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What the public should realize in choosing their leaders
by Gerald Duagan

The manifestations of a representative democracy are seen in the extent of participation of the people in policy and decision-making processes.

If the socio-political and economic institutions are the primary institutions where the decisions of the populace are placed, it is but right to be critical and exercise vigilance in the hopeful expectation that these institutions will return the services it ought to deliver to its people.

Elections can be a boring stuff.

Boring because we get to hear the usual rhetoric of politicians promising to do this and that, parading the names and faces of their parents, grandparents, or cousins in their advertisements, posters, and speeches. This has often been the trend during election season.

On the other hand, the elections is also exciting.

We see politicians switching and crossing party lines maybe because they were not chosen either as the party’s standard bearer or they are relatives batt-ling each other for the same position.

We see surveys detailing the leading candidates, their affairs exposed on television and other forms of media, not to mention showbiz personalities participating in the exercise either as a candidate, endorser, or just a plain entertainer in campaign sorties.

If the political culture and electoral behavior are described through these things, we might as well include in our emphasis the unknown and faceless institution we call the people.

A greater part of the electoral process lies mainly and exclusively to the people. And we, as a people, have a lot of things to say.

We demand for a transparent government, yet we elect candidates who are hounded by issues on lack of transparency.

We hunger for quality legislation and management, yet we prefer familiar family names over personal credentials.

We long for independent-minded leaders, yet we ourselves choose not to practice our own independence in selecting our candidates and just go for those who are leading in the surveys.

The trend now is form over substance and not the other way around. We prefer popularity over credentials and entertainment over platform.

There is much reason to believe the cliché that we get the government that we deserve.

General welfare starts during the election day.

It is on that day that our demands and concerns as a people could be charted. We elect unqualified candidates and we get disappointing results.

This could probably shed light why Congress could not pass a genuine land reform program because most of the legislators we elect are landlords themselves.

It may also be the reason Congress could not or does not want to pass an anti-political dynasty law because most of the representatives we placed there belong to political clans.

Our current voting attitude may also be the reason for our leaders’ half-baked and treacherous handling of territorial and foreign affairs because they were chosen by popularity and propaganda and not because of substance, skill, and purpose.

From another perspective, election is also a struggle towards good. It has always been an opportunity for free men to refurnish the social and political landscape.

Apart from the abuse we see from the dynamics of individual candidates, our own institutions are not spared from issues.

The spirit behind the constitutional provision on sectoral representation is not immune from potential abuse as well.

Recently, the Supreme Court allowed more than 40 party-list groups, which mostly do not belong or do not really represent the marginalized sector.

Plainly, organizations can therefore organize themselves into a party-list group and occupy a seat in Congress even if their organization or group does not belong to the marginalized sector of the society.

A group coming from the peasants, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, the women and children are among the groups considered as belonging to the marginalized sectors.

In the recent SC ruling, entrepreneurs, hobbyists including a teachers’ savings and loan association, were among the party-list groups allowed to participate in the coming elections.

This scenario would just perpetuate a political consciousness where the party-list system in all its good intentions can be marred by reconfiguring it to allow non-marginalized sectors to participate.

If that be, we will not be surprised if in the future we will see business organizations participating as a party-list group and eventually displacing other deserving groups because of the obvious economic advantage they have over non-business themed organizations or sectors.

We do not claim expertise over this matter, but if logic is applied, this faceless institution we call the people, in its collectivity, is the very same reason why we do not have roads in our localities, or most of the people are unable to avail themselves of basic health care services or a populace mostly left uneducated, among other pathetic scenarios.

We demand an improved quality of life from our leaders. We complain if we are not able to access basic health services. We curse our leaders for the lack and absence of public schools. We complain of rough roads or the absence of it. We blame our government for the lack or absence of livelihood opportunities. The list can grow longer.

What we fail to realize, however, is that we are the ones who place the very people we criticize and blame in the positions they are in.

Old as it may, we are always reminded not to discount the power vested in us.

We should not also discount the power of one vote. When we chose to elect a deserving candidate who unfortunately lost, we are sending a message as well.

One vote has three effects. One, that single vote is a statement to the deserving candidate that someone placed his hopes on him.

Two, it is a proclamation to the undeserving candidate who won that someone did not believe in him and that he better do good.

Lastly, it is a message to the populace that amidst the commonality, someone dared to be different.

One voice can change the destinies of nations, not because it is loud but because it was heard.

Let your voice be heard then on election day. Let us exercise the right guaranteed by our Constitution.

But we should not let our voice heard only during the elections.

We have to let them be heard all the more after the elections. Because when the persons we chose to elect miserably failed us in their capacities and characters as public servants, we are accountable as well, especially in our silence or indifference over the matter.

Although focused on the candidates, election is really about us, people. It is our story. We do get the government that we deserve.

If election day is like a wedding day, come May 13, we deserve the best. Let us choose the best then.

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