The 2016 Presidential Elections: “The Best and Worst in Us”

Post date: Jun 15, 2016 5:09:58 AM

By: Arvic O. Baloza, EsP TI

Last May 9, 2016 was a judgment day in the Philippines. The Filipino people exercised their power, perhaps, in its rarest and absolute sense, to vote for “the One” leader whom they perceived to deliver them to the “Promise Land” of change, justice and prosperity. From the campaign period down to the current post election endeavors, many significant events happened that were not only worth remembering, but perhaps, one can say, had really brought out the “best and worst” in us.

The Best In Us

1. We have become more intelligent voters. In recent elections, people tend to vote for popularity than the ability of the candidates. This probably explains why there are movie stars turned themselves into politicians and traditional politicians who were re-elected, retained or reinstated perhaps due to familiarity of their names. Almost a year ago, Boo Chanco of Philippine Star expressed his thoughts of the impossibility of voting intelligently due to the alignment of candidates and rotten political system existing in the Philippines. However, he also mentioned the important things an intelligent voter must keep in mind when he wrote :

Trying to make the most of the choices we have, a somewhat intelligent voter must measure the candidates not by what they say they are or pretend to be, but by looking into where they are in the areas that need the most attention.The key areas are social services (health, education, welfare), economy (infrastructure, investment promotion, job creation) and foreign relations (China, essentially but also US).” (Changco, 2015)

Guided by mass media and cell phone applications launched, I think, the intelligence of many voters lies on having some time off to check the background of the candidates and made a personal comparative analysis of accomplishments based on the key areas mentioned. But as to how intelligent in terms of the result and performance of the voted official, these remain to be seen.

2. More voters than ever. According to the final report of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), there are 54,363,844 registered voters nationwide for the 2016 polls. Added to that there were 1,376,067 registered overseas Filipino voters (OFV). This is higher than the 52,014,648 registered voters during the 2013 midterm elections (Bueza, 2016). From these numbers, 84% exercised their right. These numbers indicated the rising number of Filipinos who wanted to get involve to let their voices be heard through this election.

3. The Debates. Although debates do not necessarily count during elections, I think, the presidential candidates have consciously or unconsciously sold themselves to the voters. UP Professor Prospero de Vera III once claimed that unlike the debates in USA which often yield mixed results, the voters in this country do not automatically reward the candidates who won debates (De Vera, 2013). For instance, Joseph Estrada in 1998 and Fernando Poe Jr. in 2004 (who was cheated) won their respective election bids without engaging in an organized debate. I believe if there is one important thing that mattered most during the last debates is the avenue they have provided for the voters to know the candidates well especially in the midst of tensions against each other over pressing issues at hand. The first 2016 presidential debate was “less about policy than it was about personality”(De Vera,2013) the second one was more personal that analysts found out Binay being “pro-poor but inconsistent”, Duterte being “experienced but copycat”, Poe being “strategic but lacking” and Roxas being “moralpolitik maven but also a bully(Umali,2016) and the third one was considered to be “laudable for allowing a better and more humanized discussion of the issues

4. The Automated Polls. With all of the complicated preparations, strong objections, technical glitches, and accusatory criticisms, the COMELEC claimed that this recent automated polls has been so far the most efficient and most peaceful. So much so that a hundred of foreign observers witnessed it to learn more from us about automated polls (Aquino,2015). Now that is something to be proud of.

5. We dare to dream and believe for a CHANGE. I think most of us voters (and even those who are not) that the recent election is a collective manifestation of dreaming and believing for a better Philippines. As we place our hopes of a brighter tomorrow in the hands of our chosen leaders, many of us now are also believers of change starting from oneself. I would like to especially mention in this article those who remained faithful to their candidate from campaign period to election day even though winning is statistically improbable.

The Worst in Us

1. Character Assassination. If words could kill, dead bodies could be found everywhere before the elections. Words have been said to assassinate the character of the opposing candidate or party. It has been a traditional tactic for candidates to win elections. In the recent debates, presidential candidates assault one another with cases filed against them such as corruption, illegitimacy of citizenship, inefficiency and indecisiveness, extra-judicial killings and one’s health problems even when they were just being asked to present their platforms.

2. Crab Mentality. One might say this is redundant in this article but I would like to reiterate this because crab mentality has resurfaced exceptionally anew when a presidential candidate surprisingly led the surveys. A senator allegedly accused him of hidden wealth and even dared to challenge the presidential candidate to show up in a particular bank to open the said undeclared bank accounts. And what’s the catch? Withdrawal of one’s candidacy. Whatever the agenda was, the act had already proven or perhaps emphasized something; crab mentality is in the house and I think it is here to stay as a not so good of a legacy from our leaders for the next generations to come.

3. The Irresponsible Netizens. The new battle ground is the internet. Through the social media, many feel their valuable existence. But most of the time, that valuable existence tend to cross boundaries. A lot of bashing happened during this election season and divided the people. For some, it went on too far to the point of degrading the harmony of their closest of relationships. Movie stars had even filed lawsuits against their bashers. A teen idol had eaten a lot of bashing because of his negative remarks saying “shut up” to those who are not voters and by posing, together with her partner, their selfie holding their ballots, a strictly prohibited act during election. There are also irresponsible posts of edited videos and pictures that meant to destroy the candidates and persuade their supporters to back out. Voters were called “Dutertards”, “Yellowtards” and even “Bobotantes”. I could write a lot of examples but I guess that won’t be a necessity. The point is clear. Let us be responsible not only as citizens but as netizens too and do not wait to be disciplined by the law.

4. “The Automated False”. This part is for the inconsistencies of Automated Polls behind the efficiency claims of Comelec. First in the list is the broken promise of immediate compensation for BEIs most of whom are public school teachers. The promise of compensation three days after the election has become almost three weeks for some. Not that our teachers seek something in return for a voluntary task but what we seek is justice for the service they have rendered. Second, even though the efficiency of this election received applauses, there are still pending issues to be solved. The biggest among the many is the contention filed by Sen. Bongbong Marcos’ camp against Comelec particularly, the ill-advised changing of a hash code done by a certain Marlon Garcia of Smartmatic. The act, allegedly, changed the complexion of canvassing that led to the rise of now vice president-elect Leni

Robredo. Thus, the so-called efficiency has left many to question the integrity of the automated polls.

Indeed, the recent election has divided as in many ways. But those days are gone and what we have are incoming years of hoping anew for justice to reign enforced by our newly elected officials. As we place our hopes in them, let us be united in one heart and mind that change begins and ends with us. Let s unite and heal this country with our “bests” and learning from our “worsts” as Filipinos.