A clarification. The results of the “straw vote” held during “Timbangan 2013,” sponsored by the Movement for Good Governance (MGG) with partners Youth Vote Philippines and Mulat Pinoy, were not meant to be an endorsement of the “winning candidates.”
Instead, the exercise was meant to promote the use of the MGG’s “scorecard” by voters who are searching for “objective criteria” to evaluate the senatorial candidates. A secondary objective was “to determine whether voter preferences changed after they applied the criteria.” To this end, two “straw votes” were held during Timbangan: at the beginning of the event before the introduction of the scorecard, and a second poll after the criteria were presented and then discussed by a panel of experts.
Conducted last April 16 at the Amphitheater of the Ateneo Professional Schools in Makati, Timbangan attracted voters of all ages, from students to professionals to senior citizens, who took part in the straw polls, listened to the panel, and, it is hoped, drew up their personal lists to be used on May 13.
After all, no one really knows how and why voters choose the candidates they support. Some, admittedly, follow the lead of vote-buyers, ward leaders and the endorsements of popular figures, usually actors and entertainers. Some rely only on popularity and the candidates’ “charm,” basing their vote only on how familiar their names and faces are, or on the public appeal of their posters and TV/radio/newspaper ads. Others, as public opinion polls assert, will vote for candidates they have seen in the flesh or shook hands with, or whose names they have heard of due to involvement in some controversy or political intrigue.
And there are voters who will base their choice on “winnability,” believing that their votes would be “wasted” on candidates who don’t figure in the winning circle or have poor chances for victory. Which, come to think of it, is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
But there are also voters, and I sincerely hope they make up the majority, who will vote based on a careful assessment of a candidate’s track record, abilities, reputation and platform. In this, groups like the Movement for Good Governance provide immeasurable help by drawing up criteria which voters of every stripe can use to “weigh” the men and women asking for their vote.
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The MGG scorecard has been described as “a simple and effective guide” to evaluate candidates based on three key leadership criteria: effectiveness, empowering and ethical leadership.
According to the MGG website (http://mggphilippines.com/2013/04/17/timbangan-2013-the-results/), the criteria were initiated by MGG using “diverse local and international governance benchmarks from Gawad Galing Pook, the World Bank, and the UN.” The scorecard was finalized with the assistance of the Personnel Management Association of the Philippines, the country’s leading human resource organization.
“This scorecard helps Filipinos regardless of social class and background to evaluate candidates in terms of whether they are fit for public office. It enables voters to critically think through all the information, jingles, and gimmicks thrown at them by political campaigns,” says MGG chair Solita Monsod.
On “effectiveness,” the scorecard weighs a candidate’s ability and track record in performing his or her duty; on “empowerment,” a candidate’s ability to “unite and engage the stakeholders to develop and implement policies and programs that meet genuine needs of the populace” is measured; “ethical” asks questions about a candidate’s integrity and character.
“These three complementary traits are all necessary for our country to be governed as we deserve, and the scorecard allows voters to grade candidates on each criteria using simple guide questions. It also ranks the candidates’ total scores—on a basic 1 to 3 score—to determine who among them meets these traits the best,” says Dr. Milwida Guevara, MGG founder and Gawad Haydee Yorac Awardee.
The scorecard may be downloaded from the MGG website and will be disseminated to key cities and communities up to election day. MGG has been promoting the use of its scorecard since the 2010 elections.
It was only after the audience was briefed on the use of the scorecard and listened to the opinions—strong ones, not always in agreement with each other—of a panel of experts headed by Monsod, as I reported in an earlier column, that the audience was asked to vote again for their “chosen 12.” And indeed, the contrast between the Timbangan initial vote and the final vote, decided after listening to how the scorecard could be applied to evaluate candidates, is telling.
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Of course, everyone is free to add or subtract from the criteria suggested by the MGG scorecard. It’s possible, I suppose, to use other issues to weigh whether a candidate is deserving of one’s vote. I, for one, will check how a candidate voted on the Reproductive Health Law, and if that candidate was in favor of it, or even helped push it through the legislative maze, he or she will surely get my vote.
Other voters might use a candidate’s support for environmental causes, for human rights, for women’s rights, for economic equity, for peace, to determine their choices.
The point is, I believe, simply to put more value on one’s vote, and not just weigh it against such fleeting criteria as monetary reward, a sandwich, a candidate’s public appeal, or “winnability.”
Some voters will simply not be bothered by the whole tiresome exercise of looking up candidates, researching their fitness for office or performance, and preparing a “codigo” for use come election day. But it’s all of us—and not just the lazy voters—who will pay for their indifference.