(2nd of 4 parts)
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 on 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. Power, like fame, is also addicting. Some of these famous people running for elective positions want to have both.
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 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. But if upon examination of their credentials and background you’ll find nothing but their popularity, you’ve got to make the right decision – vote for the most qualified.
We have to separate the wheat from the chaff. We need to exercise due diligence in distinguishing the qualified and capable candidates from the 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.
(1st of 4 parts)
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-political and economic reforms needed to make our country progressive and peaceful, then we are hallucinating.
It is not because nobody among them is qualified and capable to lead the Philippines 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.
It’s time to wake up. 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 cough 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 needs 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.