Election Chicken or Egg

Here’s the beauty of waiting for a flight: free time to update a blog. In our current state of affairs where domestic flights are usually delayed, we have to find a venue to vent off frustration and anger. Perhaps blogging is a good outlet. Perhaps the thought of Cagayan de Oro’s white-water rapids is enough to ward off boredom. Perhaps I won’t get to ride the rapids, after all, as this is a business trip.

Maybe I should just talk of this country’s favorite pasttime – elections.

You know that an election is one of the democratic ways for the people to select their representatives. You know that in elections, the people should select those who can best serve their constituents. Here’s the problem: how can a candidate “best serve” their constituents? Rather, how do the constituents determine if a candidate will “best serve” the people?

This discussion is simpler if we limit ourselves to theories and ideals. A candidate should serve the people. The common good should prevail over private interests. We criticize candidates because many are far off from the ideal bull’s eye. We criticize candidates because they spend millions for campaigns, and ask how are they are supposed to recover all the expenses? This ideals and questions are not wrong, of course, but let’s take a look at the other side of the fence.

Let’s talk about the voters.

No, let’s not talk about cheating, because that would take us, conservatively speaking, about forever to discuss. Besides, if the voters themselves genuinely would want to prevent cheating, it wouldn’t be as rampant as it had been. But, hey, that’s not the job of the voters. It’s the constitutional duty of the COMELEC. Voters are ordinary citizens who have no power to stop cheating. I sincerely hope you are not nodding your head in agreement.

Voters vote for whom? Let’s take Mareng Winnie (Monsod), for instance. She was a great candidate for the Senate during the previous elections. You can’t argue against her credentials. You can’t argue against her desire to serve. You can’t deny that she was much, much better than many of the other candidates for Senator. Did she win? No. The people didn’t vote for her. Who won? You tell me.

Voters vote because of what? Is it principle? Money? There’s no such thing as a national elections. All elections are local elections. In election-related violence, tell me who are the usual victims. They are the local leaders. They are the front liners. Candidates for national positions do well in a place where they have local leaders. Local leaders deal face-to-face with individual voters. Local leaders “tend” to their “flock”, making sure that the other shepherds do not “recruit” or “steal” any one of their sheeps.

Now, would you agree with me that voters allow their “shepherds” to “guide” them where to go or who to vote? Are we to blame only the politicians? Should we also save some for the voters? Should change start from politicians or should it start from the voters?

There’s so much to say, so little time to say it. Maybe we can continue this discussion during my return flight.


  1. Truly, our election travails as well as the problematic political system is hard to fathom, just like a chicken-and-egg question as you were saying.

    In my mind, the pols rights now is such a warp zone that even if they try, they’d always be trapped in that mindset where power becomes an aggrandizement, something to earn fruifully well, and to protect by all means. Even the most genuine of them right now would often feel that way. Maybe it takes another generation to entirely weed out the undeserving ones, and create a new blood into our political system. That’s how grave I see it.

    Maybe the voters have better chances of creating changes, if only there’d be more reeducation of how to use the power of the ballot well.

  2. Major Tom, the temptation is always there. As my classmates would say during our PolSci days, you’ll get corrupted when you stay in the “bulok na sistema”. On the other hand, let’s say you’re a genuinely noble politician and all you want to do is to serve, how could you win against seasoned politicians without spending a fortune? Would the Filipino’s vote for you based on your platforms? Does it really matter that many candidates fail to keep their election promises? Sometimes, I’m tempted to think that we should not have removed ERAP. People voted for him, he should have been allowed to continue. That way, we Filipinos get to feel the full effects of our choices, and, hopefullly, learn. I guess that’s asking for too much.

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