(Third in a Series)
We’re complaining about political dynasties, right? But haven’t we Filipinos realized that we are so guilty of creating the political dynasties in the Philippines? Yes, we have to admit it. We allowed the same politicians and their family members to lord it over in the Philippine political landscape.
When a politician, let’s say a mayor, could no longer run for re-election due to term limits, what would the honorable gentleman do? Turn his back on politics? Of course not! Power is so addicting. So many of those who experienced to be at the helm of either local or national politics (and enjoyed the benefits, including those “passed under the table”) would not just quit politics nor pass the torch to another person.
So, what would happen?
His wife would run for the position he previously held. Then that politician would run for another post – as governor perhaps. Most of the time, Filipino voters would allow them to win and usually they would be able to mesmerize (or buy) the voters to luckily get re-elected until they reach their term limits. Would it be the end? Would their thirst for power (and the so-called “benefits”) be finally satiated?
The couple would ask their son or daughter (or a grandson – or a granddaughter – or an in-law) to run for the positions they would vacate. The shocking thing (and you might not believe it), there are times that siblings, or even husbands and wives, would not give way to the other and so member of the same family would slug it out in the political arena. Anyway, this is not about family members squabbling in the political arena – this is about the political dynasty their families created.
Let’s continue then.
Let’s go back to the mother who just reached her term limit as mayor. Would she go back to being a full-time mother and wife? You were born only yesterday if you don’t know the answer to that question. Yes – she would run for the post vacated by the husband-politician. The husband would then aim for a higher position – run either as congressman or even senator. In case all family members win then for years that the power will change hands within the same family. The son (or daughter) is a mayor, the mother a governor and the father either as congressman or senator. When term limits are reached then they will just run for the position that a family member would vacate. Some siblings, and even in-laws, in the family are also occupying minor positions in the geographical units where they reside.
Did that family created their political dynasty? No! We ourselves did it. We Filipinos created the political dynasties in the Philippines.
And how did (have) these members of a few beholden families whom we allowed (are allowing) to exclusively hold the reins of our government – local to national – perform (been performing)?
You are either blind or dumb if you don’t know the answer to that question.
How many of the available positions in the Philippine government, local and national, are held by the same families who have been the gods and goddesses of Philippine politics since time immemorial? Most of them are offspring of the peninsulares who survived “America’s power grab” at the turn of the 20th century. They decided to stay in the country and reaped the dividends for doing so. And it’s not only the politics that they dominate. With the enormous fortune they inherited from their Spanish parents/grandparents (which the Americans allowed them to keep), they also control the country’s economy. That’s why Filipinos would sometimes jokingly ask – “Did the Spanish rule really end?”
Only a few pure-blooded Filipinos and foreign expatriates of Chinese origin who became wealthy when the Americans took their turn to colonize the Philippine had the financial resources to challenge the Spanish mestizos for political supremacy in the Philippines, especially after the American granted the Filipinos their independence after the World War II. Some of them succeeded and when they experienced how intoxicating power is, they (and their offsprings) kept running and we kept electing them as if nobody else were qualified.
It is no longer surprising to know that politicians occupying national positions have one, or two family members and in-laws occupying seats in the local government.
Filipinos might ask – “When would having the same people from the same families passing the reins of leadership to each other in both the national and local governments after elections end?”
That’s up to the Filipino voters.
So, we should not wonder why we as a nation could barely move the needle on socio-political stability and economic progress.
Socio-political stability and economic progress are the most important metrics that we ought to use when evaluating the performance of these leaders who are members of the few families whom we allowed to lord it over in Philipppine politics. We keep electing them then keep our fingers crossed that they will deliver.
According to Albert Einstein, “insanity” is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
Why in the world we expect a better-performing government when we keep electing the same politicians from the same families? Are we insane?
(Second in a Series)
We also need to exercise our right to vote seriously. Refusing to sell our votes is only the first step. It’s about time that we should also set certain standards that candidates should measure up to before we write their names in the ballot – standards that are over and beyond the qualifications set by our Constitution for candidates seeking a particular public office.
It’s time for us to realize also that some personalities are venturing into politics not because they want to serve the people but because they think that they are so popular and such popularity could easily catapult them into a public office. Fame, like power, is also addicting.
An interesting question to answer is, “How many showbiz and sports personalities holding public office now were elected not because they are both qualified and capable to lead but because they are popular?”
There are other questions that we need to answer as honestly as we should – “What did those actors, actresses, singers, TV personalities, basketball players, boxers, and other celebrities who used their popularity to win contribute to the improvement of the quality of life in the localities where they were elected?” Those among them who were lucky to become President, Vice President, Senators or Congressmen (or were given cabinet posts), did they contribute anything to national development?” “What good if any did their ‘star power’ bring to politics and governance in the Philippines?”
