Choosing my president: A mix of mind, spirit and heart (Part 1 of 2)

(Note: This post reflects my personal process in shortlisting my candidates and assessing them. I am sharing it since so many have been asking me what my own stand is. This is where I am as of today. My assessments can still change depending on circumstances or events up to May 9. This does not necessarily reflect the sentiment of my other colleagues in BlogWatch.)

I am glad the 2016 elections have leveled up. For the first time, the Commission on Elections mandated debates for both President and Vice President positions. Even senatorial candidates had the chance to debate each other. Platforms and issues suddenly were at the forefront of discussions. In a sense, that set a precedent for future elections – less and less of those inane jingles and more of these healthy, platform- and issue-based discussions.

Here I am, just a few days away from voting, and I still have no President firmly in my mind. It’s disconcerting, considering that I am an active citizen advocate, constantly engaging with these public servants, interviewing some of them. Still, I look at the 5 presidential candidates and have no default choice. If I am this undecided, how much more difficult must it be for other citizens who are not as engaged as I am?

So I am sharing my struggle with you but also sharing concrete steps I am taking to make that decision less challenging. If you too are still undecided, I am hoping you can use some of the steps here to come to your own decision.

Note: I will be using the male form of addressing the President to avoid too many “his/her” terms. That does not suggest though that my choice for President is necessarily male.

My Holistic Approach

As a yoga practitioner, I believe that everything in life is connected. The mind (logic and rational thinking), the spirit (that inner divine prodding to seek what is right), and the heart (gut feel or intuition) – they are all important in different ways and actually work in harmony when we become mindful of how they co-exist.

So I thought –- why not use what I practice in yoga and bring all those elements into my decisionmaking process? At the very least, it will be a deliberate process on my part to filter what is really important for me in the President I choose.

Head: The Decision-Making Matrix

My friend Noemi did a great voting matrix for herself. She has been doing this since the 2010 elections. You can find her article on her matrix HERE.

If you want to try your hand rating candidates using the matrix template, download it HERE.

I followed basically the same matrix as Noemi to jumpstart my own process but put in a few tweaks of my own:
– I added more issues that I personally felt were important in terms of direct impact on well-being of Filipinos
– I revised the weight factors depending on what was important to me
– I did the following: 1) read up on the candidates’ platforms (from their own websites, if available; 2) reviewed once more the transcripts of the presidential debates; and 3) scoured the web for online news articles detailing their platforms.

My Mandatory Criteria includes what I feel are important for a President. One, my President must uphold human rights. I believe in due process and every human being, criminals and wrongdoers included, has a right to be treated with dignity but with lawful justice. Two, my President has to have a solid plan/platform. There are so many things that need fixing in this country. The next President needs to hit the ground running. Three, my President has to have sufficient executive experience, whether in public service, an NGO, or even corporate. Lastly, my President must be a role model of integrity who is not tainted by corruption. My kids and their friends need a role model and it starts at the highest position. Everyone will take their cue from him. He has to set the bar very high for integrity.

Let’s focus on each one.

Human Rights – Duterte is a NO because he himself has already admitted to killing criminals. I have no basis to doubt him. His rape joke was a deal breaker for me too.

Action Plan/Platform – The candidates, except for Binay and Duterte, had websites with a clear listing of their plans and platform. Binay was using the website of the Office of the Vice President but there was no link to a dedicated platform page. Duterte likewise had no formal website. From different articles published by media networks online, I was able to piece together some of their plans and programs so I gave them a rating of SOME. I felt that the most comprehensive set of plans belonged to Poe. Roxas and Santiago had web pages dedicated to their plans but these were general statements with not much details on the HOW.

Corruption – Both Binay and Duterte are a NO for me right now. While the charges against them have not yet been proven, the charges are heavy enough for me to give them a NO on this aspect.

Executive Experience – I gave all of them the green light considering they have all had public service experience.

My Desired Criteria listed down what I felt were the areas that would have a direct impact on citizens’ lives. That included healthcare, transportation, climate change and disaster preparedness, jobs, food security, education, and peace and order. Being a citizen advocate and social media person, I also felt I needed to add another factor — an open attitude towards social media (item #10). I believe that a government that listens to, and engages directly with, citizens will have a greater chance of making policies that are acceptable to its citizens. Participatory governance with citizen buy-in will work better than mandated governance. And the growing number of people on social media actually gives government a chance to get firsthand feedback and inputs.

Here is how I rated issues under Desired Criteria. I decided to give all candidates the benefit of the doubt that the issues I listed down were part of their platform. So even if I could not find anything specific that a candidate said to address an issue, I gave an automatic score of 5. Scores above 5 means the platforms specifically detailed how the issues would be addressed. Scores below 5 meant I personally felt, based on the candidates’ actions, that the issues would not merit much attention.

Of course, I could have missed out on some aspects so this matrix is a continuing work in progress.

Here is what my matrix looks like as of this article’s posting.

At this point, considering my mandatory and desired criteria, I had to eliminate Binay and Duterte because of the NOs they got. The other three got the following scores:

Poe: 696
Roxas: 618
Santiago: 652

While the decision matrix was actually a good start to get to know each candidate’s plans and stand on issues, it was not my only gauge.

Click here to read Part 2.