Vote now, more than ever
Today, as we wake up from slumber and prepare to go about our day, an important, indeed crucial, duty awaits us.
This is the duty to “go out and vote.” Voting is one of the essential rights and obligations of citizenship. The others
would be paying taxes, obeying laws, answering legal calls to arms to defend the nation, and dying, if need be, for the motherland.
Of all these obligations, voting is perhaps the least painful (paying taxes is fraught with agony, after all) and makes the least demands on our time. But the right to suffrage also offers all Filipinos of voting age the ability to create a new future, to forge a new direction and reshape government to our own personal visions.
The past few months have seen men and women courting our votes: at the national level for seats in the Senate and for party list; at the district level for representatives to Congress, and at the local level for provincial governors and vice governors and provincial board members; town and city mayors, vice mayors and council members.
In the middle of the day, our streets have been bombarded with loud broadcasts of campaign jingles, multiplied many times over on our airwaves. Already, sample ballots and leaflets have littered our doorways and driveways, or else handed to us with urgency by campaign volunteers.
Periodically, we are lured to rallies and sorties to get a glimpse of the candidates and listen to them air their promises. Rarely, we even get to shake their hands and converse as if we were lifelong friends.
It has been a heady few months and weeks. For many Filipinos, it has been one of those rare times when people of wealth, power and celebrity actively sought us out, courting our attention and our approval.
And all because today, we either vote them into office or reject them outright.
Even as we finalize our “codigo” or voting guides — written painstakingly by hand or handed out as sample ballots — we rely on the fleeting impressions gathered in the run-up to the voting. We try to fix our choices based on a candidate’s appeal or the soundness of his or her platform, record and performance.
For many, the choice depends heavily on the standing of candidates in any of the national surveys, a “bandwagon effect” to get voters onboard the winning vehicle.
Crucially, today’s vote also depends on where one stands with regard to President Duterte. It is indeed a midterm referendum on his presidency. The men and women either running under the broad mantle of his favored parties or running in direct opposition to everything he stands for are his proxies, and the outcome of today’s exercise depends on our own estimation of how well, or how badly, Duterte rule has been for this country.
In the end, one’s vote today is a private, personal choice. There is no shirking one’s responsibility as a citizen and as a Filipino. Regardless of the survey results or the endorsements of movie stars or even of our own family, each of us is responsible for the ovals we fill in beside the name of our chosen candidates.
Who will you vote for today? More important, what will you vote for today? Will you vote for what is expedient, easy, popular and safe? Will you vote for the further escalation of the drug war, the continued dominance of China in our seas and in our job markets, the targeting of legitimate criticism of government failures and wrongdoings, the agenda to shift to another form of government more officially welcoming of political dynasties and the uninterrupted rule of politicians?
Or will you vote for the bedrock values of democracy — respect for human rights, due process and the freedom of the press, concern for the poor and downtrodden, access to information, basic honesty and decency in public office, the idea that no one is above the law?
One last note. The Commission on Elections, mandated to keep our elections clean, honest and transparent, has through last-minute decisions led the public to doubt the integrity of the vote-gathering and counting. With this seeming determination to skew the results, is it still worth voting today? Or should we just throw up our hands and concede the results?
The answer has to be: Yes, we must vote, now more than ever. Only a strong, vigilant showing by the electorate—that they are invested in this exercise, and will accept nothing less than its fair, correct outcome — can thwart whatever plans are afoot. Now is not the time for despair, but rather for hope and concerted action.
Para sa bayan. For our beloved country.
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