Many have said that Philippine elections and politics are all about personalities. That we choose our leaders not on what they stand for but for their personal endearment to the electorate. Perhaps we have enough proof of that, without even going into examples of beneficiaries of that disposition of the average Filipino voter. But there is reason to say that the Filipino voters are showing signs of electoral adolescence, slowly maturing from the habit of voting for personalities to voting on issues.
The 2007 elections revealed that issues prevailed over money and machinery, two of the basic elements of traditional politics (the other sinister elements being guns and goons). With the opposition almost sweeping the senatorial elections, the administration candidates were humbled, if not humiliated, despite their massive political machinery and abundant campaign war chest. A senatorial candidate who did not have the physical freedom nor the financial flexibility to go on a nation wide campaign easily won a senate seat, faring much better than one administration stalwart who had the harrowing experience of dangling in the 12th-13th slot before finally being proclaimed part of the winning circle.
This recent experience in Philippine elections gives us hope that in the forthcoming elections, the voters will once again move farther way from traditional politics and take with them the politicians. I believe that the political maturity of this country is a joint effort of the politicians and the electorate. Each can drag the other either way.
I was in a group discussion where we tossed around the table ideas about the forthcoming elections. With the nation set to choose its leaders twenty months from now, it isn’t too early for people to already talk about the elections, particularly what issues should take center stage for the people to consider in selecting the next leaders of this country.
As each of those in the discussion group spoke, various issues were forwarded as issues that should take center stage in the 2010 elections. On top of the list was Education, since almost everyone agreed that the only way Filipinos can rise from the pit of poverty is arm themselves with a good education that would make them productive. Imagine, if all the 88 Million Filipinos had a good education, then those who are for and against the Reproductive Health Bill will have one good reason to stop going against each other!
Another important issue that was common in everyone’s mind was the need to address graft and corruption. Indeed, that issue was played out to extremes by those in all shades of the political spectrum. The opposition had a grand time pointing fingers at the administration as the ultimate culprit while the administration proudly boasted of its anti-graft programs such as lifestyle checks and officials charged with cases in the Ombudsman (although the sincerity and success of those programs are also being questioned).
With so many issues that may occupy the political stage come 2010, what exactly are the Filipino voters looking for? How will the electorate decide who to support in the elections?
While I believe that all the issues mentioned above are important, I think one issue which encompasses everything is the people’s desire for a decent, inspiring, and visionary government, one that responds to the people’s needs and provides direction and hope to the nation.
If there is anything that the 2010 elections offer, it is the opportunity for the restoration of faith in government and the fresh start for the country. After years of political strife, endless bickering, outrageous scandals and controversies, the chance to bring back dignity and honor in government service and politics, to stir the people’s hearts into a renewed sense of nationhood where patriotism is the norm and traditional values a way of life. It is time for the Filipinos to feel good once again, to bring out the best in each one and to maximize the most positive traits of the country and its citizens.
With the elections coming in around twenty one months, we can expect a lot of potential candidates to come out of the woodwork, with everyone trying to pull the others down in order to rise above the clutter. The people will be drowned in wave after wave of issues designed to attract support from the electorate.
But the Bible says, “Seek first the