Transforming the electoral landscape

Published October 24, 2018, 12:05 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat



Atty. Joey D. Lina Former Senator
Atty. Joey D. Lina
Former Senator

In last Saturday morning’s episode of the DZMM teleradyo program “Magpayo Nga Kayo” which I co-host with ace broadcaster May Valle Ceniza, many televiewers just couldn’t hide their exasperation over the many familiar names in the certificates of candidacy for the 2019 elections.

For them, the perception was all too real that not only have more political families become more brazen in pushing for their interests, especially in the local scene, but that their candidates have a genuine chance of winning based on sheer popularity and the massive resources that well-entrenched political dynasties have.

“Wala na ba ibang pangalan (Aren’t there any other names)?” was the common sentiment among televiewers who expressed disgust over the continuing stranglehold of ruling families over our political system that could be seen as a mockery of our democracy.

The same sentiment was shared by former Comelec Commmissioner Gregorio Larrazabal who was guest in my other DZMM teleradyo program Sagot Ko ‘Yan the following day. “Panahon na po (It’s time), maybe not in this elections, but maybe the next elections, that we should encourage yung ibang mga bagong pangalan naman na pumasok (other new names to enter) kasi that’s the complaint, ‘yung tumatakbo, pareho ng pareho (because those running are always the same),” he said.

Although the Comelec has yet to finalize the official list of 2019 candidates, last week’s fiesta atmosphere outside Comelec offices showed that political families are apparently certain to continue reigning as they strengthen their hold on power by fielding more candidates in multiple elective posts.

The brazenness is fueled by what has been obvious all these years: political families have huge chances to be in power because, besides the usual three Gs or the so-called “guns, goons and gold” that play a big role in electing public officials, the other factor—bloodline—provides the strongest grip of all in our electoral system.

Indeed, the classic description of our political system as “anarchy of families” still holds true almost three decades after the phrase was coined by US professor Alfred McCoy who had written about, and testified in the US Congress, about Philippine political history.

The seeming obsession of many political dynasties to remain in power, plus the lure to be in power after an individual has tasted and liked the experience, has even made it inevitable for members of the same family to challenge each other for the same elective positions.

Many are asking: Why are political families taking over the function of leadership recruitment that belongs to political parties?  When will voters see that stuffing with kith and kin every public office in sight, supposedly in the earnest desire to “serve the public,” is indeed a manifestation of plain greed? How come we regressed from that time when political parties took center stage, and party conventions were held to choose candidates?

Some studies attempting to provide answers correlate our country’s economic inequality with the lopsided characteristics of our political landscape because, as power and wealth and the means to acquire more of it are concentrated in a few, “the system becomes a self-perpetuating mockery of democracy.”

With political dynasties shutting out other qualified people from entering politics, the result is a seemingly inclusive setup free of checks and balances whereby their areas of dominion are treated as fiefdoms for personal gain.

Still, hope springs eternal. While it’s too late to heed Larrazabal’s advice to encourage newcomers to enter politics because the filing of candidacies has lapsed for the 2019 polls, let us consider Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo’s call to use the coming months to thoroughly assess the qualifications and track records of those running in the midterm elections.

“As voters, let us show to the politicians that we are better than they. We have better sense than they. We are more discerning. Let us show them that we know how to choose,” Pabillo said in a Facebook post as he urged voters to find the “gems in a pile of dirt.’

Indeed, the key to excellence in governance lies in the governed – especially those unrelenting in their passion for excellence. Thus, it is imperative to transform the electorate into a potent force capable of discerning right choices and not falling prey to empty promises of politicians adept at patronage politics.

The transformation of the Philippine electorate must be such that the millions of impoverished Filipinos can no longer be lured to exchange their sacred votes for a few kilos of rice, groceries or petty cash.

Within all of us lies the power to transform Philippine politics. Ultimately, with God’s grace, all the political dynasties, no matter how powerful they are, cannot withstand the collective force of the people from whom all government authority emanates.

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