PHILIPPINE ELECTIONS: TO THOSE WHO SAY FILIPINOS ARE STUPID
 

SAN FRANCISCO, MAY 27, 2013 (INQUIRER) By Benjamin Pimentel - Perhaps the stupidest reaction to the last Philippine elections came from people who concluded that, based on the outcome, Filipinos are really stupid.

Someone even came up with a faux Time magazine cover making that argument. In an ironic twist, a few who embrace the stupidity claim believed the spoof was for real.

Then there’s the Philippine Star columnist who argued that, “In the present system no matter how hard we try, the numbers are against an intelligent vote. … It is inevitable that the huge majority of unintelligent voting will always overwhelm a small intelligent vote. So it is not about making clueless voters more intelligent to achieve better elections alone. It is also about restructuring our politics and governance so that the selection of leaders does not depend on money and popularity.”

Carmen Pedrosa’s statements about “restructuring our politics” and the need to neutralize the role played by “money and popularity” in elections certainly make sense.

That’s not just a problem in the Philippines. You can hear that complaint in most electoral democracies, even in older, presumably more established, ones like the United States where the fight to reform the way elections are financed has been raging for decades.

But in a country that very recently had a disastrous encounter with dictatorship, what she said can easily be twisted around by forces with a much narrower view of elections and who probably don’t even believe in democracy.

You can almost hear some of these forces declaring: “Well, clearly, the people are stupid and unintelligent. So it’s time for those of us who are not stupid and unintelligent to take charge.”

Yes, some of the big winners aren’t exactly paragons of democratic governance.

As an Associated Press report said, “From Imelda Marcos to Manny Pacquiao, familiar names of political clans and celebrities dominated the ballots in the Philippines’ congressional and local elections Monday, making them a contest of popularity first and reform second.”

It would have been great to see Risa Hontiveros and Teddy Casiño on the list of winners and to have them inject more progressive ideas and discussions into the Senate. (It would also be fascinating given that they belong to rival segments of Philippine progressive politics. But that’s another story.)

But the results aren’t as “unintelligent” as some would think.

As columnist Rina Jimenez-David pointed out, the number of women in the Senate just doubled – a big deal in a political culture notorious for narrowminded machismo.

The top-notcher Grace Poe has quickly come across as intelligent, thoughtful and eloquent. She clearly has no delusions about why she won. She knows it’s because of her ties to a revered cultural icon and was quick to acknowledge the hard work ahead to really earn the people’s trust and respect.

Meanwhile, Nancy Binay has quickly emerged as the most ridiculed political newcomer in the history of Philippine politics. Some of the criticisms and fears may be justified. But many of the attacks have been so over-the-top and unfair.

There’s an important point in the elections that I haven’t heard much about. And it has to do with those whom the supposedly “unintelligent” masses rejected.

There’s the son of the one-time guardian of fascist rule in the country, the veteran trapo now also known for a new literary genre we could probably call ‘extremely creative memoir writing.’ (“I was ambushed. … No, that was a hoax. … Just kidding, I was really ambushed.”)

His son will not be joining the Senate because enough people apparently were not impressed with Jackie Enrile’s ‘I didn’t kill anyone and I really wanted to be a missionary’ narrative.

And Filipinos won’t have to read or hear about Senator Migz “This-time-I-didn’t-cheat’ Zubiri. That’s apparently because enough people didn’t buy into the former non-senator’s ‘Believe me, I didn’t know my votes were stolen” tale.

Then there are the other signs of cracks, even small ones, in the elite political machine on the local level. Why can’t we celebrate the victory of Leni Robredo who just won a congressional seat in Camarines Sur by beating the powerful Villafuerte clan?

But the biggest win is this: Filipinos yet again were able to engage in this crazy exercise. For there was a time when elections were a far more dangerous political activity in the Philippines.

This year marks the 35th anniversary of one of the dirtiest elections in Philippine history.

The year was 1978. The dictator Ferdinand Marcos was in power and thought that he should prove to the world that the people really love him. So he called for elections for a new legislature.

Big mistake.

A broad opposition coalition, led by the likes of Ninoy Aquino and Nene Pimentel, took him on. They waged a spirited, courageous campaign, winning the support of Filipinos who had grown tired of the regime.

The dictator hit back by cheating his way to victory. The cheating was so massive and so brazen it stunned even Marcos’s key ally, the United States.

Journalist Raymond Bonner recalls in “Waltzing With a Dictator” how the US Embassy in Manila reported how the Marcoses used flying voters and “printed and marked one million fake ballots for use in the process as necessary” to assure an “overwhelming” victory.

But cheating wasn’t enough.

After the elections, Marcos went after those who defied him by throwing his opponents in prison.

