"We must vote against the corrupt, the unqualified and incompetent, the unprincipled, the immoral."
A genuine democracy is one in which the leaders of government, through free elections, are chosen to truly represent the will of the people.
Most Filipinos rarely feel this, however. For every corruption scandal that goes unpunished, every problematic regulation or law that goes unchecked, and every government policy that proves to be antithetical to the interest of the majority, the people feel increasingly disempowered. To a certain extent it is understandable then how some question the merits of democracy itself, especially in the face of a seemingly dysfunctional example in the domestic sphere.
This is in contrast to the vibrancy with which we conduct our elections. Or perhaps this is precisely why we participate in the polls with a keen sense of enthusiasm, evidenced by one of historically high voter turnouts. We realize that for all the shenanigans and failures of our democracy, during the elections the balance of power tilts to our direction and we hold in our hands the future of our country.
This is the broader context against which over 61 million or so Filipinos will now troop to their respective precincts to select officials for both local and national levels. Clearly, there are more at stake than some individuals’ political careers.
The Senate has emerged to be one of the last bastions of independent check and balance against the proven tendency of a super majority to railroad the legislative process.
If administration candidates win the necessary numbers in the upper chamber, Congress will become a glorified rubber stamp for Malacañang’s directives. A chamber filled with officials grateful to the president’s political capital will predictably step out of his way with unremitting obedience.
Overpowered by the political noise is a real discussion of the actual main functions of a senator—creating and reviewing issues in aid of legislation—against which the candidates should have been measured and evaluated.
Because of the intense political loyalties in display in the lead-up to the polls, many seem to forget that the elections are in essence, not different from evaluating a job application process, and so must entail a set of pertinent qualifications.
Does he have the skills necessary to do the job? Will he be able to effectively debate on complex issues to help him or her craft effective laws? Why is he or she seeking a senatorial post to begin with? Who does he or she intend to serve? Will his closeness and loyalty to the president compromise this mandate? Has he shown accountability for his past actions? Is he trustworthy?
Otherwise, if we fail to be competent and judicious in choosing our next leaders, we unwittingly reward and thus perpetuate the personality dominated, patronage politics that continues to exploit the people. For instance, while we have seen how populist issues, such as on food, health, and education, understandably dominate the debates, there is a need to scrutinize beyond motherhood these statements and determine which candidates offer viable and sustainable solutions.
With new laws on Free Tertiary Education, Cancer Control, and Universal Health Care, Free Irrigation Service, there is a need to monitor and regularly evaluate the long-term sustainability and efficiency of the utilization of government resources on these vis-a-vis the country’s overall economic standing. The next Congress needs to guarantee via their oversight function that these laws would translate to actual benefits for the people.
When all the election frenzy has settled and a new Congress is convened, we must challenge our newly elected legislators to focus on the country’s economic momentum with overdue reforms that will demolish the policy walls blocking our full economic potential. This is crucial if the Philippines is to achieve prosperity and poverty eradication by 2040.
A win by the right, deserving candidates then is thus also a win for the Filipino people, who ultimately should emerge victorious in this exercise. It is our future that is at stake here, not those of individual candidates or political dynasties or ruling parties and their allies.
On the flip side, because the elections as an exercise manifest the will of the majority, electing leaders who are morally bankrupt, patently unqualified, and a politically compromised stature, their ascent to office also speaks about our quality and decisions as citizens. Voting today is our opportunity to purge our government of rotten forces that are stealing billions to perpetuate their vicious cycle of exploitation. It is critical at this juncture to collectively and categorically reject these forces.
We need to send a strong message that the silly song-and-dance campaigns to win our votes insults our intelligence. We must vote against the corrupt, the unqualified and incompetent, the unprincipled, the immoral. For the common good we must vote against the greater evil.