The trouble with democracy is that it gives people a false sense of power over their individual destinies. That is a dangerous delusion we are nurturing in the minds of what in reality are an utterly powerless people. The deeper agendas behind entire governments — for example, Philippine President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III’s mission to secure Hacienda Luisita and, more recently, multi-million dollar gun deals allegedly entered into by Cabinet officials with rogue states — coming to light today are but a small demonstration of just how out-of-the-loop the ordinary Filipino schmoe really is.
The common but utterly baseless notion that to vote is to exercise one’s right to participate in “charting the nation’s course” is what keeps the natives blissfully placated while politicians negotiate the real deals among themselves while sipping bourbon on comfy leather seats or puttering around tony golf courses within their exclusive residential enclaves. The contract of the typical politician is not with his or her constituents. Rather, it is with his patrons and business cronies.
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Look no further than President BS Aquino and the way he brings to bear the full weight of the influence of his office in the service of his beleaguered shooting buddy, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Rico Puno. This is a man with known and even self-admitted links to the jueteng (illegal numbers game) underworld and has hands stained by the blood of eight Hong Kong tourists killed in a botched hostage rescue effort in August of 2010.
Or behold current regional laughingstock Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III who, in speaking against the ad-nauseum-debated Reproductive Health Bill revealed not only an alleged taste for intellectual dishonesty but a perceptible contempt for the blogging community. While it may be argued that Puno is twice-removed from the so-called mandate of “the people” (being an appointee of an elected official and not a direct outcome of The Vote), Sotto’s character and qualifications have long been evident to the public well before the first synaptic discharge sparked the idea of a career in politics within his pointed head. The fact remains, Sotto enjoys and directrly represents that cherished “people’s will” that is a staple in democratic emo rhetoric. Being so, he embodies the ironic failure of that very rhetoric.
While Puno stains President BS Aquino’s glossy Daang Matuwid (straight-and-narrow path) campaign promise, the existence of a man like Sotto in the Senate brings to question the very “mandate” that put Aquino in the President’s seat.
Consider then, these two questions:
(1) How well-informed are Filipinos when they vote?
(2) How much influence does good information wield when Filipinos vote?
The above two questions are the key pillars propping up the whole point of “democracy”. Are voters aware of the real picture surrounding a politician when they come out and vote for him or her? And where information is available about a politician, do voters act on the bases of said information?
You need to be able to answer “Yes” to both questions in order to say with a straight face that your vote is an intelligent one.
It is quite evident that Filipinos did not really know the full extent of BS Aquino’s real underlying agenda and the intricate network of mutual back-scratching amongst his cadre of friends and relatives when they considered him for president in 2010 (thus a “No” to Question 1). Filipinos, however, did have a reasonably good idea of how much — or how little — his qualifications as a professional public executive stacked up against the candidates he was running against at the time. Filipinos elected BS Aquino President of the Philippines just the same (a “No” to Question 2).
By the same token:
Filipinos had no idea of the full extent of Sotto’s religious zealotry and no idea of how much of an arrogant prick the man could be when painted into a corner when they considered him as a possible Senator of the Republic (a “No” to Question 1). Filipinos, however, were well aware of his track record as a promoter of low brow attitudes as an entertainer. Filipinos then went on to elect Sotto to the Philippine Senate just the same (a “No” to Question 2).
* * *
There really is no such thing as an “intelligent” vote. It is, quite certainly, impossible to vote “intelligently”. As such “democracy” provides us no more than a mere illusion of choice. During any election, it is really not about the number of candidates to choose from. It is all about whether we truly exercise conscious and intelligent control over our vote. In that regard, democracy in the Philippines can be considered to be an epic fail.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.