Preparing the electorate for its vital task

Published June 8, 2021, 12:08 AM

by Former Senator Atty. Joey D. Lina

Finding Answers

Former Senator
Atty. Joey Lina

The talk of the town today is about the 2022 elections. Who will be running and what elective posts are best suited for them, what political tandems are forming, and what burning issues ought to be tackled by candidates are just some of the hot topics being discussed.

But amid the talking points occupying center stage in many national conversations about Philippine politics and the preparations being made by vital players such as the potential candidates and the Commission on Elections, very seldom are there discussions on preparing another vital player in the political exercise – the electorate.

It is a declared principle in our Constitution that “sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them (Section 1, Article 2).” Thus, people virtually own government and because they do so, they have all the right to organize the government they own.

As in any organization, government leadership is indisputably a most critical factor in the life of the nation. The quality of our elected leaders determines whether our country progresses or retrogresses. If quality of leadership is beyond reproach, it inspires cooperation and support of all sectors of society in the quest for excellence.

In the same manner, it can be argued that the quality of leadership depends upon the quality of the electorate. If the quality of the electorate doesn’t leave much to be desired, then the quality of government leaders the electorate installs could bring about excellent governance.

Indeed, the key to exemplary governance lies in the governed with an unrelenting passion for excellence. It is beyond dispute, therefore, that the function of the electorate in a democracy towards the pursuit of excellence in nation-building is extremely crucial. Many political scientists and pundits are one in saying that people get what they deserve.

With the May 9, 2022 elections less than a year away, here’s a vital question: Is the electorate being adequately prepared to efficiently fulfill its role of installing God-fearing, pro-people and highly capable men and women into leadership positions?

The essence of democracy entails a government run by the whole population through elected representatives and leaders. Unfortunately, many constituents often feel those who govern are unresponsive to their needs. Some feel absolutely shut out from the policy-making affecting their lives.

Bombarded with extensive propaganda by candidates even long before the start of the official campaign period, some voters are swayed towards certain personalities, only to realize after elections that they have made the wrong choice. Such voters feel duped by local rulers who, instead of working for the common good, are continually obsessed with selfish interests to strengthen their hold on power.

Thus, it is imperative for socio-civic groups, whose leaders should also be beyond reproach, to educate voters and transform them 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 millions of impoverished Filipinos can no longer be easily lured to exchange their sacred votes for a few kilos of rice, groceries or petty cash.

The entire gamut of the electoral process – how and why voters make a choice and how the people’s choice could truly be the “voice of God” – should be at the core of voters’ education and values-formation.

With values-formation an integral part of voters’ education, public officials can be more wisely chosen by an electorate better equipped with a yardstick for leadership with which to measure the best persons and programs to actively support.

But before “educated” voters can carry out their crucial task, they must see to it they are registered or eligible to vote on election day. Those who are unregistered or have been deactivated by the Comelec have until September 30 to register.

Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon, who was guest in my Teleradyo program Sagot Ko ‘Yan last Sunday, called out to millions of deactivated and first-time voters to register. She said that of the seven million voters who were deleted from the Comelec list due to failure to vote in the last two elections, only about 300,000 have registered again. And of the four million Filipinos turning 18 and therefore already qualified to vote, only about two million have registered so far.

To encourage more people to register, she asked civic organizations to set up community pantries outside Comelec offices to attract those who need to register. She also asked civic organizations to rent jeepneys and tricycles to ferry senior citizens and PWDs to registration sites.

The challenge of transforming the electorate into a potent force capable of discerning the right choices in the 2022 elections is now upon us. The need to upgrade the quality of our politics and the electorate is imperative if we are to install excellent government leaders capable of addressing the enormous public health and economic impact of the pandemic to our country.

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