There’s a famous editorial cartoon by the legendary Herblock that brilliantly summed up Marcos’s twisted view of elections. It shows Marcos standing next to one of his generals. They’re both angry as they watch a military van hauling off protesters.

“Ingrates!” Marcos roars. “You let them vote and the next thing they want their ballots counted.”

Filipinos have come a long way since those dark days. And it’s time for an important reminder.

Democracy is a journey, and it’s often messy, unpredictable, at times exhilarating. And the destination isn’t paradise.

Filipino voters should be blamed for the Philippines’ problems May 12, 2013 by Ilda FROM GET_REAL_PHILIPPINES ONLINE

I don’t think there is a point in holding elections in the Philippines. It’s so expensive and the whole process just disrupts normal activities and keeps Filipinos from moving forward. What is the point in going through something that won’t even change or improve how things are being run in the country anyway?

Before every election, the candidates use literally the same song and dance routine to entertain the voters. After the election is over, the candidates go back to doing everything they can to protect their family’s interests and virtually nothing that could benefit the rest of the population. It’s just ridiculous.


jejomar_binay_erap_estrada_campaign [Photo courtesy When in Manila.]

If the Filipino voters are going to choose and elect their public servants from candidates who come from the same families who have been ruling the country for decades, then these families ought to just take turns in having a go at those lucrative positions in government; something like a contractual term will do. That’ll save us from bearing with all the empty slogans, campaign jingles, and adolescent mudslinging in the months leading to Election Day.

It’s getting harder and harder to feel sorry for Filipinos nowadays. They keep blaming others for their miseries when the fact is they are the ones who vote for the same people who cause much of their miseries. One can be forgiven for saying that Filipino voters are simply stupid, arrogant and just a bunch of losers.

At the moment, there are 178 dynasties ruling 73 of the 80 provinces in the Philippines. Now, that’s a lot. Who voted for these people? The answer: the same people who continue to complain about their wretched lives. Even a convicted plunderer can run again and again for public office. As long as he is popular, he and the rest of his family’s chances of winning are strong. It’s so pathetic.

Every three years the voters have an opportunity to vote for someone new and yet they still choose to vote for the same bozos. If Filipinos are tired of the same families who are running the country, why can’t they demand the end of the ruling of the dynasties? It should be easy enough to do if the clamor to end it is loud enough. The clamor for better candidates should culminate on Election Day, when voters choose someone who doesn’t belong to a ruling elite and someone who holds a true vision for the country.

Some Filipinos think that blaming the candidates is the way to go. Yes, majority of the candidates are taking advantage of the voter’s ignorance. These candidates deserve the scrutiny and some of the valid criticism. However, let us not ignore the fact that the voters are responsible for choosing the candidates.

Take a candidate like Nancy Binay. She is using her father’s popularity to win the election. Some of her critics are actually too harsh on her when they should be directing their anger at the voters. Nancy Binay or Bam Aquino would not even think twice about running if they knew they didn’t have a chance to win – if they knew the voters use their heads. But they know that having a popular family name is enough for them to win. What Nancy or Bam are doing may be unethical or wrong but they are comforted by the fact that it was the people who want them to win.


campaign_texting_philippines [Photo courtesy Showbiz Government.]

According to Bobby Tuazon who is the director for policy studies at the Centre for People Empowerment in Governance, the country’s political landscape is “getting worse”. Here’s what he had to say about the mid-term elections:

Tuazon projected that when all votes are counted, 21 of the 24 Senate seats
will fall under the control of political families. That includes former
President Joseph Estrada’s two sons from different mothers.
In the House of Representatives, about 80 percent of the 229 seats will
also be dominated by dynasties. “The government will remain under the
control of the traditional political parties,” he said. “These are the same elites who
control the economic resources of the country,” Tuazon said.
What is even more alarming for him is that clans are no longer content in fielding
two or three family members each election cycle. In the province of Maguindanao,
where 34 journalists covering a campaign were killed in 2009, about 80 members of the
Ampatuan family, which has been implicated in the massacre, are running for office.

I can’t help but think that Tuazon is letting the Filipino voters off the hook with regard to the worsening state of Philippine politics. It’s as if the Filipino people are not free to choose. Filipinos are free to vote for the right candidate but they choose the wrong ones most of the time. President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino is proof of this. I mean, why would the voters in Maguidananao still want to put any of the Ampatuan family in power after senior members of the clan allegedly massacred 52 innocent people? It’s so inconceivable.

Shaming the members of political dynasties does not even work. They have become dense and do not seem to have any shred of decency left. Since that is the case, shaming the voters could work instead in changing the political landscape in the Philippines. If the voters still prefer giving up their right to have a decent life, then members of the dynasties should just take turns ruling them, indeed. At the end of the day, Filipino voters should be blamed for how the public servants they voted for run the country.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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