The Philippine General Elections for 2022 had already began when the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) welcomed various political candidates from all walks of life as they applied for certain national or local positions. Some were old, some were young, some were familiar, some were unknown, and some were something in between those lines. However, since the Philippines only gets to choose the country’s chief executive once every six years as mentioned by the Constitution, all eyes were on the presidential hopefuls.
Electing a Philippine president would always have its own cultural and historical value that mirrors the peculiarities of our archipelagic nation. Way before smartphones and telecom groups like Samsung, Apple, and Huawei were raking in financial benefits brought by 3G technology, Philippine politics had already been marred by its own version of 3G: Guns, Goons, and Gold. Assassination, intimidation, and bribery were the names of the game when you play politics and vie for public office in the Philippines. To a certain extent, these three demeaning acts are still being done to political opponents, supporters, and voters, but it has continuously evolved as Internet usage permeated the lives of ordinary Filipinos. These technologies might have mitigated such dangers especially to human life, but it can nevertheless be disheartening and intoxicating.
Even though the Information Age transformed how elections and politics are played, it doesn’t change the notion that the Philippine electoral system is bound to degrade with time, where there is premeditated degeneration brought by the frailties and flaws of the 1987 Constitution. Taking a look at how a presidential candidate takes Malacanang Palace in an electoral process, a presidentiable only needs to have a numerical advantage over his or her fellow presidentiables. Basically, the candidate who gets the biggest number wins, whether he or she won it through a majority vote or as a plurality vote. As such, it can be safely said that the most popular candidate would emerge victorious. Looking at the Philippines that is very attached to popularity and creating impressions, we have romanticized elections where these individuals would entertain their supporters and woo possible voters in numerous creative ways, which would include singing, dancing, and displaying acts of charity where political campaigns are becoming like noon-time, variety, Philippine TV shows.
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A number of individuals would say that the best way to counter this degeneration of Philippine elections is to “vote wisely”, where a voter would meticulously check a candidate’s background, character, and political platform. Others would say that one can counteract this degeneration by “voting according to one’s conscience”, where practicing the right to suffrage entails discerning what is wrong from what is right. However, let’s be practical here since the ideal is far from what is real. If everyone is going to vote wisely and vote accordingly to one’s conscience, we’d end up compelling ourselves to look for saints in the company of sinners. The conclusion is that, we’ll just keep on chasing pavements over and over again.
To learn how elections ought to be, observing the third and the fourth largest economies of the world might provide us with good insights, specially considering that they are holding or have held their general elections this year. Japan would hold their general elections in a few weeks where the current administration of LDP and Komeito are expected to retain a majority of their seats, while Germany has just recently concluded theirs, where the centrist-left party SPD won the largest number of seats in the Bundestag, followed by the centrist-right party CDU-CSU. These two countries are known liberal democracies, where they elect representatives to the parliament, who in turn help in determining who would be the country’s head of government.
It is interesting to notice that when they hold elections for their respective parliaments for the lower house, there are only two parts where Japanese and German voters practice their right in the ballot. First, they choose who their representative would be in their respective congressional district, and then they choose what political party they are going to cast a vote for, where parliamentary seats are awarded to the political parties in accordance to the percentage of votes they have garnered. These are tallied and, later, these political parties would get to know who gets to form the government.
Both cases show a significant degree of simplicity for the voters, which is in contrast to the Philippine electoral system, where we choose a president, a vice president, 12 senators, a party-list, a governor, a vice governor, a congressional representative, a number of board members, a mayor, a vice mayor, and a number of councilors. Depending on one’s domicile, some positions might be written on the ballot, while others would be absent (for example, Metro Manila voters have no need to elect a governor, a vice governor, and board members). Nevertheless, it is evident that choosing candidates during general elections in the Philippines is both a daunting and a stressful task. I am even unsure if every voter is provided with the best resources in applying these “vote wisely” and “vote according to conscience” notions that a number of individuals are perennially calling for. We cannot hold ourselves and fellowmen accountable as voters when the electoral system itself calls for the complicated game to be played blatantly with underhanded tactics.
If we want to embrace voter accountability, adopting parts of the Japanese and German elections might help. A voter-friendly ballot would allow the voter to look for issues that would serve his or her interests the most, instead of just relying on name recall. A clear example is when the German Green Party gained a significant amount of seats in the Bundestag as more Germans are more conscientious regarding climate change issues. A voter-friendly ballot would also better reflect the conditions and the needs of the electorate. In an instance where one citizen dislikes his/her representative’s performance, the voter might as well choose a different candidate as a sign of protest and discontent. If it is the other way around, this citizen can ought to elect the incumbent as a symbol of support and continuity.
It might sound radical, but I am in favor of greatly simplifying elections in the Philippines. Creating an electoral system where voters would only choose one representative in Congress for the national government and another member of the board or councilor in their respective local government unit would sound extreme, but this would remove numerous social diseases associated with our elections. These congressional representatives would convene and choose who will be the head of the government, while these board members or councilors do the same in their own localities. Of course, there are nitty-gritty parts that need to be addressed, but it doesn’t change the fact that such reformation and restructuring of the system is a must if we are to uplift the lives of marginalized Filipinos. After all, everyone becomes only a number come election time. Election in a democracy is an equalizer, and it is meant to be one.
A no one who enjoys the fun things of life in private.
A believer of freedom, capitalism, and conservative brand of politics.
A no one who cares less about popular public opinion.
A believer that life can be better, if every one is a tad more responsible.