Local polls just as important as the national elections in shaping leadership
While there is no lack of analysis at the national level, the conversation on politics at the local level leaves much to be desired. One might be wont to think that voters hold the same standard for elective positions at the national and local levels. But our experience proves otherwise and may even surprise us.
We vote for a president, a vice president, a party list, and 12 senators at the national level. At the local level, we vote for a district representative, governor, vice governor, provincial board members, mayor vice mayor, and municipal councilors. In the last presidential election, debates were organized for presidential and vice presidential candidates spearheaded by the Commission on Elections. Various media organizations dedicate segments to interview candidates to know more about their platforms and to give them the equal airtime that would otherwise be denied from them due mainly to the cost of running advertisements.
But what about at the local level?
I hardly know of any organized debates that tackle platforms of local candidates. The most that we can get are from social media pages of individual candidates which have again become active after the filing of certificates of candidacy. Most recently, candidates have resorted to organizing online raffles where participants watch a livestream.
Candidates giving tokens and dole-outs before an election have not only had their stakes raised but have also morphed into new platforms and methods adapting to technology and mobility restrictions. As many scholars have pointed out, this is patronage politics.
Without actually devising plans that would address the problems that have long beset their localities—housing, health care, employment, public spaces, and many more—the people are kept begging in front of local politicians. Running for local elective positions has seemingly been reduced to who can control the local coffers and give them away as if it’s their own.
What is lamentable is that some politicians have created a cult for themselves, thereby perpetuating themselves longer — in many cases, literally carving out their names or initials on almost every public infrastructure or dole-out possible. By this, they not only remind voters of the current ruling politician but also of family members who will soon enter the local political arena to replace those whose term of office is ending. What is more disheartening is that people have long been accustomed to this practice and have come to accept this kind of reality of dynastic politics.
This only shows why local elections are as important as national polls, and should be given equal attention in the media because politics at the local level shapes the kind of national leaders we will have.
EDWARD JOSEPH H. MAGUINDAYAO
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.