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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Election heartbreaks and joyful surprises

"I am actually hopeful for what lies ahead for the country."

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In my last column, I described the election results as mixed: “Heartbreaking losses but exhilarating victories, too.” For sure, I grieve that none of the Otso candidates might win, and especially that Bam Aquino, a really good senator that should be reelected, might not be in the winner’s circle. I am disappointed that my colleagues Chel Diokno and Pilo Hilbay, fellow law professors and human rights advocates, nor Samira Gutoc and Erin Tañada, who would have been fresh voices in the Senate, did not even enter the top 16 candidates.

I am very unhappy that Neri Colmenares has less now votes than in 2016, or Kabataan got less votes than Duterte Youth even as I think Sarah Elago, one of the best legislators I have ever seen, will be reelected, or that Akbayan might not even have a seat in the 18th Congress. I hope that the young leaders of Akbayan would be able to rebuild this great party, learning the lessons from its being part of the Aquino administration and why it did not result in a stronger political party.

I am heartbroken also that people I wanted to win lost in these elections: Butch Abad in Batanes, Ted Baguilat in Ifugao, Jun Evasco in Bohol, John Fariñas in Laoag, and my brother Pompee in Cagayan de Oro.

Like many others, I condemn the Comelec for the incompetence with which it has managed these elections. I do not know if widespread cheating happened but for sure the election day glitches, and especially the seven-hour transmission delay in the transparency server of the senatorial and party-list votes on election night, are unacceptable and has tainted the credibility of the elections. I support dumping the current automation technology and for considering restoring counting of votes at the precinct level while still using automation as the technology for canvassing votes.

But while unhappy at some of the results and at the conduct of the 2019 elections, good things happened, too.

Above all, there are the great victories of Kaka Bag-ao against the Ecleos in Dinagat Islands, Vico Sotto against the Eusebios in Pasig, and of course Isko Moreno and Francis Zamora against the Estradas in Manila and San Juan. From these and other places where political dynasties were toppled, we can now discern a pattern and template against the terrible curse political families have inflicted in this country: above all, good alternatives must come forward to contest electoral positions.

I am hopeful particularly of Kaka, Isko, and Vico. I know them to be the real thing—that is they are as advertised: committed to the poor, to good governance, to modernizing our politics, and to doing the right thing. But it does not mean that their electoral victories will right away result in success in governance. There are lessons they must learn from the experiences of Among Ed Panlilio of Pampanga and Grace Padaca of Isabela, both of whom won against entrenched clans but were unable to govern effectively and subsequently lost in the next elections.

The victories of these reformers will have an impact on national governance, including the likelihood of their eventually seeking national office. But first they must govern well the local government units they now head. They must bring in the best staff, find ways to bring into their fold the bureaucrats of their local governments, and engage civil society in their localities.

Noteworthy also is the victory of Otol Odi, as mayor of Rizal, Palawan and Nancy Catamco of North Cotabato. Both belong to indigenous peoples in their areas and their campaigns also provide a template for native peoples to take control of their territories.

On a personal note, I know many other great wins at the local level. There is Jason Joyce of Jose Abad Santos in Davao Occidental who I invested in with a scholarship in the Ateneo School of Government years ago because I believed in him. 

There is also Joy Belmonte, whom I voted for and endorsed, who I believe will be a great mayor of Quezon City.

I also think Chiz Escudero will be a good governor of Sorsogon and come back to national politics in 2022 with fresh ideas.

There is also the sweet victory of Grace Poe who placed second even as her detractors continued to attack and humiliate her, although she was the best chance for an independent Senate. I will support whatever her plans are for 2022.

I watch with particular interest how Isko Moreno will govern Manila. So far, he has said the right thing—about keeping the Arroceros Forest Park as is, about not allowing reclamation projects in Manila, and above all a commitment to respect human rights while cooperating in the war against drugs.

Isko’s story is compelling and he is well prepared for the job—having served three terms as councilor and vice mayor as well as social welfare undersecretary. As mayor of Manila, Isko will have a lot of resources at his command, including the intellectual resources of two great universities—Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila and Universidad de Manila. He should deploy those resources to solve the problems of the grand old city, make it once again shine as the Pearl of the Orient.

If Isko succeeds in Manila, he can then pursue his dream to become President of the Philippines. It will probably take more than a term but if he is focused and disciplined enough and produced great outcomes quickly, 2022 is not farfetched.

That would be interesting to watch, a Sara Duterte vs Isko Moreno election battle, with Duterte, a lawyer, supported by almost all the political elite and Isko, a former scavenger, supported by the masses and social movements. Before this elections, it seemed that there is no one that stands in the way to a succession by the daughter but with Isko’s ascendance, there might be options in the next presidential elections.

I am actually hopeful for what lies ahead for the country. To paraphrase the words of a favorite mentor, the local results were good and that matters more. My new mantras: heartbreaking losses, unacceptable election processes, but very big openings for the future in some of the joyful surprises and exhilarating victories; No energy for anger; no time for bitterness; organize, unite, fight; hope prevails.

Facebook Page: Professor Tony La Viña Twitter: tonylavs


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