National elections are around the corner here in the Philippines, again. The difference between this year and the elections in 2013 is that this time, aside from voting for 12 senators and local government officials, Filipinos will also be choosing a new president and vice-president.
In the previous national elections six years ago, there were candidates whose track records were impressive, and a society that put its head above its heart would have taken these into consideration more. What happened then? Filipinos went for arguably the least qualified among the presidential candidates.
Now, this year, we have presidential candidates who, from certain angles, all appear shady, dubious, and seemingly unfit to be president. It looks like Filipinos have painted themselves into a corner again with the stupid choices they make.
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And as the pool of prospective leaders Filipinos have to choose from worsens, so do the wisdom and the thought process that they use in exercising their right to vote.
Last 2013, I listed down four appalling bits of election “wisdom” that need to go away. Here I have another five to add to that list.
(1) Voting for the least evil is the pragmatic choice
A prominent, underlying theme in elections in the Philippines has, more often than not, been, “vote for the lesser evil.” Filipinos vote for someone because they don’t want someone else to win.
Now, some of your more “educated” voters are passing this off as the most pragmatic thing to do, given that the prospective list of candidates for president and vice-president are, in their opinion, junk.
But exactly how is “voting the lesser evil” pragmatic when it is simply repeating what has been done before?
Voting for the lesser evil is not pragmatism; it is insanity. Filipinos vote like that because they don’t generate options for themselves. They merely wait for the list of names to be fed to them from the same list of “veterans” like they wait for the guava to fall down from the tree.
Filipinos want change, yet they themselves don’t want to change. And they’re so proud of it.
(2) Discipline is something that is implemented from the top-down
You can substitute “change” for “discipline” and the sentence above will still make sense.
Filipinos are not known for discipline, or restraint. Their default mode is to find ways to skirt rules and do what they want regardless of the consequences.
Filipinos are also known to be a people who would rather that someone tell them what to do instead of them doing things properly of their own initiative. “Thinking for themselves” is a phrase that hardly describes them.
Why are discipline and change considered as external forces that have to be applied to Filipinos? Why can’t they discipline or change themselves simply because it is the right thing to do?
No wonder Filipinos are so easy to fool. Because they don’t take the time to think things through.
(3) Voting/not voting for X is a vote for something “negative”
”Voting for Bongbong Marcos is a vote to bring Martial Law back.”
”Not voting for Duterte is a vote to keep crime on the streets.”
Both of these statements have a lot of impact and are meant to guilt voters into casting ballots “in the right place”, but they are essentially non-sequiturs.
Those who are afraid of Martial Law coming back, if Bongbong Marcos wins the Vice-Presidency, ultimately reveal that they do not have any faith in the systems and institutions that were supposedly set up – during the first Aquino administration, no less – to “prevent another dictatorship from happening.” Unfortunately, systems and institutions are only as good as the people who use them. Filipinos may have gotten their freedom and democracy, but they didn’t necessarily get the smarts to use these systems and institutions properly.
Even if support for Rodrigo Duterte seems to be growing on social media, there will always be a portion of the “chattering classes” who will have doubts before they cast their ballots for him. And these aren’t necessarily pro-Mar Roxas people or pro-any other presidential candidate. Duterte’s tough guy stance to fighting crime and his rather ambitious pronouncement to end crime in 3-6 months if he wins cannot be just taken lightly. The same scrutiny must be applied to all candidates.
How is he going to manage to do it? How will he take into account the difference in scale between Davao and the entire Philippines? What happens in areas which Duterte’s potential administration will not necessarily be able to keep an eye on.
Just because people don’t 100% agree to support Duterte, doesn’t mean that they want crime to continue. Everyone wants crime to be curbed, but doing it in any other way than legally should be enough to make one cast doubt. The ends do not always justify the means.
(4) The man of action archetype is more important than the man of character
Both are equally important for anyone vying for a leadership position. All the more so if it is a government position. It is often said among Filipinos that what is lacking is political will to change. However, Filipinos cannot wash off the accountability that they have because their leaders are popularly elected. So guess what, it all boils down to the voters.
Unfortunately, the value system of Filipinos puts an inordinate deal of emphasis on appearances instead of substance. In Filipino society, those who talk the loudest get the most attention, even if there is virtually no correlation between the loudest talker and the best idea. Thinking is considered a time-wasting exercise among Filipinos. But one cannot execute well if one doesn’t think well of what he/she is going to do first. It also takes a certain amount of brain power to account for obstacles in one’s path, and to react accordingly.
(5) A vote for a “different” type of politician will necessarily lead to improvement
Let’s say it quite bluntly: politicians in the Philippines matter less than people make them out to. As I’ve already established above, it is the people who make or break the fate of the society they are in. Politicians, however, want to keep in power for as long as they can, so therefore it is to their interests to keep the public ignorant.
Anybody can claim to be “different” and say that he/she is the answer to the public’s needs. However, it is up to the public to find out whether he/she means what he says and whether he/she has substance to back up his/her run for public office.
That is why voter education is of utmost importance. When it is left to for-profit enterprises and to those with vested interests in keeping the masses ignorant, the whole thing goes awry.
There is no substitute for well thought-out plans and well-scrutinized plans. Anyone who proposes something for the public must invite criticism and embrace it. Who knows, everybody will learn something from others that could be a key factor in the success of a project.
Like many, I remain skeptical of the upcoming elections. Six years is an awfully short time to expect Filipinos to have learned something about being wiser in choosing their leaders.
They continue to breed at alarming rates. As the number of Filipinos increase, the average intelligence of the population goes down. We cannot assume that there are enough resources to make each new Filipino productive and to educate and mold him/her. Resources are limited, and Filipinos are such suckers for groupthink and are afraid of going against the grain because their society ostracizes them for doing so.
Like last time, I leave the readers with the ever-relevant bit of election wisdom from the late comedian George Carlin:
Everybody complains about politicians. Everybody says they suck. Well where do people think these politicians come from? They don’t fall out of the sky; they don’t pass through a membrane from another reality.
This is the best we can do, folks. This is what we have to offer. It’s what our system produces: garbage in, garbage out.
If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you’re gonna get selfish ignorant leaders.
So maybe, maybe, maybe it’s not the politicians who suck. Maybe something else sucks around here, like, the public.
А вы, друзья, как ни садитесь, все в музыканты не годитесь. – But you, my friends, however you sit, not all as musicians fit.