By FORMER SENATOR ATTY. JOEY D. LINA
Until tomorrow, certificates of candidacy will be filed by those vying for national and local posts in the 2019 election. After the Comelec weeds out those deemed as “nuisance”
or not qualified, a final list of candidates shall emerge from which voters can make their choice.
But what if voters find their choice to be “none of the above” or if they have difficulty selecting the “lesser evil” who can best serve the country’s interests? Should voters simply ignore their civic duty in a democracy to participate in the election process to choose our leaders?
Amid the political dysfunction prevailing for so long now, it’s not surprising if many voters experience such predicament, especially in light of a 2016 pronouncement by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines that “voting for the lesser evil is still voting for evil.”
That many unsavory characters and undeserving candidates easily get elected is a testament to the sad state of our political dysfunction and the many ills it nurtures – patronage politics, vote-buying, fraud, election-related violence, overspending, misuse of power, wastage of public resources, alliances of unprincipled opportunists, nonchalance to issues, and much more.
Philippine politics remains dominated by personalities, some of whom are motivated not by love of country but purely by selfish interests. Ours is vastly different from other democracies, where potential aspirants undergo rigid public scrutiny in town hall meetings, primaries, and public debates where issues are threshed out and discussed thoroughly, and where the candidates’ character can be more keenly assessed.
No real honest-to-goodness political party system exists here whereby political groups present the electorate with clearly differentiated platforms, policies, and viewpoints on vital matters which enable voters to sufficiently scrutinize proposals before making an informed choice on election day. Our brand of politics remains personality-driven without a clear and coherent party platform of governance.
If we had a truly functioning party system in the Philippines, citizens can be deeply involved as card-carrying members of political parties or political movements which analyze and propose solutions to national and local problems. Voters would be presented with an array of programs and platforms of governance, as well as highly qualified and principled candidates embodying the party’s principles and who have undergone the party’s stringent process to select competent and compassionate leaders.
Unfortunately, having a genuine party system in the country is still a pipe dream. For the longest time, candidates are either self-proclaimed, anointed or crowned by power blocs or vested interest groups. Choices are based mainly on sheer popularity of a candidate and survey ratings. Candidates are winnable because surveys say so, and because they have resources to mount a well-financed and organized campaign. Plans and programs presented are often good only on paper but are rarely used as basis for choosing candidates.
But despite our political dysfunction, hope springs eternal. Those of us who aspire for a better Philippines must take concrete steps to scrutinize national and local candidates. Are they suited for public office? Do they have a clear grasp of the workings of government? Will they use public funds with utmost integrity and efficiency? Can they get things done to help achieve inclusive growth, more jobs and livelihood opportunities, access to quality education and healthcare, housing for the homeless, and other concerns that matter most to the poor?
Filipinos hoping for substantial change and reforms must not distance themselves from the elections or adopt a “holier than thou” attitude about politics. They could form themselves
into organized groups, from the barangay up to the national level, and invite candidates to speak before them and present their governance platforms for national or local positions.
Those not satisfied with the reform agenda and action plans of candidates can formulate their own programs to uplift lives, and then seek out candidates who will support such programs. Those driven by a deep sense of patriotism can also help make things happen by using their own resources to support highly qualified candidates with little money to mount a local or national campaign so they can emerge successful at the polls.
Prosperity for all Filipinos lies in establishing a strong, organized, united, and enlightened citizenry, willing to fight systemic corruption and grinding poverty, and to work in pursuit of a government instrumental in achieving prosperity for all.
These enlightened citizens must reach out to touch the lives of fellow citizens and help them transcend a desperate situation. The enlightened few must be agents of change. They must rise to the challenges of the times, leave their comfort zones, influence and lead their countrymen to use elections correctly – to install Christ-centered, competent, committed, and compassionate leaders who have the correct strategy to transform and uplift our nation, and, ultimately, to renew and strengthen the people’s faith in government.
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