"The work begins now."
In my last piece I said that strategic changes in our electoral system and culture are needed to really fix our political problems. Stop-gap measures will not do.
Our system favors the rich and the popular. There is very little space for ordinary people who are capable and have solid track record in public service to win elections. Only those with a lot of money to spend emerge as winners, no matter where their riches come from.
Elections in the Philippines are very expensive. It is common knowledge that candidates for the Senate usually invest many millions of pesos during their campaign. This is even outside of the money some may use for vote-buying or other forms of cheating. Propaganda and TV and radio advertisements are very expensive that only those who are awash with money can afford.
This is a major reason why political dynasties abound. They are the ultra-rich families who have the resources to spend. Our expensive elections encourage and strengthen dynasties. They treat the exercise like a business venture. In the recent elections we have seen families fielding candidates for different positions especially at the local level. For them, it is good business sense to have several members run. They will spend for the campaign anyway, so why not go after several positions? If several win, like in the case of the Cayetanos and Pacquiaos, they strengthen their hold on their localities and constituents.
Popularity is another key advantage. Thus, it is easy for movie stars, singers, athletes, and other personalities to shift to politics whether they possess the capability and track record needed for the post they vie for, or do not. People already know them by face and name. They already have the name recall and will not have a hard time introducing themselves to the electorate.
The likes of Lapid, Revilla, Pacquiao will not win if not for their popularity and money.
Our system favors dynasties primarily again because of popularity and money. Add to these, because their families are already in position, ordinary folks think that those in position possess the POWER over them. These factors ensure that they win elections and thus, further strengthening their political dynasties.
The anti-political dynasty provision of the Constitution remains unenforced because this will hurt existing dynasties. We cannot rely on them to make decisions unfavorable to themselves.
Political families like the Binays, Aquinos, Cayetanos, Angaras, Estradas, and many others both at the national and local levels would not have prospered IF our 1987 Constitution was followed.
This is not to say that all of these individual politicians are not deserving of their posts as there are those who performed well. The point here is, they have undue advantage over those with similar capacities but without the name they possess.
Even the party-list system which was passed to give voice and representation to marginalized sectors (that otherwise will not be able to win seats in the House of Representatives) has been bastardized by political dynasties. Those whose terms are finished are made to run under this system aimed at giving voice to marginalized sectors. A quick look at the nominees of winning PL groups will prove this.
There is hope in some of the cities in Metro Manila like Pasig, Manila, and San Juan where dynasties were voted out by the electorate. However, we may be breeding a new set if our electoral system and culture are not corrected.
Our election laws must be overhauled to level the playing field.
Turncoatism should be criminalized. It should be very difficult to switch parties because this is done SOLELY for vested and personal interests. In countries where political parties are based on ideologies and principles, political butterflies are frowned upon, shunned, and generally unwelcome. Membership in a particular party is important because it reflects their principles and values.
Our party system must be strengthened. Ideological and principle-based parties should be encouraged. Platforms of government must be given importance in the accreditation of parties, as well as in the conduct of campaigns. Small parties should be financially supported based on the number of votes they garner. This will give them a fighting chance during elections.
A gender quota in their number of candidates, and Gender and Development agenda must be required of parties so more women are able to run, and the parties themselves have programs for empowering women. Doing this will encourage women to participate more substantially in politics, and help achieve gender balance and equity in our political life.
We need to address our political culture and EDUCATION is key to developing a mature, discerning, analytical electorate. Critical thinking is acutely lacking in our people.
I do not blame ordinary folks for the predicament we are in now. We, who understand politics must also check our privileges. Arrogance will bring us nowhere. We know what we know because we have the privilege of EDUCATION. And I do not just mean schooling. Political education is necessary.
It is also important to note that political education goes both ways. People learn from us, and we, from the masses. We will better understand political issues through the lives and experiences of people in communities.
I will not be able to understand things more thoroughly if I did not have the PRIVILEGE of being involved in the social democratic movement. I know what I now know because of my ideological exposure in communities we worked and continue to work with, and the opportunities I had dealing with progressive parties of other countries.
For as long as our people believe that politics is a game of ONLY the rich and the famous, we will not progress.
For as long as people do not OWN the issues we face as a country and as a people, political apathy and selling votes will continue.
For as long as people believe that they OWE politicians for the small ‘favors’ given them, instead of looking at these as fulfilling their roles as public servants, patronage politics will continue.
For as long as people do not understand that those in government are ACCOUNTABLE to them, we will continue to be subservient to these politicians and their abuses will not be checked.
Lastly, for as long as people do not believe in their POWER to shape the country’s direction, and check sitting politicians, we will always have a backward electorate.
EDUCATION, EDUCATION, and more EDUCATION is the key to change our political and electoral culture.
We should now stop blaming each other. We now have the task to protect the country and the people. We prepare for 2022 (I am assuming that there will be elections under the same Constitution we have).
The work to overhaul our electoral system and culture begins NOW.
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