"Regardless of the imperfections of our democracy, at least people had a say."
The 2019 midterm electoral exercise is all over and like what some surveys and pundits have predicted, the outcome followed the script especially in the senatorial race—even as there were some surprises in the local scene.
In the Senate race, it now appears that no opposition candidate would make it to the Magic 12. This has not happened in a very long time and is largely due to the strength of President Duterte’s coattails. What this means is that the President can now theoretically legislate any law he wants passed because the opposition basically disappeared in both houses of Congress. President Duterte will also be in a much stronger political position to implement his programs as he wishes.
Early in the campaign, no one gave Christopher Bong Go and Bato dela Rosa a chance of winning but Go is now in third place while Bato is in fifth. Some of the old faces are also back. Captain Barbell Bong Revilla is safely in seventh place and our local lone ranger Lito Lapid is all set to win.
Meanwhile, the two sons of former President Estrada appear to have both lost. Many believe that this was due to their inability to settle their differences. It was too much to expect that both would have won. One of them should have given way. Greed maybe? I do not know but their father also lost in the City of Manila and the Mayor of San Juan also lost. For the first time in about five decades, there will be no Estrada mayor of San Juan. In fact, the family of the former President have been wiped out in this election.
In Makati, the Jojo Binay the former Vice President also lost in the Congressional race but Abby Binay appear to have bested her younger brother. In Pasig, the reign of the Eusebio family has ended with the victory of Vico Sotto, nephew of the Senate President.
Further from the metro Area, Mayor Maurice Domogan, the political kingpin of Baguio City, lost an election for the first time. For the better part of about 30 years, he was a councilor, vice mayor, mayor and congressman. In the last 27 years, he was either mayor or congressman. He lost in his bid to regain his congressional seat. Is it the end of the line for him? Maybe but once the political bug bites, it is hard for anyone to stop much like a boxer who will only stop when beaten to the pulp.
To many political clans, however, it is business as usual. Another three years is there for them to continue holding public office. This thing about political dynasties is a blackeye to our democratic institutions. Allowing political families to run and hold public office for decades allowing numbers to somehow inherit positions is scandalous. This needs to stop. The Constitution prohibits it but unless a law is passed that defines clearly this constitutional provision, this practice will continue.
But regardless of the imperfections of our democracy—think political violence, cheating and vote buying—having elections is one of the most important elements in any democratic process. Being able to choose the people who will lead us no matter how flawed the system is at least allowing the people to have a final say on who should be leading the country.
And as the last exercise has shown, the people have not lost any of their enthusiasm in the exercise. In every election, more than 70 percent of the electorate always cast their votes in contrast to other countries whose citizens are not always as enthusiastic as we are. The Filipino appetite for election has not diminished at all and with the midterms just completed, the big one in 2022 is just around the corner.
As the senatorial standing is telling us, 2022 does not bode well for the opposition. All the leading senatorial candidates are allies of the President. 2022 therefore is looking very good for the President himself. Barring any catastrophic political mistakes or the economy nose diving, it would seem that President Duterte can anoint his successor and the people will just simply agree.
It is elementary that in order for a democracy to be truly a democracy, there must be a dynamic and viable opposition. But in world politics today, the trend seem to be a move to the right. More and more countries are electing leaders coming from the far right who have the predisposition of doing away with the practice of checks and balances which is the hallmark of democracy.
As we have seen over the last 70 or so years, this is a cycle. For now, the move to the right is the trend. If we look at our recent political history also, Filipinos tend to put their faith more on the leader than the institutions of the system. Governance is leadership-based. Whether local or national, governance revolves around the leader which means that if we happen to have a corrupt, incompetent and lazy mayor, governor, or president, it is just too bad because this is reflected in the state of affairs of the country.
But if we happen to have a competent and incorruptible leader, the result is usually good. With the President winning the referendum on his leadership, he is now free to chart his efforts to crafting laws or policies that he wants such as reviving the death penalty, pivoting to China and accelerating his Build, Build, Build programs.
The President’s only stumbling block that I can see is his health. He has to stay healthy for the next three years.