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FLEA MARKET OF IDEAS

Pampered king today, indentured slave tomorrow

The reign of the voter as the pampered king ends today.

It’s a short-lived reign, but for the period of 90 days that just passed, powerful, rich and self-proclaimed “honorable” men and women transformed themselves into silly clowns as they sang, danced and acted as stand-up comedians in order to entertain the voter-king.

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My fearless “guestimate” is that more than a hundred billion pesos were spent in total by the current administration to help its allies, and by the tens of thousands of candidates who are running for a multitude of positions from councilor to senator all over the country.

Our roads are littered with campaign posters, our television and radio programs were peppered with campaign advertisements, and our social media sites teemed with paid promoters and trolls endorsing a hodgepodge of candidates.

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In a perfect world, voters would choose candidates based exclusively on two qualifications — competence and integrity. These are the only considerations that should rightfully matter in all elections.

In our distorted reality, however, competence and integrity are subverted by counterproductive forces, which explains why politicians with zero competence and sub-zero integrity keep on winning in our country’s elections.

Vote buying is one powerful counterproductive force that perverts our electoral process. Word on the ground is that vote
buying has been at its worst in the current elections. Incumbent candidates are using the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, commonly known as the 4Ps, as their vote-buying distribution network. They use the program’s parent-leaders in each barangay zone to identify and distribute money to the 4Ps beneficiaries who belong to very poor families.

Misuse of public funds and personnel by incumbent candidates is another strong counterproductive force that spoils the electoral process. Incumbent officials have inherent unfair advantage because they can use public funds for projects, scholarships and services calculated to cultivate patronage votes during elections. They can also summon public employees to assist them in any task aimed at ensuring their reelection, because of their power and influence.

The endorsement by religious groups that vote as a solid block is another counterproductive force that trumps competence and integrity. The big chunk of votes delivered by these faith groups, mostly to incumbent candidates, represents a formidable hurdle for opposing candidates. The endorsement by these religious groups of candidates who have big stains of plunder attached to their names, like Bong Revilla, Jinggoy Estrada and Imee Marcos, is a very lamentable subversion of the sanctity of the electoral process.

Tribe mentality is another counterproductive force that perverts the electoral process. Many voters choose candidates for the singular reason that an election aspirant hails from their hometown or province, or who belongs to their linguistic or cultural group. Candidates who have the fortune of belonging to tribal groupings with a big voter base enjoy a windfall of advantage even against those who tower over them in terms of competence and integrity. Think of Imee Marcos of the Ilocano-speaking provinces and Bong Go of Mindanao.

The twin scourges of guns and goons are another counterproductive force that sabotages the electoral process. There are still many towns in many parts of our country ruled by violent warlords who resort to terrorism to perpetuate themselves in power, and who coercively herd voters to choose their national candidates.

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After the votes are counted today, well-meaning citizens who are desperate for change will be disappointed again, because competence and integrity are fast losing relevance in our elections. The counterproductive forces are growing in strength in every election.

It’s not enough for civil society to trumpet the competence and integrity of its candidates. There must be a comprehensive, long-term campaign to address the root causes of the counterproductive forces in our elections.

At the end of today, the pampered king has no choice but to slink back to being an indentured slave.

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TAGS: 2019 elections, candidates, Flea Market of Idea, Joel Ruiz Butuyan, politicians, voters
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