxas? A widow like Cory? A bachelor like Noynoy?

Honest like RM? Disciplined like Ramos? An economist like Gloria? A sports icon and wealthy from personal efforts like Pacquiao? Excellent in English like Manglapus? A successful businessman like Danding? Business tycoons like Pangilinan or the Zobels?

Tough like Duterte? A martyr like Rizal? Courageous like Bonifacio? A rebel like Aguinaldo? A good actor like Erap? Or all of the above? Next question: Has there ever been a politician who did not make money in office? Who among those currently in office can lead the Philippines? Has that person been born? Or is that person dead?”

My friend’s response was a non-answer: “You keep changing presidents until you find the perfect one. Like water will get you drunk as long as you keep drinking until it does. Hehe.

Actually no president is perfect that’s why we limit their tenure. In our case, 6 years no reelection. However, some of them want to stay longer. While not perfect, they don’t want to leave and also want to pass on the position to their children.”

Another friend offered an analogy: “Choosing an ideal president is like choosing a wife or husband. You take a chance that WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get). Some are lucky. Others wake up feeling miserable on the morning after the night before. Like a hangover after a New Year’s party.”

INDEED, there has to be a better way to choose a president or a partner-for-life. The English poet Rudyard Kipling wrote, “If,” a piece that could provide some guidance:

“If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run—
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Of course, Rudyard Kipling was hardly an ideal human being himself. He was a jingoist and an imperialist. He also wrote the miscegenistic lines, “East is east and west is west and neither the twain shall meet.”

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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