Elections are always a good test of our discernment and collective memory. Which politicians, based on their track record, deserve to be reelected? What did they accomplish and what more can they do if they get back into office? Who among the many untested candidates deserve to be given a chance to act on our behalf? Which of them still face criminal charges in court?
Sadly, if the past is any indication, we often fail this crucial test.
Consider the example of a washed-up movie actor and action star who won election to two terms as a senator, ending in 2016. In a candid moment as his second term was drawing to a close, the senator admitted that he felt he was unfit for the Senate.
In the interview, he said his lack of a formal education held him back and recalled how he was unable to answer questions during plenary sessions and committee hearings—which he seldom attended.
At the time, he said he was done with the Senate, and that he hoped people would support his son, a former governor, instead.
These hopes did not materialize, however, and his son failed to win. Now, three years later, the former senator wants a third term—despite his own admission that he was unfit for the job.
Will we take him up to the test? Sadly, recent opinion polls suggest he might just get what he wants, despite his less-than-stellar track record.
Also consider the example of a human rights lawyer who left his job as a party-list congressman to be a high-profile member of President Duterte’s Cabinet.
In this role, he vigorously defended the President’s bloody war on illegal drugs and his penchant for acting inappropriately toward women. Some of the ethical backflips and cartwheels he performed during this time were formidable indeed.
But the President has slapped down his senatorial ambitions and he has decided to part ways.
Now, running again for a party-list position in Congress, he declares that he is once again his own man.
Perhaps to prove his point, he now says that it was inappropriate for the President to ask for a kiss from a woman that he met during a visit with the Filipino community in South Korea in June.
At the time, he had dismissed the President’s move as “a light gesture” accepted in Filipino culture.
Now he says the lips-to-lips kiss was wrong.
Did it take him four months to come to the realization? Or was he merely putting his personal convictions on hold in the hopes of hitching his wagon to the President to win a seat in the Senate?
Finally, let us consider the example of a man Friday of an important national leader. He has had absolutely no experience in government, and he is best known for taking selfies of himself with his boss and other important people in the background. Are we to take him at his word that he will do his best and vote him into the Senate on the say-so of his boss? Or shall we exercise some intelligence in choosing our leaders?
These examples are hardly the only ones with dubious claims to public office. Indeed, there will most likely be a good number of unqualified crackpots who will throw their hats into the ring. The difference is, these nuisance candidates are fairly easy to spot—and discard—and require no discernment on the part of the voter.