If all those seasoned and veteran politicians who have master’s and doctorate degrees in law, economics, political science, public administration, and business administration and have been in public service all their life could hardly move the needle forward on socio-economic development, what do we expect from showbiz, media, and sports personalities who suddenly turned into politicians only because they are immensely popular and that they know that Filipino voters could easily be deceived. Do they honestly think that the skills and knowledge needed to run a public office can be acquired by taking crash courses in leadership and management?
Sadly speaking, this is how politicians and celebrities-turned-politicians think of Filipino voters – they can not only be bought and but they are also unintelligent. Most of those running for public office consider the Filipino voters cheap and ignorant – cheap because they are willing to sell their votes for a small amount of cash and ignorant because they don’t know how to choose the right candidate for a position.
Choosing the most qualified and capable among sets of candidates is not a rocket science. We can evaluate their qualifications corresponding to the position they are seeking. We can check their track record. We can hear them talk during the campaign period both in person and through any form of media. We can determine who among them are eloquent and could articulate their platform of government and who are dumb and merely banking on their popularity so they could get the support of unsuspecting voters or they have truckloads of money to buy votes. If we find those celebrities truly qualified, capable, and sincere in their desire to serve this country and they are the best among the candidates vying for an elective position, then we should vote for them.
We have to separate the wheat from the chaff. We need to exercise due diligence in distinguishing the qualified and capable candidates from a pretenders. Electing leaders unto whom we give the mandate to lead – unto whom we pin our hopes for a better nation – is not a game. Elections are not popularity contests.
Governance is a serious business and should be done on a full-time basis. One cannot be a public servant on a part-time basis who would attend to her/his duties and obligations only when there are no shooting sessions for movies and TV shows or there are no practices or games to play as athletes in any sport.
We should never entrust a public office to clowns.
How many of the registered voters in past elections can proudly claim that not even once that they sold their votes? Hard to say so it is difficult to choose which quantifier to use at the beginning of the next paragraph. Should it be all, many, some, several or a few? Just feel free to fill-out the blank.
_____ voters expect to be paid before they go to the precincts to cast their votes. Normally, midnight before the actual election day (or the wee hours of the morning of that day).
Had this writer used all or many he may be accused of committing the fallacy of hasty generalization. Perhaps the safest to fill-out the blank with would have been some.
This is the other side of the coin. Politicians buy their way to victory because the voters are selling their votes. There’s a causality dilemma involved…the politicians are buying votes because the voters offered to sell them or the voters are selling their votes because the politicians offered to buy them. Either way, “it takes two to tango.”
This is the sad reality in the country’s electoral process. Vote buying is rampant. It usually happens in the few days leading to the election day.
Let’s paint a scenario. Say there are 3 candidates for a mayoralty race in a town or city. All of them would offer a certain amount for each voter. The highest bidder will get the vote. The first candidate may be offering the usual P500 per vote but the second candidate who may promise P1000 would be preferred of course. However, if the third candidate would be willing to give P1,500 then he gets the nod of the voters, unless on the 11th hour one of the two other candidates will offer more than what the 3rd one promised.
The voter writes in the ballot the name of the candidate who gives him more money but gets to pocket as well all the amount promised by the other candidates. The total earnings of each voter would be the sum of the amount all the candidates promised. That’s only from the mayoralty bets. What about the money coming from candidates for other positions, national and local? Just do the Math. There’s indeed much money that circulate during elections.
Usually, the campaign leaders and trusted assistants of candidates are the ones going around to distribute the payroll. Supposedly, the wheeling and dealing are done discretely. Of course, none of the incumbent local and national officials will admit that they used their millions to secure their victory in the polls. They will deny it to death but only those who were born yesterday would say that stories about vote buying are not true.
The voters selling their votes thought that they have nothing to lose but instead they have a few thousand bucks to earn from what they’re doing not realizing that governance is a serious matter that should be put in the hands of the most qualified leaders and not in the dirty fingers of the ones using money for them to ensure victory during elections. Or probably they know… they just don’t care. The few bucks they would get is all that matter.
The voters selling their votes need to realize that they indirectly contribute to corruption in the government. The scheming politicians are just more than willing to spend millions during elections but they make sure they recoup the millions they spent for paying the voters and much more by getting involved in kickbacks and shady deals while in power and by dipping their hands into the coffers of the government. Only a few of them get caught in the process because they know how to work their way around existing laws and regulations.
More often than not that voters complain about the performance of local and national leaders. They forget the maxim that says “You deserve the leaders you elect.” The electorate must always remember what Thomas Jefferson once said, “The government you elect is the government you deserve.”