Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Let Them Come Out Now

It is exactly one year before the country once again goes to the polls to choose the nation’s next leaders. But unlike previous elections, there seems to be a heightened interest in the polls at this early time. Usually, it is just the politicians and aspirants who get excited about the elections one year before E-Day. But now, the entire country, cutting across all sectors, is buzzing with activity in preparation for the elections.


In way, it is good. The change in politics that we have been longing for in the past may actually happen in 2010. The people’s increased interest in the elections will hopefully lead to increased participation in the process, from voter education all the way to vote protection during the canvassing of votes.


It is about time we end the vicious cycle of voter-apathy-then-complain-about-elected-officials and move on to a higher level of national political maturity. We should stare the ugly monster in the face and slay it.


One good step in the right direction was the recently held Leadership Forum in the Ateneo and aired over Cable Television in the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC). The forum provided an opportunity for the people to get a glimpse of who the possible candidates are, what their platforms are, how they express themselves and many other facets that we need to know in order to make a wise decision.


I think with the one year left before elections, more of those forums should be held, and it should  be done even at the local level. Let the potential candidates come out of the woodwork and present themselves.


In the past, people frowned at such “early campaigning”. One of the changes we should do now is to shed that hypocrisy. What’s wrong with aspirants coming out in the open? Why do aspirants always have to lie with “It’s too early to talk about elections” when they are asked if they are running one year before the elections? Isn’t better that the people find out who are those seeking public office in order for them to know more about those who will ask for their votes?


The result of that pretentious practice is that people only get the information about the candidates during the official campaign period, which is actually superficial. For a national candidate, he only has ninety days to cover the entire country and present himself for voter scrutiny. That’s why the methods are mostly high-impact, attention-getting propaganda instead of having real depth.


We should take advantage of the heightened interest in change among the people and make this one year period an extended-getting-to-know-you pre-campaign activity. This will help the people make a sober, logical and well-thought out decision come 2010.


It is just too bad that not all the aspirants were present in the Leadership Forum. But this is just the first and it is hoped that there will be others that will be held. Perhaps those who shy away or purposely avoid appearing in such forums should already be stricken off the list by the electorate since they are not willing to subject themselves to public scrutiny. 


In addition, it would also be better if the forum is made available to a bigger audience. Perhaps the networks will consider airing the leadership forums on free tv instead of just a cable channel. The majority of Filipinos still do not have cable in their homes. They should also relax copyrights on those forums, so that it may be reproduced and further expand the viewership. Voter education advocates and civic groups can conduct screenings of those forums.


As I write this, one day has been deducted from the one-year countdown before E-Day. What we do with the remaining days may turn out to be more crucial than that one day when everyone is equal regardless of religion, ethnicity, dialect, income or sex ----each person with one vote each. IF change is going to happen on May 11, 2010, it has to begin now.


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