Top 5 things to look for in a President

by Kristine Servando,

Posted at Aug 26 2009 08:24 PM | Updated as of Dec 16 2009 11:33 PM

MANILA - If presidential candidates were job applicants and you were their interviewer, how would you test if they are fit for the job?

For the People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP), a human resource management group, it's all about educating voters on how to pick worthy presidential candidates in the 2010 polls, just like company managers would - by careful evaluation.

The PMAP narrowed down 5 essential qualities that each Philippine president must have, including political and people skills.

These criteria, based on job competency frameworks used in the corporate sector, were identified based on extensive research and interviews by the PMAP and a member-company, SGV-Development Dimensions International.

The organization spoke with past presidents, chief justices, executive secretaries, and media about what it takes for the president to lead a country.

President's roles

Grace Abella-Zata, PMAP President, said in a press conference on Wednesday that any would-be president must perform each of the following roles in order to succeed:

1. Navigator.
- Able to steer the country towards a just and humane society, and knows how to get the country there.
- Has specific plans of action in solving problems like poverty, education, or corruption.
- Is decisive when faced with complex issues and hence, must be intelligent.

2. Mobilizer
- Must be good at building alliances to achieve consensus
- Must work well with Congress and Senate

3. Servant leader
- Must serve the people with a caring heart
- Must put the public interest first before vested interests
- Works hard and well to achieve the goals of government

4. Inspirational leader
- Must know how to work well with the press
- Can inspire unity, trust, and optimism among the people by being a good and moral leader

5. Guardian of national wealth and resources
- Allocates and uses the country's resources properly
- Demonstrates strong political will, and is able to make right decisions for the common good, even if the decision is unpopular

 If Presidential candidates undergo a job interview before they get hired, what questions should voters ask? PMAP President Grace Zata tells us.

Zata said that a candidate's track record and political circle should also be considered since "past behavior predicts future behavior."

"It's like you're making the Filipino people more educated or more enlightened in choosing better managers," said PMAP Executive Director Gerardo Plana in a separate interview.

PMAP representatives refused to say who among the current crop of presidential aspirants are worthy presidential candidates based on PMAP's standards since it is "still too early to say."

Among past presidents, however, Zata told that Corazon Aquino and Joseph Estrada had at least one of these qualities.

"Cory was an inspiring leader. People believed in her and said na 'hindi mo talaga mabubutasan si Cory' in terms of integrity. She may have also been a servant- leader. I think she had the welfare of Filipinos at heart. Estrada is also inspiring because he inspired the masses," she said.

Picky with the president

Plana said that if none of the candidates possess all of the desired qualities, Filipino voters should pick "whoever comes closest" to fulfilling these standards.

"Who is that person you can live with, even with the weaknesses? You are aware of a person's strong and weak points, so you might not get all perfect. But of all of these pluses and minuses, [ask yourself], 'Who can I live with?' That's still an enlightened decision-making process rather than any other way," he said.

Although the lack of good leadership is common in all levels of government, Plana said picking a good President is still one of the most crucial decisions a voter can make because it is a complex job that wields a lot of power.

"The strategic role of a president is very different from that of a big organization's president. It requires a lot of maturity and competency in terms of moving this country forward," he said.

Plana stressed that the PMAP's competency guideline is not a 100% guarantee that a future president will perform well, but it helps reduce the risk of failure.

"In the end, it's about assessing the risks and choosing which risk is most acceptable to you. We might not get the best results now, but it's a step in the right direction," he said.

Voter education

The project is meant to help voters select leaders based on capabilities instead of popularity. Zata said that the media has helped increase voter awareness but still need to improve their coverage.

"The level of discussion is intrigues, fights among the candidates. It generates more heat than light. Does it really lead to people making wiser decisions? It doesn't and that's where we want to come in," she said.

She said this type of role-based assessment is lacking in the selection process for national leaders, which just deals with qualifications but not competencies that check whether a presidential candidate can perform the job well.

The PMAP had already introduced this 5-point list in the 2004 presidential race, when they distributed scorecards (in both English and Tagalog) to their employees as a guide for choosing worthy leaders. The PMAP is composed of over 1,800 member companies with over 500 to 1,000 employees each.

The group had also challenged the 2004 presidential candidates to undergo a "job interview", but only 4 candidates accepted, excluding President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Estrada.

The PMAP will do this again this year by inviting presidential aspirants to a dialogue during the organization's annual national conference on September 25 at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila.

Following the trend

 More questions for presidential candidates on issues of poverty, health, education, and employment by PMAP president Grace Zata.

Other groups both here and abroad have reportedly expressed interest in PMAP's initiative, according to Plata.

One group that has adopted the PMAP's competency-based leadership selection is the Peoples' Primaries group, supported by the Movement for Good Governance, a coalition of 21 reform-minded organizations.

The Peoples' Primaries pushes for political reform by organizing and enlightening Filipino voters. Modeled after the US election primaries, the group will select  non-traditional politicians who pass leadership and ethics standards.

Candidates must be effective, ethical, and empowering, with indicators measuring each requirement. For example, if the candidate practices patronage politics (a mark of traditional politicians or "trapo"), then they will not be endorsed.

Those being considered by the group are Isabela Gov. Grace Padaca, Pampanga Gov. Ed Panlilio, and Nicanor Perlas.

Empowerment process

Ricky Xavier, spokesman for the Peoples' Primaries, said they had based their candidate-criteria partly on the PMAP's competency list.

They also consulted sources from the Ateneo School of Government, the World Bank, and personnel-type qualifications for executive positions. These criteria apply not just to the president, but to senators and congressmen as well.

Like the PMAP, the Peoples' Primaries group also distributes scorecards before the elections so that voters can rate presidential candidates and decide "who the better person is."

Each vote from each target district's working cluster will be tallied until the entire group will decide on just one worthy candidate.

Xavier said they have also created a screening council who will go through a list of senatorial and congressional candidates. The council is made up of Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez, Tony Roldan of Transparency Philippines, and Bro. Rolly Dizon, chairman of the Economic and Business Council of Bacolod, among others.

"It's a people empowerment process. In the present system right now, we only have a few politicians, rich or powerful individuals, deciding the fate of the nation. Whoever the candidate chosen among the people who join, will, in effect, be the choice of the people," he said in a phone interview.

Launched last June 30, the group aims to mobilize 20% of the electorate per congressional district. Currently, it has 500 members and 15 to 20 member groups who signed on to the project. Report and videos by Kristine Servando,