I CANNOT understand why our election laws overly-stress the principle of the “secret ballot.” When we go to the precinct to cast our votes, we are directed fill up the ballots inside booths or cubicles walled all around with wooden or cardboard separators so the person beside us cannot see who we voted for. We are even encouraged to keep quiet about who our choice candidates were.

Why should we keep our choice secret? If we believe in the integrity and competence of our chosen candidates, should we not in fact be trumpeting their names to the world, so other voters will appreciate them as much as we do, and maybe get convinced to vote for them too? It seems to me the only one with a need to keep his vote secret is the one who sold his right to vote for the biblical “mess of pottage.”

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This early, yours truly has already made up his mind about certain national candidates he is going to vote for. I picked Noynoy Aquino as my choice for President because he is the one with the most reason to stay honest, and the least motivated to be corrupt. I hold these two criteria as the most vital traits of a Chief Executive during this particular election because they are the ones Filipinos need to regain self-respect.

I chose Mar Roxas for vice president because he was both selfless enough and was possessed with enough common sense to step back from his presidential ambitions and to wait for a more opportune time. An overly-ambitious and impatient candidate is the one the voter must not vote for. He is the most dangerous of the lot.

In the Senate race, I have already picked two newcomers from the Liberal Party; Lawyer Alex Lacson and Yasmin Busran Lao because they did not volunteer to run, and they were handpicked not because they guarantee votes for the Party leadership, but because their track record as persons who place others above self speak volumes about them. I will tell you about other choices as soon as I am already sure about them.

The history of Philippine elections teach us that the best candidate and the best leader is not the one who spent the most in order to get himself or herself elected. The two most-loved and most-respected Presidents in our history are Presidents Ramon Magsaysay and Corazon Aquino, and both of them were absolutely scrupulous about and made sure they did not over-spend during the campaign, and more so when disbursing public funds. We have that celebrated story about Cory Aquino not even allowing her grandchildren to eat candy served at Malacañang unless they paid for them.

At this low point in our nation’s history when Filipinos have a low regard of themselves – and our image abroad is not much better – a return to an honest and clean leadership is what we need to pick ourselves up from the dumps and to bring back self-respect. This kind we will get only if we pick them out from among the ones running for office, and trumpet them as the best choices. Keeping our choices secret and known only to ourselves will not get them into office.