Saturday, April 13, 2013

VOTE FOR ME!

It is the third season in the Philippines after the wet and dry seasons.  We cannot escape from the posters and streamers hanging on electric cables, the flyers scattered on the streets, the loud speakers, and the freebies given by campaigners…certainly, the Election Season is here, again.  Admit it, you have waited your whole life for this .Following the line of Benny Carantes, ‘we always come to a point of boredom and routine; watch movies, go to the park, attend parties, sleep, and eat – is that all there is to life?…luckily, the clowns are back!’

There is no escaping it. No matter how sick we are with the names, the colors, the smiling pictures, even the  speeches and campaign jingles, we have to endure this season because of its relative seriousness – we will actually be choosing ‘our leaders’. 

As I write this, there is a funny feeling that I am indirectly mocking myself. Have I not posted my face somewhere, even in a waiting shed? Have I not spent money on some flyers and food for campaigners? It was a barangay election, but it was a huge urban Barangay nonetheless. How will one introduce one’s self to about 7,000 -8,000 voters in a very short time? How can you convince them to vote for you? It seems that one’s way of winning has always involved the ways of traditional politics.

Senatoriable Migs Zubiri caught the ire of critics when he maintained that election is merely a ‘popularity contest’, hence, being an ‘epal’ is an acceptable strategy to boost popularity, and that voters will not mind. In my humble experience as an insider who hears and sees things, he is partly right – in our country, most people seem to celebrate superficiality, and where people gives more appreciation to  the ‘freebies’ and entertainment over the real issues - It means that people willingly desire to be part of that rotten system in Philippine elections. Not surprisingly, the winners mostly will always be from the popular clans, the ‘artistas’,  and those who can finance a huge campaign. Only a few can be popular by their deeds, their character, or their competence.  Unfortunately, these attributes may take a long time to ascertain, and the voters are only left with a prayer – hope that they voted for the right people, and that they are there for the right reasons. Most of the time, prayers are unanswered; we get disappointed, feel betrayal…at times, even anger.

No matter how we hate politics, and no matter how others shun voting, or decide on boycotting the elections, it is still wise to practice our right to suffrage. You put ‘crocodiles’ in office and you will be surprised with sub-standard infrastructures, of being late to school or work because a road has to be replaced the 4th time in the same year, of ghost projects or milking-cow projects, of rejected applications for work or study, apparently because the appointing power is not fair, and only recommends his friends or relatives. You put ‘clowns’ in office and you will have a ‘circus town’ with no rules, no discipline, no plans, and no direction. The actions of the people you vote have repercussions on your life, believe me. Does one have the right to complain about it when he/she did not vote in the first place?

“Why aren’t you running (for councilor)?” Many people asked me, and I simply dismissed them saying “Kababain nu haan tayo nga maited expectations ti tao (It will be embarrassing if we cannot give the expectations of the people)”.  The truth is, I give the most regard to these positions, and I do not think that a mediocre person should handle the job. I respect the position so much that I refuse to even run if I am 'inadequate'. The people deserves the best. A municipal official must be at least trained or educated in communications, social science, public management, law, and philosophy. I’m not saying that he should be a very smart person, but in the ‘office world’ coupled with public interest, an official must have the knowledge, creativity, and skill to execute his/her job and advocacy. And the job is not an easy one, there are too many challenges. It’s just like qualifying a person for work, the only difference is that, this is not ‘just’ a job, it is public service.

One might contend that smart people may just use their ‘intelligence’ in corruption since they know how to get away with it. This is a valid point. Many towns in Benguet rejected Lawyers, people with Ph.D’s, and other so called ‘Intellectuals’ or ‘Elites’, because of an unfortunate precedent involving issues of graft and corruption (by  smart people). Hence, a town even voted for a “No read -no write -Mayor" as a statement that people, when betrayed, will find means to express their disappointment. The late Jesse Robredo, my public service hero, said that politics in the Philippines is mostly determined by EQ , and not IQ . For if intelligence is the basis, then Gilbert Teodoro, a Bar Topnotch should have won the last Presidential Elections. Former President Joseph Estrada even got the second spot, even if he’s kind of comical on his up system.

The point is, the ideal candidate must be well balanced. As I’ve said, it’s just like considering an employee for your company. What do you look for? Track record? Experience? Moral integrity and conviction? Intelligence only? Passion and character only? A combination of many factors?

 It is the voter who will ultimately decide, of course after being well informed and educated. It is actually our job to research, to weigh their pros and cons, and not be easily swayed by mere intrigues and propaganda.

Thomas Jefferson once commented that an informed citizenry is the only true repository of the public will. It is for this end that I have decided to help organize the Mayoralty Forum II on May 3, 2013 at the La Trinidad Public Park. Let’s hope that this activity will be successful. Cheers!


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