Inconvenient truths about PH elections

Published March 23, 2019, 12:05 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat



Tonyo Cruz
Tonyo Cruz

The two major political camps have similar go-to explanations for the mess that’s the 2019 elections: It’s either the will or the fault of the voters.

In survey after survey, the HNP cannot hide its joy over its poll domination as a supposed evidence of a mandate that’s just set to be cemented. Otso Diretso meanwhile calls on voters to “correct” the “mistake” of electing Duterte.

Activists, progressives and other Filipinos who know their history reject these narratives that mainly or totally lay the blame on the public for the political mess.

These narratives hide the “guns, goons, and gold” that predetermine the choices and, ultimately, the general outcome of elections.

These narratives are silent, for instance, on the regime’s successful shakedown of local government units and local candidates using the issue of drugs.  Local executives and local businessmen have reportedly been asked to show their support for the HNP as a measure of support for the President’s drug war.

It is thus not surprising that in many towns, cities, and provinces, HNP candidates are running against PDP-Laban, or HNP against another faction of the HNP. Running against the HNP had reportedly been treated as a sign of being in cahoots with drug syndicates.

The “blame the voters” narratives are also silent on the massive entry of traditional politicians and political dynasties into the partylist system. They have discovered that the partylist could be “gamed,” with powerful politicians dispensing favors and alloting votes for the partylists that they either organized or support.

The President’s former special assistant has reached the third spot in the latest survey. Is that a reflection of the media attention he has enjoyed as he continues to shadow his principal? Who are paying for his advertisements and campaign materials? Or is his strong showing made an obligation imposed on HNP and PDP-Laban officials?

The electoral system and the political institutions likewise tolerate plunderers and liars. There is no ban or disincentive against candidates who manufacture diplomas or lie in their curriculum vitae. Was the senator who lied about having college degree ever censured? No. Have the parties thrown out candidates who have been found to have falsely claimed to be graduates of top universities? No.

Students and workers face stiffer requirements. They have to submit certificates of good moral character, and NBI clearances. In our electoral system, the plunderers, con artists, murders, and liars are welcomed by the parties and institutions that are supposed to be paragons of leadership and defenders of electoral integrity.

The fingerprints of oligarchs too are hidden in this ongoing political orgy. The beneficiaries of their donations don’t disclose their identities. The donors meanwhile don’t care. They put money on all candidates, so they don’t lose at all. These oligarchs and their advertising, PR and marketing agencies cash in on the production and airing of ads,  and on troll armies.

Foreign powers too also try to influence the elections, either covertly or overtly — statements of praise or criticism, offers of aid, denial of aid, and of course the discourse of their pensionados and influencers.

I don’t know about you, but I didn’t notice HNP or even the Liberal Party consult the public on who the senatorial candidates should be. There’s no open, democratic manner of choosing or vetting candidates.  The processes are secretive, as if the parties are syndicates.

The process is so opaque that the pro-administration candidates have reached 15. The main opposition LP meanwhile can only fill up eight slots, so much so that it dropped Oposisyon Koalisyon as its name in favor of Otso Diretso.

The regime has more candidates than the available Senate seats. The main opposition meanwhile seems to instantly concede four seats by insisting on just eight.

How I wish the LP led a genuine Oposisyon Koalisyon by inviting not just Magdalo. It could’ve invited the Makabayan, Partido Lakas ng Masa, KMU-Nagkaisa labor alliance, Coalition for Justice, youth movements, and other opposition forces. There are 12 Senate seats to be contested, and a national campaign to be mounted. This could be made easier through alliance and coalition.

To put it differently, the coming elections cannot just be about electing eight Senate candidates. It is not too late for the LP to lead a true Oposisyon Koalisyon, with alternative candidates and with an alternative program of action. The LP cannot just surrender to the HNP the House, capitols, city halls, and municipios.

To its credit, Makabayan has tried to push for a common opposition slate. Whether the LP and other opposition forces would find it as important and take steps to come up with such a common opposition slate — perhaps only time can tell.

There’s still time for the opposition to come together and give the people a game changer of a nationwide slate and a general program action. But the leaders of the main opposition must consider discarding its flawed beliefs, starting with the mistaken view that voters ought to be held accountable for Duterte’s misdeeds.  The people are all victims of Duterte, even those who voted for him.

The people also elected members of the House and Senate  Is it also the people’s fault that legislators consciously side with Duterte, instead of performing their role as check and balance? Aren’t the people the victims of this warped and corrupted democracy?

I’ve heard many of my friends jokingly say they plan to migrate because of the surveys that they see. But most Filipinos have no such choice except to continue with the daily grind. Fortunately many are beginning to see the validity of radical and revolutionary solutions in the face of intractable problems and the corruption of so-called democratic structures and institutions.

May the ongoing campaign be an occasion for political enlightenment, for inspiring further political education, for mobilizing the forces seeking authentic change, for seeking accountability of those in power and those deposed from power, and for removing the mask of a process that purports to stand for democratic choice.