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Commentary

Idealism in the time of trolls

09:04 AM May 07, 2019

I have never been this pessimistic about elections. From the looks of it, politics in this country has turned from worse to worst. For one, any attack against the incumbents would result in being branded as a “dilawan” (yellow), a catch-all tag that is simplistic and unfair. For another, the majority of the voters seem to have become less and less wise, which is ironic, because this day and age has given us the most number of information sources, foremost of which is the internet. Lastly, the party-list system has been bastardized to the
extreme this year.

A big letdown in this regime is dismissing any type of criticism, as if criticism were a mortal sin in a democracy, and having been elected to power made one immune from reproach. Perhaps in future elections, we should require political candidates not to be onion-skinned, as censures from different sectors go with the job.

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If elections surveys are to be believed, proadministration “senatoriables” will likely win all slots in this year’s elections. Assuming such is the trend, I wonder why many of our potential voters still fall for candidates who consistently lie about their academic records, have questionable backgrounds in handling government money, or are apparently clueless about enacting national laws.

Forgive my cynicism, but you can really admire some politicians for going around the noblest of laws. Look at our party-list system; it was crafted to provide voices for the marginalized groups in our country. But the traditional politicians have long taken advantage of the system to provide themselves another vehicle for more political power. The organizations or “party-lists” set up by politicians could easily
defeat the marginalized because the former have the money and machinery to mount a national campaign. Lately, party-lists have been created to appeal to the ethnic background of the electorate, which is a case of negative regionalism. Some of our regions are apparently marginalized, but that is not sectoral representation.

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The election season may be exciting for many Filipinos because not only do they get to know juicy rumors about politicians, they also get to earn extra money, not
necessarily by accepting bribes but by
joining campaigns or producing election materials. But on the flip side, this is an annoying season of illegal campaign posters, loud campaign jingles and awkward songs from candidates. Also, the vibrancy and excitement that politicians invest in setting up tons of campaign posters are only matched by their apathy and indolence in removing such posters after the elections.

The results of democratic elections, assuming that the elections are credible, reflect the values (or lack thereof) of the majority of the electorate. Sadly, our national elections may ultimately be decided again by the quantity of a candidate’s political advertisements on national TV, name recall (regardless of the notoriety of the name), show-biz connections, and the role of the online mob, also known as “trolls.”

Trolls have been ruling the online political landscape since 2016. For the right price, they support or malign candidates. They engage in ad hominem attacks. And they thrive in anonymity. By this time, citizens should know better than believe the posts of trolls.

Does idealism have any place in the time of trolls?

We ought to make intelligent, long-term choices because, love them or hate them, the politicians make decisions that affect our lives. If we can strive to make intelligent choices in buying simple gadgets, we should also choose sensibly in electing candidates. Regardless of the outcome of the midterm elections, I hope we will always resolve to vote intelligently despite the threats from trolls.

James M. Fajarito, PhD, is associate professor at Holy Angel University in Angeles City, Pampanga.

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TAGS: 2019 elections, Inquirer Commentary, James M. Fajarito, party-list system, social media, traditional politicans, trolls
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