The power of your vote
The problem with the usual call for citizens to “vote wisely” is that every single person who walks into a polling precinct on election day to fill out a ballot believes that he or she is doing precisely that: voting wisely.
It is doubtful if any voter deliberately shades the designated oval space beside a particular candidate’s name thinking: “I’m voting for this politician to f*ck my country up.”
It simply doesn’t happen that way. Everyone, regardless of political belief, leanings, educational background, or socioeconomic status, votes believing that he is making the best choice—the wisest choice—whether for his individual self, for the community he belongs to, or the country.
So a call to vote wisely at this time—a day before what is probably the most consequential elections in recent Philippine history—will only serve to reinforce the choice that the voter has already made in his mind.
But this 24-hour pause in between the end of the 90-day campaign period and election day does offer a quiet time that can be used to reflect on one’s choices before they are irrevocably committed to the ballot.
The stakes are as high as they have ever been.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage here and around the world, and overcoming it will require thoughtful allocation of the government’s limited resources, and more Filipinos need to be vaccinated against the deadly disease.
The Philippine economy took a body blow at the beginning of the public health crisis and continues to reel from the worst contraction experienced since World War II. Thousands upon thousands of businesses have closed down, millions have lost their jobs and forms of livelihood. They will need to be fed and housed and made productive again.
The education system is being challenged by the distance learning phenomenon, with no less than the World Bank warning that the relatively lower quality of learning under this setup will result in trillions of pesos in economic losses for the country in the next few decades because students are not learning as well as they should away from classrooms.
Corruption has come back with a vengeance, rearing its ugly head at the height of the pandemic and enriching a few, well-connected personalities at the expense of millions of suffering—and dying—Filipinos during a once-in-a-century global health crisis.
And if those internal problems aren’t enough, the Philippines’ next leader must now face external challenges from China which has been aggressively encroaching on the country’s maritime territory, depriving us of the economic benefits of the sea and tramping on our sovereignty.
All this, and more, must be weighed carefully by each individual voter today against the biases he or she has inevitably formed during three months of being bombarded by candidates’ campaign promises.
At the same time, voters should take his brief period to discern whether the candidates they plan to vote for will be good for the country beyond the six- or three- year term they will be in office.
Perhaps it is not enough that we look at what they will be able to do for us once they win, but how the Philippines will be shaped after they step down by the platforms they’re promoting now.
Will their populist promises of immediate relief from the burdens of daily life result in the country being weighed down by massive debt long after they’re gone?
Will their vows of good governance result in crippling government gridlock that will force citizens to gamble and swing to the other end of the political spectrum once the next elections come around?
Most importantly, will this particular candidate benefit not just the individual voter, his family, or his immediate community, but the entire country, not just in the near future but long after their term ends? Such is the power of one’s vote.
Yes, vote wisely. But every single Filipino voter must make sure that he is, in all good conscience, using the correct definition of “wisely”—that is, the candidate’s win should benefit a wider community, and extend farther into the future.
That Filipinos will be living under more difficult political and economic conditions in the next few years is already a given. But this burden can be eased by the knowledge that the electoral choices made tomorrow will result in a better Philippines once the more pressing immediate challenges are overcome.
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.