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Political Dynasties in the Philippines: In My Opinion

Next year’s Philippine midterm elections are fast approaching and it paints an all too-familiar image once again: candidates that are ei...



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JR Lopez Gonzales 10:46 AM 0

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 the gamugamos closing in on the Petromax.

The elections, like one we'll be having this May 9th, is one of the most essential features of this republican democracy. Speaking legalese, this right of suffrage was defined in 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". But ofcourse, there will always be that Pinoy taste to this political exercise that makes it stand out from other democracies.

For one, I believe that our voting process is a manifestation of our predilection as a people towards festive activities. From the start of the campaign up to the fateful day, our elections are always reminiscent of a barrio fiesta where a lot of fanfare happen. This first ‘festive feel’ of the elections happens during the campaign period. Err, make that before the campaign period officially starts.  Our cities turn into a large canvas sprinkled with political graffiti and election posters. We are constantly reminded with "public service" messages boldly written on those sturdy tarpaulin streamers.
Thanks for pointing that out.
Our credit-grabbing politicians advertise themselves publicly like some new active ingredient of toothpaste. These colorful tarps are campaign-paraphernalia-in-disguise only aiming for name recall. And probably for showing their pearly whites. This highlights a stand out feature of our electoral system: the very "personalistic" nature of Pinoy politics.

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.

In this economically-divided country, money is one important aspect of the “3Gs of Philippine Elections”. Political scientist Carl H. Lande was right when he noted that our elections are very expensive. The Guns, Gold, and Goons which continue to cast a dark shadow on what is supposed to be a free and fair exercise.

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 grab the political seat or to remain seated at it. Eliminating the other party through violent means sometimes becomes an efficient option, especially when competitors have parity in resources and campaign machinery. Well, one way of looking at this is that, it becomes a not-so-effective depopulating tool to this country of 100 million Pinoys.
We always have that festive mood.
I would never forget what my sister shared to me regarding her experience as a volunteer paralegal staff of a local politician. Some unknown armed groups tried to snatch the ballot boxes forcefully before the canvassing of the votes. Gun shots from automatic rifles ensued and my older sister found herself hysterically lying face down to the ground. Luckily, no one was hurt because some soldiers responded and returned fire - the goons retreated.

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 scanning 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 horrifying incident of political violence.

Despite the stepping up in terms of voting, it seems that bad traditions continue to flourish. Regarding this, I believe that the COMELEC should look back to the 1992 elections for inspiration. The national government mobilized its various 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 national 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 may strictly impose penalties for those guilty of rigging the elections and committing other election-related offenses - just like how the Commissioner Henares' BIR is chasing after taxpayers.

Another flaw in our electoral system is the exceedingly slow pace of election case resolutions. 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?
Bababa na.
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: boodle fights everywhere and the politikalons jumping in to have a large piece of the voter’s pie.

Photo Credits:
"Minions in Congress" courtesy of Aimee Cruz via Facebook.
"Mataasnakahoy Tarpaulin" from Coconuts Manila article.

Author's Note:
This article is a redux of the article about Pinoy Elections posted on this blog back in 2013.

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