Age and the Philippine Presidency

President Aquino, a man of no great ambition, was thrust into the Presidency of the Philippines by the death of his mother and his determination to do good originating from the courage and principles of his murdered father. He has achieved a remarkable remake of foundational values of Philippine governance. The remake is not set in cement. Indeed, it is fragile and under attack. Even his best friends seem to weigh in against his values of honesty and good work.

But his is a break-out from the old tradition of public service for private gain. His cabinet is stocked with capable secretaries who also pursue his aim for a cleaner, more productive government.
The past, not the future?

The nation is benefitting from this refreshing, newfound honesty and the work underway to do a better job of taking care of the Philippines. It is seeing more investments, economic stability, confidence, growth.

Mr. Aquino’s presidency illustrates the point that the fates sometimes have more to do with how things turn out than do manmade plans.
There are no guarantees for any presidential candidate. A president can be highly capable and have on his hands a war that kills hundreds and hundreds of thousands of citizens (Lincoln; American Civil War). Or he can be asleep a lot of the time and oversee economic revitalization and defeat of a nation (Reagan; Russia).
It raises the interesting question, can we shape the fates to our favor?
When we vote for a candidate, we know maybe 25% of what we could or should know about him or her. So 75% is guess or unknown. And beyond that is the unpredictability of natural disasters and bully nations and the global economy and political gangs within the Philippines (NPA) that shape the landscape. I’m convinced Gilbert Teodoro was marked down as a presidential candidate in 2009 because he lost the rubber boats that were needed when Ondoy struck.
Undone by a typhoon.
JoeAm’s perspective on the Philippine presidency is shaped by a very broad idea that continuation of the Aquino breakout requires a president who is not motivated by the “old values” of personal gain, but the “new values” of honorable service and result.
Old dogs. They don’t learn new tricks easily.
I see the productivity of young Sonny Angara in the house and I say “here is a young guy more interested in his future than immediate wealth.” And I like it. In an environment that prizes honest behavior, the winners will be those who shoot straight rather than behave crooked. Those who do not gum the system up with favor and self-enrichment. Their enrichment will come from personal achievement. The money will follow that, naturally and cleanly.
So I like young Filipino politicians. They have not been turned into peddlers of favor over public interest.
Is it age bias? Is it bias to believe that old age traps us in inflexibility, and narrows us? Makes us more conservative? Reduces our energy. Makes us wiser but slows our problem solving? Gives us cultural values that are hard to shake?
Or is it perceptive? Real. Factual. Or at least “strategic” considering the dynamics of what it means to project a Philippines “going straight.”
President Aquino, before he became president, lived a leisurely lifestyle, rich and connected with the movers and shakers of the Philippines. Including the Church. But he had no striking ambitions. Not to rule. Not to get rich. He probably would have been happy to find a wife and have kids and drive the expressways in a Porsche, a quiet man living a quiet life.
That changed in 2009. Now he has better things to do, and he will have them to do for three more years. He has grown in maturity during his three years at the helm. He projects more confidence. He’s more relaxed. He is firmer in his views.
President Aquino was born in 1960. He was 50 when he took office in 2010. He has the vigor of a man in the prime of his life. He is no recalcitrant old fossil unable to deal with the stresses of an important job, locked into values that hold the Philippines back.
What about some of the people listed in various categories on JoeAm’s preview of the 2016 presidential election? How old will they be in 2016?
Bam Bam Aquino
Sonny Angara
Jun Abaya
Atty Alex Lacson
Gilbert Teodoro
Grace Padaca
Kim Henares
Mar Roxas
Sergio Osmeña III
Jejomar Binay
Conchita Carpio Morales
Ramon “Jun” Magsaysay
Does it matter? Can a 39 year-old be wise enough, schooled enough to handle the presidency? Maybe not. Maybe he has simply not been tested enough. Has not had enough time to show what he can do.
And How about a 78 year-old? Will he have the energy and health and alertness to manage a nation that presents huge challenges? Maybe not. Maybe that is at the outer edge. Mr. Magsaysay would be 84 upon leaving office.
John Kennedy was 43 when he became president of the United States. Barak Obama was 48. Their youthful vigor undoubtedly contributed to their attractiveness as leaders. The presidency makes you old. The long hours, the stresses, the relentless reading to study up on issues. Do before and after photos of American presidents and you can see the toll they pay.
Vigor. Youthful vigor. It’s a job qualification, I think.
But there are other advantages to having a young president than simply energy. There is the marketing advantage, the “presentation” of the nation to a world that has long looked at the Philippines as a hamstrung disappointment, an underachiever locked into the dysfunction of strife and inefficiency.
Today, for this time in history, the Philippines needs to project its youth to the outer world. It’s vibrancy, its new blood, its vigor, its brains.
It needs to make a statement. We are the future. Here now. Fresh. Clean. Young. Ambitious.
No longer tied to the past. No longer muddled in confusion and coups and corruption.
It continues the breakout for honest values, purposeful work and achievement. Begun by Noynoy Aquino, carried forward by the young, the capable, the intelligent and the good.
That’s why you will find that JoeAm assigns an advantage to youth as he works to identify First Class presidential prospects.
photosources: gulfnews
27 Responses to “Age and the Philippine Presidency”
  1. Anonymous says:

    Youth is a good anchor, I agree. Would that this were student council. Who'll take care of the families of the political wards? If anything, the fate of the young hopeful pol should be matched by a new generation of youthful volunteers who'll part with their hard-earned cash to support a pol they like to see in Malacañang. Pretty long shot, there.DocB

  2. Anonymous says:

    JoeAm, if you read the rise of the young Senator Trillanes in Rappler you'll see a smatter of supporters in sibs, neighbors, friends, classmates, and individuals like me, disgusted with the antics of Arroyo. I don't think that is equivalent by any stretch to a watershed moment like Cory's death changing her son's fate. We need herds of volunteers who are, if not youthful and hopeful, at least not cynical.DocB

  3. I'm not sure Trillanes is the type of character for youth to rally around. He seems rather like a young Enrile, to me, fire-breathing with self-interest being the source of the flames.Other than that, I agree, the future is in the hands of youth because it is better than they make the bed in which they will lie than leave it to some old fossil with arthritic brain.To that point, I have been amazed at how passive Filipino youth are. In the US and other nations, university students are always pushing, pushing, pushing. Here they seem to be sitting, sitting, sitting. Where is the "Occupy Manila" movement? At the beach, possibly. Or online doing Facebook zingers with no active outcome.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Agree. Whoever said youth is wasted on the young is right. Now, the old guard like JPE would trample some brash young pol like Trillanes any old time. Disaffected Pinoy youth reflect their old counterparts- no unity. Pnoy failed to unite the youth after the polls. A waste.DocB

  5. Cha says:

    I have really only seen Trillanes in action Tuesday night. Don't know really what makes the guy tick and what his real motivations are for what he did that night.But for someone who has become acquainted with the extraordinary powers wielded by the old man Enrile during Martial Law and his role in destabilizing the Cory Aquino government with endless coup attempts and for someone who is often confounded and exasperated at how this man has continued to exert such influence in Philippine politics to this day, I can't help but cheer on the younger Trillanes that night. Boy, did it just feel good to see someone finally stick it to the man!Maybe Trillanes will unravel in the next couple of weeks or he may come out vindicated and Enrile gets the ultimate comeuppance. I think a lot of people wouldn't mind the latter.

  6. My literate mind sees Senator Enrile and his shooting pal Sotto as crusty old farts who play the dirty games of politics under the veneer of senatorial dignity (Enrile) or priestly piety (Sotto). They are nasty, like mobsters, if crossed. They aren't good for a robust, clean Philippines; they are history walking. Trillanes seems irresponsible to me. His remarks about Del Rosario, who I consider a loyal and dedicated public servant, were extraordinarily harsh. He evidently came marching into the China scene, asked Pangililnan to tell Del Rosario to zip his lip, and proceeded to undermine the working efforts of the Philippine government. Then he marches into the Senate and blasts Enrile, destroying any inclination that anyone might have that this body is "august". So, to destroy a body, he didn't mind destroying a Senate.To me, he acts just like Enrile, so I don't mind if they both get washed out of the Philippine future. They are hotheads of amazing ego and little delicacy. Enrile should have retired after the Corona trial. Trillanes ought to be running banned sexshop operations or Jeepney companies or anything that gets him out of government.Yours for wild-ass opinions, believing they are an important part of the checks and balances that keep our nation strong, etc. etc. fine print, no harm intended. All a part of the constitutionally protected right to protest the obscene behavior seen on the floor of the Senate yesterday.

  7. Edgar Lores says:

    As an oldie but goldie, I am certain Edgar 6.5.3 is a better version than Edgar 3.9.4.The latest version may run not have the raw brawn power of its predecessor and it definitely runs slower, but its brain power is more refined and its decision-making prowess more certain. Having been exposed to broader and deeper experiences, the latest version has a more comprehensive view of the issues involved and is able to consider and correctly evaluate a greater number of variables.Or it may be that age is a matter of attitude. Edgar 6.5.3 may be a fogey, but he is not set in his ways. Presented with a problem, he does not adopt solutions formulated in his youth. No, he looks at the problem afresh, noting similarities and parallels to past problems, but alert and attentive to unique characteristics.He is fossilized only in his physical attributes. But his mental outlook is that of a young man. His psychological age is half his chronological age. Of course the element of vigor is diminished, but the element of wisdom has been increased a hundredfold. No, he is not in favour of either a gerontocracy or its opposite. Youthocracy? Middle-agedocracy? Sports-cartocracy? Whatever. He is in favour of a meritocracy.

