On the Pinoy Elections: The Pinoy Political ‘Fiesta’
It’s Pinoy election season once again. Everyone’s getting hyped up for what is about to come and who’s going to eventually win. It is that time in our democracy where everyone’s turning the ‘election switch’ on – and our politicians are like Rizal’s gamugamos closing in on the Petromax.
Our voting process is a manifestation of the Pinoy’s predilection towards festive activities. From the start of the campaign up to the day of reckoning, elections are always reminiscent of a barrio fiesta where a lot of fanfare takes place. The first ‘festive feel’ of the elections happens during the campaign period. Err, make that even before the campaign period. Our cities are sprinkled with political graffiti and election posters. Those “public service” messages are boldly written on those sturdy tarpaulin streamers.
Our credit-grabbing politicians advertise themselves publicly like the new active ingredient of toothpaste. These colorful tarps are campaign-paraphernalia-in-disguise only aiming for name recall. And for showing their pearly whites. And this brings us to another unique feature of our electoral system: our elections’ very “personalistic” nature.
The Pinoy electorate (the bulk of Filipino masses), rely on the personal appeal of a certain candidate like his or her demeanor, charisma, and political pedigree. Most voters pay no heed to the non-sensical things like, uhm, party platforms. A candidates’ personal life concern the mass voters instead of the policies in terms of taxes, regulations, open markets, and the likes.
The May 2016 Philippine Presidential Elections, is one of the most essential features of our republican democracy. To speak legalese, this right of suffrage was defined in the case of Pungutan vs. Abubakar (1972) as a “political right intended to enable them to participate in the process of government to assure it derives its powers from the consent of the governed”. And all are in… including the dough.
In this economically-divided country, money is but one aspect of the “3Gs of Philippine Elections”. The guns, gold, and goons which continue to cast a dark shadow on what is supposed to be a free and fair exercise. Political scientist Carl H. Lande was right when he noted that “Philippine elections are very expensive”.
Another special flaw for the Pinoy elections is that it is marred by violence. On this side of the archipelago, political tricks are employed by those people who wanted to take the political seat or to continue sitting on it. Eliminating the other party through violent means sometimes becomes an efficient option, especially when competitors have parity in resources and campaign machinery. One way of looking at this is that, it becomes a depopulating tool to the country of about 100 million.
I would never forget what my sister shared to me on her experience as a volunteer paralegal staff, a couple of years back. I was appalled when she told me that some unknown armed groups tried to snatch the ballot boxes forcefully. Gun shots from automatic rifles ensued and my older sister hysterically found herself lying on the ground, face down. Luckily, no one was hurt because some soldiers came and returned fire – the goons backpedalled.
Fast tracking on the recent developments in the Philippine electoral system, we had the first Automated Elections back in 2010. Despite the public’s initial skepticism on the PCOS machines’ efficiency, the scanners were proven to eventually be quicker and reliable. Some dailies say that a large percentage of election-related violence was averted due to the new automated system. I agree. Had it been automated back then, my sister should not have gotten herself involved in that incident of political violence.
Despite the reutilization of the automated elections, bad traditions seem to survive and remain unchanged even up to this day. I believe that the COMELEC should follow what transpired in the 1992 elections, where the administration mobilized various government agencies to collectively assist in the conduct and administration of the elections. President Ramos, continued these policies and records show that it saw relatively low levels of election-related violence compared to other elections.
They might also explore the feasibility of forming a special body during elections that would share the burden of dealing with election offenses. As a former student of law, it could strictly impose penalties for those guilty of rigging the elections. Just like how the Bureau of Internal Revenue is chasing after tax evaders. That is an election-cheating deterrent right there.
Another flaw in our electoral system is the exceedingly slow pace of election case resolution. Especially on the appeals, our legal system makes it possible for parties on the losing end to prolong the litigation with the goal of getting them through their terms before a decision is finally handed over. More often than not, a number of election cases were only resolved after the contested terms have expired or elections for the next terms have already passed. The logic of the legal process makes me want to scratch my head.
About a hundred days from now, it will be election time once again. And the questions are: Will the coming general elections of 2016 be any different from previous elections? What will win the people’s trust and confidence this time? Will it still be the politics of the gun, gold and goons?
These unique features of our elections are the assortments of the Philippine elections which comprise our collective bag of political mixed nuts. And as long as ineffective regulations and sluggish sanctions remain, the Philippines will be far from achieving truly peaceful and orderly electoral exercises. It will remain a topsy-turvy political fiesta: where boodle fights are everywhere and the politikalons (blabbering politicians) nonetheless jumping in to have a piece of the voter’s pie.
This article originally appeared on his political blog at: