It may sound obvious and gratuitous, but the Filipino people should emerge the clear winner in next year’s national election, because they turned out to be the big loser in 2016. They are still paying dearly for their choice then to this day. Here are some key examples to prove it:
- The campaign against the country’s drug problem has resulted in an appalling five-year record of human rights abuse, with thousands of extrajudicial killings as the centerpiece. “The murderous war on drugs,” as it is called in media, is presently under serious investigation by the International Criminal Court. Worse, the incumbent’s initial promise to end the drug problem in six months was just a pipe dream, and the drug problem remains very real today. Lesson: violence is not, and has never been, the answer.
- In the fight against corruption, the Philippines has slipped to 115th place in 2020, down from 99th in 2018, a whopping slide of 16 notches among 180 countries included in the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International, the global anticorruption watchdog. Worse, the ongoing pandemic has become a fertile breeding ground for alleged widespread corruption presently being uncovered in various levels of government.
- In the quality of response to the COVID pandemic, the Philippines recently finished dead last among 53 countries regularly monitored by Bloomberg. Despite the longest initial lockdown last year, this woeful performance reflects our failure to proactively put in place the needed health-care systems and infrastructure which, according to Bloomberg, were key to avoiding the economically crippling lockdowns in a number of countries. Despite the rationalizations put forward by the officials in charge of our overall pandemic response, our country will continue to struggle economically in the foreseeable future, buried in pandemic debt.
- We have lost a lot of ground, figuratively and literally, in the defense of our territorial rights against the illegal incursions of China because of the consistent timid and tepid response of our country’s highest leader. After his unwarranted admission that he is “inutile” in the matter because of China’s military superiority, our position continues to deteriorate as China’s aggressiveness escalates.
Moving forward, it is crucial for Filipinos to drastically change their country’s present paradigm of governance, and hopefully they can do this by claiming a people’s victory in next year’s election. Here are a few insightful quotes from famous (and infamous) people to underscore the issues and caveats in achieving this.
“An empty stomach is not a good political adviser.”—Albert Einstein
This simple observation is very relevant today because the vast majority of Filipinos (about 90 percent belong to the socioeconomic classes D and E) are presently struggling just to make both ends meet. Many will be vulnerable to the “cash incentive” of unscrupulous candidates who habitually engage in vote buying and other illegal perks. It will need a lot of determination to resist handouts which will probably meet a struggling voter’s subsistence needs for one or two weeks.
I can’t forget the sight of huge crowds that rushed to vaccination centers, completely abandoning pandemic safeguards, when they learned (mistakenly) that only the vaccinated will be entitled to the announced cash assistance (ayuda) from the government during the latest lockdown in August.
If many of our countrymen will choose short-term handouts over long-term benefits, Filipinos may once more be the losers in the next six years, if not longer. Competent and honest candidates will have to find ways to hurdle this very real obstacle posed by today’s challenging conditions.
“We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the Courts, not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who would pervert the Constitution.” —Abraham Lincoln
In the past five years, how many times have our Constitution and existing laws been disrespected, abused and interpreted to suit personal agendas? Fortunately, next year we will have the opportunity to vote in government leaders who have a track record of respecting the laws of our land. But we need to collectively ensure that this opportunity to vote will not be subverted in any way by those who are presently in a position to do it.
Transparency and fairness
Lastly, to the Commission on Elections, a gentle reminder: May they help the Filipino people prevail in the coming electoral exercise by performing their sworn duty faithfully, with utmost transparency and fairness.
We are aware that all seven members of this independent Constitutional body will have been appointees of the incumbent president come election time next year. But their objectivity in handling the inevitable pre- and postelection issues should be beyond question. Let us not give credence to the cynical but at times all-too-true observation of an infamous dictator.
“It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast their votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.”—Joseph Stalin
To reclaim victory in 2022, the Filipino people have to discern wisely, refusing short-term perks, not getting carried away by the usual, pie-in-the-sky empty promises, but going by solid track record. They have to choose the local and national leaders who they honestly believe will best extricate them from the deep hole they have gotten into. Most importantly, they have to choose the presidential candidate who will best lead this effort.
I believe there are certain key criteria that can guide us in our choice. Hopefully, this will be the subject of another article. —CONTRIBUTED