  8. Anonymous says:

    JoeYour calculator needs batteries.Better, learn with my abacus, accurately proven.Your age computation way off mark. Angara could not be 46 if born in martial law year. So many more.Maybe, its not the calculator. Proof that you got exemplary promotion in English proficiency but wore the dunce hat multiple times in mathematicsHe he he Johnny Lin

  9. Of the RRI qualities intelligence, character and competence, there is no question that age is an advantage for intelligence. Knowledge and wisdom, both still climbing. The issue I have is PROVING the character and competence. I arrived at the problem by looking at VP Binay and Senate President Enrile. I have no tangible reading of Binay on character, other than speculation or knowledge of others that he enriched himself as mayor of Makati by engaging in the development deal-making and taking a cut of the pie. As Vice President, he was forced upon Aquino, and he has mostly laid low, except that he wheedled out a 200 million budget for his office for the next year. What is that 200 million buying the Philippines, I wonder. "I'll be doing a lot of travel" said the VP. What is the ROI? That Binay can travel the nation (right behind Roxas) laying the groundwork for the presidential election in 2016. And I fear (don't know, fear) that you can't take the old trade-of-favors culture out of the old dogs. Villar. Same. So I don't have the trust that is so crucially important. Systemically, for Filipino politicians in their 60's, I simply don't trust them. And for a continuation of the breakout, trust must be 100%. Otherwise, the risk of political recidivism is too high. (I know a big word or two, too.)Then I look at Enrile struggling to read his speeches, and look at myself with my diminished energy and high-blood medications and the association attached to my face as "old school". And I think physical energy in the most demanding job in the nation is highly important. And how the outer world views the Philippines is meaningful.So I push toward the young middle, where honest ambition is the driver, not wealth creation, where my trust is higher, and were energy and global "presentation" is at a peak..If you do a similar list to highlight the old and wise and experienced, I'll put my young Turks against them any day.

  10. Angara born in 1972. 28 years to the year 2000 plus 16 years to the year 2016 is, what, 44?Not 46. Shit.I was a mathematics major and came to hate that horsehockey. That's why I went directly into the army after college and why I avoid statistics like the plague.I'll recast the table. Thanks for the catch.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Not even 44.Clue since you are a voracious reader of PHL current and relic events. Martial declaration is being celebrated today on what year? Angara born in the same year of martial law signing.Johnny Lin

  12. Angara was the only one wrong. The age is not current age, but how old they will be in 2016. May I recommend a new set of reading glasses for you, maybe like my progressive trifocals that allows one to pick up all the words in a text, not just the ones you think are there?hehehe

  13. Anonymous says:

    Yes, i reread the heading, you were calculating for presidential election. Accurately, Sonny would be 43 in May 2016 because he was born July 15, 1972. Fast reading pitfalls. This my signature sign off He he he Ok, I will grant you reprieve for SottonismJohnny Lin

  14. Anonymous says:

    Look at the money trail. Danding, Marcos, Lucio Tan. Kingmakers. Age doesn't matter. Even Robredo's rise was jumpstarted by the old Villafuerte.

  15. Yes, that is the reality that makes all this idealistic profiling collapse. Someone possibly has to fund the campaign and won't do that without some "expectations". I can't help but think, though, if President Aquino decided one of these people deserved the nomination, they'd get the money without unreasonable great expectations attached. I must confess this is one area of Philippine politics I don't understand. How a candidate builds a support group. How he gets money backing.

