Predictable fact: Patronage politics will still determine next president
The Philippines will elect a new president in 2022. Past elections have shown that those who get elected are the most popular and/or backed by a well-oiled machinery at the grassroots level. The voters in the provinces who make or unmake a president are controlled and dominated by strongly held patronage/dynastic politics.
We witnessed how the Parojinog family of Ozamiz City, Misamis Occidental built their political enclave and fortunes on drug running for two decades, and the Ampatuans of Maguindanao who milked public works funds for decades, ending in the tragic massacre of 58 people, including the spouse of the opposition candidate and 32 journalists, in what is now known as the Maguindanao massacre on Nov. 23, 2009. These family dynasties operated untouched and had their merry way under the very noses of several administrations.
Unfortunately, it is not the individual voter’s honest choice but that of mayors, governors, and congressmen that will decide who will become the country’s next president. That is a sad and irrefutable fact we see often. Local politics makes or unmakes a president.
The 1992 elections saw the country having two excellent choices for president: Gen. Fidel Ramos and Sen. Miriam Santiago. Early on, Santiago was the runaway winner in most of the random pre-poll surveys over Ramos. But some wizened media people saw it differently: Administration candidate Ramos would win by a small margin because, by experience in elections, 60 percent was controlled by local politics; that factored in when assessing “winnability,” and the administration had that sewed up for him. True enough, the overwhelming early lead of Santiago from the National Capital Region and urban centers was slowly eaten up by the late Mindanao and provincial results for Ramos. The rest is history.
Haven’t we noticed that congressional haggling with Malacañang over “pork” insertions facilitate legislation? They’re a must for congressional incumbents, and not to have them in an election year will mean rough sailing for them, short of political suicide. We need to change mindsets with a new brand of leadership, or else we perish in our own follies.
A fresh and new kind of leadership is exciting with the announced broad political coalition in 1Sambayan as a winnable alternative to the administration’s stable of stale choices. The make-up of the general electorate, however, dampens the little enthusiasm we might have. Gut issues are still the overweening consideration. Look at how many people, including wheelchaired senior citizens, lined up till the wee hours of the morning to wait for their “ayuda.” What is worrisome and a challenging development for 1Sambayan and right-thinking citizens is the huge unspent public funds totaling around P4.2 trillion at the disposal of the administration from now until the electoral spending ban on Dec. 31, 2021.
We each might have our criteria of who should be our best choice for a leader. However, we can brace ourselves to accept the predictable fact of life that in this country, patronage politics will elect the next president—your prudent choice or mine notwithstanding.
Marvel K. Tan, [email protected]
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