ALEJANDRO ROCES: ELECTIONS REDUCED TO POPULARITY CONTEST

MANILA, NOVEMBER 25, 2003  (STAR) ROSES AND THORNS By Alejandro R. Roces - In a democracy, the success of an election depends on the intelligence and education of the voters. Sad to say, we seem to be going backward instead of forward when it comes to voters’ choice of candidates. Traditionally, such depended on their background and experience. That is why most congressmen, senators and presidents had legal backgrounds. This is no longer true today. Now it is TV exposure that is important. So we have a congress made up of popular entertainers, athletes and persons who have attained public exposure through mass media.

When one sees a person in TV, one gets to feel that he knows the person personally. This is because we watch TV in our living room and bedroom so that subconsciously we feel as if they have been guests in our homes.

In the last few days, for instance, one of the leading newspapers had headline stories about two popular entertainers. One was about Kris Aquino’s choice of presidential candidate; the other was about whether a popular movie actor would follow Erap Estrada’s footsteps and run for the presidency. Obviously, the voters have not learned a lesson from the results of the Estrada presidency. They are ready to elect another movie star as president.

The first immediate result of all this is the effect on foreign investors. We seriously doubt if any big foreign firm would invest their money in a country managed by movie actors, basketball players and entertainers. Definitely, the future of the country seems bleak.

Congress and the Senate, for instance, have investigated cases of graft and corruption supposedly in aid of legislation. But we have yet to see any law that was passed as a result of a Senate or Congressional investigation.

The most intelligent thing we have heard from an actor being urged to run for public office was from the comedian Dolphy. When asked why he did not run for public office, he said, "Papano kung ako ay manalo?" He knew his limitations.

What gets us is the explanation that people give when they urge totally unqualified movie actors to run for high public office. They say, "Don’t worry, they will get the best advisers." Will they even know what to ask their advisers? And will they understand what their advisers tell them?

There was a time when we were the second most economically advanced country in Asia, next only to Japan. After martial law, we became the second most backward Asian country after Bangladesh. If we elect movie actors and popular entertainers to manage the country, we will be the laughing stock in Asia.

We talk of freedom, but forget that the first freedom is freedom from ignorance. Now ignorance is a blessing. Personal charm and popularity have replaced knowledge and efficiency. We are on the road to perdition.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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