  16. Edgar Lores says:

    I totally agree there is merit in the vigor of youth and it is an important consideration because of the demands of the job. But, Joe, I would value someone with your experience, sharp mind and judgement – medications and all – over a callow fellow.The Constitution considers the minimum age of 40 for the office of president as a threshold requirement and does not specify youth as a desirable qualification.This is how I would consider age within the context of Intelligence, Character and Capability/Competence.1. As Intelligence covers schooling, mastery of management, technology, law and constitution, communication skills, innovation and decisiveness, old age is not a great advantage. By age 40, most candidates would have completed or demonstrated their qualifications, aptitudes and skills in these areas, and their qualities in these would have been recorded.2. In assessing Character – because age is not a determining factor – the problem you have validly raised is the “quantity of proof” required, to borrow the phrase from Corona’s trial. Should only official published information be considered or unofficial sources of info as well? The history of Enrile’s misdeeds is recorded in print and generally accepted as true. Conversely, Binay’s alleged misdeeds are speculative and unpublished. Nevertheless, in my opinion, these unofficial and unproved info must be considered. It may be unfair, and in its extreme form may be tantamount to character assassination, but the existence of circumstantial evidence is indicative of – something. It is not proof beyond reasonable doubt, but if the evidence is voluminous, it may suggest more than hearsay and induce reasonable doubt.2.1. For wealth creation, formal proof is hard to come by until and unless records of accurate SALNs are lodged for a number of years. Besides wealth creation, there are other factors in assessing character that are publicly available. Under sound judgement, for example, Binay’s indecision on the Marcos reburial is telling. (This indecision will also be reflected under Capability – problem solving.)3. I think it is in the area of Capability / Competence, that old age would have a great and distinct impact – not necessarily because of a longer list of accomplishments – but because there is much more history to prove or disprove these qualities.Among the current crop of senators, not on your list, who have shown flashes of integrity and/or productivity, there are:• Drilon will be 71 in 2016 – was a staunch critic of Corona, but may be too old and considered by some to be a trapo• Guingona will be 57 – voted against the Cybercrime Bill• Pangilinan will be 53 – champion of the judiciary and very productive senator (in the 12th Congress)• Pimentel will be 52 – refused to join UNA slate because of Zubiri• Recto will be 52 – grandson of the great nationalist and statesman Claro M. RectoThese are possible presidential contenders, some not much older than the President (50) when he assumed office. All, except Pimentel, belong to the Liberal Party of PNoy and may carry on the task PNoy has started. (Pimentel (PDP) may run under the Liberal banner.) But an RRI is needed to properly evaluate their comparative potential. (Note metrics is important but: potential (as in IQ) does not equate to success; unpromising (as in pre-2010 PNoy) does not equate to failure.) I do not know if they are trustworthy or how they would stack up against the List of the progressive, the new and the good. The value of the List is important as it identifies future leaders – presidentiables – that bear watching.

  17. Edgar, well you are not such a callow fellow yourself. Your assessment makes a lot of sense. Indeed, I find nothing to argue about. I would set Drilon aside for age and traponess. heh. I'll take looks at the others. I only need one more for my list of four that I intend to rank(two are selected and one is in the hopper). Once I've got my four it will be up to others to argue one of my people out, to replace that one with one of theirs.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Aside from money politics, look at the religious lobby like Iglesia ni Kristo. Would Abaya or the young Angara knock at their door? Solid support in exchange for contracts, employment? Mano po?DocB

  19. arkads says:

    I agree in this article.Regarding trillanes, i used to support him during election to become a senator but what i see and observed in him is that, he is like the same old dogs from military circle, something fishy in his motivation and now trying to drag other people's business like MVP(Manny Pangilinan) which i believe just doing something great for Filipino people through business ventures that helps the economy grows.

  20. I think it would be wrong for a candidate to promise "hard" results like contracts, but could express agreement on principles that a given church advocates. Like a willingness not to press hard on RH. Lobbying in the US is not illegal, as long as hard values are not exchanged. And the behind-the-scenes barter of soft values is not unlike blogging, it is just face to face and more persuasive.

  21. arkads, I agree entirely. In the US he would be called a "loose cannon", which is a cannon on a shop that has lost its mooring and is rolling around crashing into things. Trillanes seems to be a lot like that, leaving a trail of insulted people behind him.

  22. Edgar Lores says:

    Joe, what about possibilities in the PNoy Cabinet?

  23. For Drilon, or you? I don't know Drilon well enough to say, frankly. I was not impressed with his Corona presentations. You, on the other hand, I would happily slot into the Cabinet. We'll put you in charge of Customs, that rats nest of red tape and small minded corruption. Your crisp organizational abilities and big-minded thinking could change that organization around so that it is contributing to commerce instead of impeding it.

  24. ha erratum, cannon on a "ship", ala Pirates of the Caribbean.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Customs is bad for your health, Edgar. Time to write your memoirs.

  26. I checked Rappler, they, too, are infected by politics virus. Most discussed, most shared, most read ALL POLITICS. Their news is about politics. Newsbreak politics. From mainstream media to radio personalities always politics. Politics. Politics. WHY THE POLITICAL ADDICTION? Is Philippine Media selling politics? Have they become political news outlet? Because politics is easy coverage. They hang out in their watering hole hear out gossips and voila! They got breaking news.I just wonder if Filipino politicians can change the way Filipinos think and do when they themselves are Filipinos.

  27. Rappler can't decide if it wants to be a heavyweight or lightweight, I fear. But it is timely and current and publishes articles worth digesting. Actually, the other day, their pop-up news scan had about 12 items all of the starstruck entertainment type. "What is this?" I asked myself. People Magazine on line? So I agree, they are cutting a superficial line across the news front. But they allow for dialogue, so one can pop off a comment, as I've seen you do. Rappler is my second read in the morning after a scan of the blog world, and before Google News.

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