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Saturday, June 22, 2024

The week after

"Call it a win-win for everybody."

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As of last Friday evening, based on 88 percent of the certificates of canvass, the partial but official Comelec count confirms the total shutout of the Otso sa Nitso slate. The list of winning senatorial candidates corresponds 100 percent to the virtually completed unofficial count, as well as to the latest pre-election surveys conducted by both major survey groups.

This full correspondence ought to seal the integrity of the election process at least for the senatorial posts. But for other races, we have a right to be less sanguine. The usual charges of Comelec-sponsored irregularities have again come up. And everywhere, the bane of vote buying recurred to a reportedly unprecedented degree.

Clearly, much remains to be done in the area of electoral reform. In the proposed Bayanihan federal constitution, Comelec’s grassroots presence will be strengthened in every region in order to improve what should be its only job of running elections. But it will be stripped of its quasi-judicial powers, which will ultimately reside in a new Electoral High Court.

And in the area of voter reeducation away from vote-selling, the core reform proposition is to strengthen political parties, e.g. by restricting party-switching, retaining term limits and banning dynasties, subjecting campaign finances to COA audit, introducing the practice of proportional representation into both national and regional legislatures—perhaps even shifting to a parliamentary system that will force parties in Congress to step up to the plate as wielders of both legislative and executive authority.

These are all ideas worth considering, once we abandon our fixation on individual politicians as being the instruments of our salvation.

* * *

The complete ignominy suffered by the Otso sa Nitso crowd can be blamed on at least two reasons. One, they were foolish enough to make a widely popular President their only issue, instead of presenting themselves as a “critical but collaborative opposition,” which is what some victorious independents did. And two, they again ran on the usual yellow agenda, whose credibility has slid as precipitately as Duterte’s has risen.

In defeat, they are now either blaming electoral irregularities—despite the above noted full correspondence of senatorial victories from all sources—or else insulting voters as “bobo.” This is symptomatic of the arrogance and lawlessness that lies at the heart of yellow thinking—no different from PNoy’s threat during the 2010 campaign that he would relaunch people power if he lost.

A widely circulated post from a former Jesuit priest lamented the senatorial outcome: “This is not who the Filipinos truly are.” Well. Perhaps he should share with us who he thinks were the millions of voters who turned down his slate. If we weren’t true Filipinos just because we disagreed with him, then what were we?

The electoral rout of the yellows now opens the way for Duterte to move forward aggressively with the rest of his reform agenda. On the political front, there is no reform more seminal than the constitutional change-over to a federal—and perhaps also parliamentary—system.

Since it was Duterte himself who asked the framers of the Bayanihan constitution to absolutely rule out any possibility of his staying in office beyond 2022, perhaps the yellows may themselves also consider supporting constitutional reform, if only for that reason. Call it a win-win for everybody.

* * *

Apart from reconfirming the strength of Duterte’s presidency, the recent elections also brought other noteworthy changes.

One was the rejection by voters of many longstanding political dynasties. Emblematic of this was the near-total rout of the Estrada clan—the patriarch himself as Manila mayor, his two sons as senators, his granddaughter as San Juan mayor. Some of them were in fact well qualified, but they fell victim to the anti-dynasty sentiment that surely also represents popular support for anti-dynasty constitutional reform.

Another change was the victory of many young new faces, especially in local government elections. Emblematic, again from the Manila mayoral race, was former movie actor Isko Moreno, joined by the new mayors of Taguig, Pateros, San Juan, Quezon City—just in the National Capital Region alone. As young local executives start taking the reins over, they deserve to have a career track upward on the executive—not legislative–side of politics, through the creation of 18 new regions and regional governorships for them to aspire to.

A third change was the diminution of the leftist party-listers, whose support shrank by comparison to the 2016 and earlier elections. With the diminution of its yellow allies, the Akbayan party-list for the first time didn’t even make it. In the case of the hard-left groups comprising the NDF, this may be the key message from the elections for them:

You have to give up either the armed struggle or the parliamentary struggle, but you can’t have both. It’s become clear to our people how disastrous it has been to the country for armed rebels to also enjoy the privileges and protections provided by comrades sitting in Congress.

* * *

Today’s reading (Acts 14: 19-28) opens in the city of Lystra with the stoning of Paul by a crowd of irate Jews. Left for dead, Paul picks himself up and, together with his faithful companion Barnabas, continues his evangelizing in city after city of antiquity: Derbe, Iconium, Antioch, Pisidia, Pamphylia, Perga, Attalia.

What accounts for the stubbornness of Paul and the other apostles? In the Gospel (John 14: 27-31), Jesus in His discourses during the Last Supper admonishes His disciples: “…The world must know that I love the Father and that I do just as the Father has commanded me. Get up, let us go.” The marching orders were pretty clear.

Today also marks the martyrdom of St. Christopher Magallanes and some two dozen companions who were shot or hanged during an uprising against the anti-Catholic Mexican government in the 1920’s. That’s real stubbornness. And if any government systematically persecutes Christians and suppresses religious belief—as is happening today worldwide to an unprecedented degree—then yes indeed: “Get up. Let us go.”

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