Tuesday, May 7, 2013
I know that there are many conscientious voters here in Lianga, in particular, who like me are making and finalizing their list of chosen candidates from the senatorial level down to the members of the local municipal council. In my occasional forays around town I usually try to talk to as many of them as I can in order to get a sense of the not only the various criteria they commonly use in making their choices but also to discover if there are similar thought processes they all employ in making them.
On more than a few instances, I had been asked to reveal my own list of favored politicians, a request, of course, that in most cases I try to skillfully and gracefully sidestep and evade knowing by hindsight and past experience how deeply the typical Filipino voter, especially in the rural and provincial areas, can become emotionally and intellectually involved in the political debate during elections. One does not want a purely intellectual discussion deteriorate from mere reasonable albeit impassioned debate and just a contest of minds to real and actual combat of the more physical and deadly kind.
In the end, I always tell my friends and acquaintances that in the case of my choices of candidates for the May 13 elections and for all elections for that matter past and present or future, it would perhaps be a much more prudent, safer and wiser course of action to merely tell them what kind of politicians or political groupings I do not vote for.
Firstly, as a general rule, I have a dim view of politicians (particularly those running for local offices) who enter or join politics because they have been singularly untested or unsuccessful in their other endeavors in life and who see elective political office primarily as easy, gainful and extremely profitable employment or as a means to attain some degree of personal prestige they could not have gotten elsewhere. These usually are the offspring of well-off and well connected families. As it is, we already have too many incompetents in government and we don't need more of them wasting our time and our precious tax money.
Secondly, I would not vote for any one just because he comes from a political family, clan or dynasty even if that familial or clan grouping happens to be one I belong to. Political dynasties represent, in my view, what is intrinsically wrong and dysfunctional about our politics and our political culture at present. The fact that they constitute a majority of our aspiring and existing political leadership does not speak well of our political maturity as a people living under what is supposed to be a representative, republican democracy where the ordinary citizen is supposed to be the ultimate source of all governmental power and sovereignty.
I despise them together with those of their kind who stay too long in power because, in the ideal sense, elective office is supposed to be a public trust and one that a person aspires to because he wants to make a real difference in government. One does not buy or intimidate his way to office and then cling like a leech to a position he is understood to be privileged to hold for a limited time only and must eventually pass it on to others (and not to the descendants of his family or clan as if they have a sole franchise or right to it) in a constant passing of the baton, if you will, that will insure that fresh, new blood is always infused into public service, making it always vital, dynamic and reflective of the existing needs and aspirations of a people.
In this sense, public or government employees are not the same as elective officials because an elective position is never meant to be a full, lifetime career. It is meant to be an avocation, a period of selfless service one renders to the community and society. One is, therefore, elected on the basis of his own merits and personal qualifications and on the political ideology he represents and not just because he himself has a notable pedigree or comes from a family or clan of wealth and influence. When the time comes to leave office, he does so with grace and humility because he has done his part.
Thirdly, I do not chose leaders who cannot articulate and demonstrate their vision and idea of their role in government with unequivocal surety and clarity. It is not enough, for example, to mouth out slogans of generalities like being "makatao" (people-centered) or "maka-Dios" (God-fearing) or being for free education and free universal healthcare. The electorate must know what a candidate's core beliefs and personal political ideology are if he has really any of these in the first place and that he is not just another political hack using whatever attention getting yet overused drivel he can latch on to so than he can weasel and con his way into power. Voters must know not just what he thinks he can do but where and in what direction he wants to bring his community and country.
Finally, I cannot vote for politicians (especially local candidates I have more than a passing acquaintance with) whose public personas are not in sync with who they really are in their own homes and immediate communities. It is said that good men make good leaders and the best way to find out who a person really is is to go around and talk to his neighbors, his co-workers and acquaintances. If he is a national figure, ask the people of his own locality and immediate constituency in order to find out who and what he really is. Chances are he may be not what he says he is in public.
Our government leaders must be and should be men of character and integrity. Far above and beyond intellectual brilliance, eloquence and personal charisma, a political candidate's record of moral fitness and soundness must be the prime consideration. The reason perhaps why ordinary people see politics as dirty and immoral is simply because we elect people to public office who give it a bad name. There is no reason why we cannot insist that our government leaders must be good and honest men unless we ourselves as a people and as an electorate have been remiss in our duty to insure that that is always so.
In the end, of course, whether one is here in a small remote, rural and provincial town like Lianga or elsewhere in the Philippines, what matters is that all of us will hopefully cast their votes on election day for those who we personally believe are best suited for the offices they seek. We may not agree on what being "best suited" or "best qualified" mean and may even hotly argue and debate among ourselves about the wisdom or folly of the choices we will make. But as long as the choices are based on personal belief and individual conscience then what does it matter in end.
Democratic elections work because, as contemporary human history has shown us, right and wrong choices whether in politics or elsewhere in life all tend to even out in the end. Sure, it can seem like a messy, tangled and convoluted process but it does seem to work out in the long run. But only if we make sure that the free and unhampered right to universal suffrage is protected and preserved for all time.
It is only when we sell our votes or allow ourselves to be coerced, intimidated or pressured to cast our ballots for those who seek to subvert and corrupt the political process that we do ourselves and our nation great harm and a great disservice and injustice. The tragic thing about those who sell their votes or barter then for a favor or two is that those who do these things think they have gotten one over the one suborning them. They think they have wisely profited from bartering like a common commodity something that they feel has little practical value for them in the immediate and real world.
The truth is that when they commercialize their vote they end giving away for a mere pittance something priceless and of inestimable value. They actually end up in exchange for trifles their chance to have a clear say in the future of not only their immediate communities but their entire country as well.
And woe to these same people who, when the unscrupulous and the ruthless do come to power and will then arrogantly lord it over all, will belatedly resort to moaning, weeping and calling out for a savior, a political Messiah, someone to save them from the inevitable repression and oppression. No amount of recriminations and "I told you so's" by that time would matter one itsy bit.
If that sad time does come, those who have forfeited the right to chose wisely (tragically including the sagacious minority who may have done their patriotic duty but have simply been overwhelmed by the complacent and misguided majority) will have to end up learning to live with and endure the dire consequences of their own shortsighted greed and abject stupidity.