(First in a Series)
If we, Filipinos, think that our leaders by themselves could deliver us to the proverbial “promised land”, then we are gravely mistaken. If we think that among them is a messiah who could bring about the socio-economic reforms needed to make our country progressive and peaceful, then we are hallucinating.
Not that nobody among them is qualified and capable to lead the Philippine to greatness. It’s just that nation-building doesn’t work the way we think it does – that it can be done single-handedly by whoever we elect as President.
That actually is one (probably the worst) of our major problems as people – the mindset that the leaders we elect have magic wands they can wave to solve all of society’s ills and all of our nation’s problems. This is the prevailing belief among Filipinos. We pin our hopes for a brighter future on our leaders. We expect them – the governors of our provinces, the mayors of our towns and cities, and the captains of our barangays to solve all of our problems. We expect them to weave their magic and cast their spell then when the smoke dissipates we suddenly live a better life. We, think of our congressmen and senators as witches and wizards who through their out-of-this-world powers could make our country a better place to live in. We think that our President is Ironman and the members of the cabinet as the rest of the Avengers who could slay all of our nation’s Thanoses. Well – they are not. This mindset of Filipinos will be explored more in the last part of this series of articles.
We have to wake up from our fantasy. We need to realize that those elected (and appointed) politicians and leaders manning the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of our government are not superheroes. They don’t have superpowers. They cannot solve all of the nation’s problems by themselves. They need our support as citizens. Each citizen – rich or poor, professional or not – has a role to play. Each of us should contribute to nation-building.
What can ordinary citizens do to help make the Philippines a better nation?
Let us begin by not selling our votes during elections.
We expect too much from our government yet we are not voting for the best and most qualified among those seeking public office during elections. Instead, most of us write in the ballot the names of the candidates who are willing to buy our votes.
Vote-buying is an open secret in our country. It is freaking rampant. It has seemingly become the norm. It’s making the electoral process lost its essence. Leaders are elected not on the strength of their qualifications, abilities, and platform of government but on the power of the money they are capable of paying each voter who would promise to cast their votes for them.
On the eve of an election day, bidding wars begin. Once candidates get the information that their political rivals offer a certain amount for each voter, they will likely double that. Starting price is usually P500. Then candidates will try to maneuver until the price becomes P1000 per vote. The desperate among the politicians would sometimes coughed up P2000 (or even more) for each voter.
Would elected officials admit that they are guilty of vote-buying?Of course not. So, we could only wonder how many percent of our elected officials literally bought the positions they are currently occupying.
Stopping this culture of vote-buying and selling is difficult but it has to be done. One thing that we need to realize is that the leaders we put into office should have the moral ascendancy to lead. It is difficult, if not impossible, to look up to leaders whom we know cheated their way to their offices. They are not credible as leaders. We could not apply the principle of “public office is a public trust” when we know that the persons occupying public offices “bought” their mandate. These scheming politicians feel that the office they are occupying is their “private property” because they paid for it. They can do therefore as they please and their constituents cannot and (shouldn’t) complain because they have been paid.
Those who thought that they duped the politicians by taking the money they offered to them are wrong. They were so happy with that P500 (or P1000… make it P2000) which they received. Such amount is nothing as compared to the millions of pesos they will get when the politicians dip their dirty hands into the coffers of government. The money those politicians use to buy votes are considered an investment. Once they get elected, they would make sure that they will get the return of their investment… with the corresponding interest.
Then we complain about how our government is performing. What kind of performance would we expect from politicians to whom we awarded the mandate to lead not because they are qualified and capable but because they have the money to buy votes?
As Thomas Jefferson puts it, “The government you elect is the government you deserve.”
This is what every Filipino need to realize. Suffrage is not just a right but a moral obligation as well. It’s not for sale. Don’t reason out that you’re selling your votes because someone’s buying. “It takes two to tango.” Both vote-buyers and vote-sellers are guilty of this wrongdoing.
Don’t expect the politicians to stop buying votes. They would never do that. Politicians will do everything to ensure they would get elected and have the power they crave so much to have. It is not public service they are thinking of when they ran for elective positions. Power, as they say, is addicting. They want it so badly and on top of that, they salivate so much for the accruing benefits and the opportunities that they would get once they are in position. And only those who were born yesterday don’t know what benefits and opportunities are those.