Declaration of dependence | Inquirer Opinion
The Long View

Declaration of dependence

A former Cabinet man reveals a former president specifically wanted control over COVID-related funds, and a former senator gets interviewed reminding everyone how he went down to defeat after gambling on investigating that former president. An incumbent senator speaks up, pleading for people not to play fast and loose with implications over Philippine offshore gaming operators (Pogos) funding and activities. Indeed, after generally turning a blind eye to them, officials high and low, are suddenly filled with a new appreciation of the evils of Pogos. The Senate, under new management, is filled with new zeal over the building of its new home, something its membership had signed on to, but the contracts of yesterday seem suspicious today. What gives?

Think of these as a declaration of dependence, one that comes every three years. Back when things were wilder, there was a rule of thumb that went like this: A year ahead of elections, you could expect a sudden spike in stories of bank and other spectacular robberies as “funds-raising” for the coming elections. You could also expect a steady escalation of exposes and innuendo which would lead to the reemergence of previously defeated candidates or the embarrassment of incumbent officials. The two coins of the realm, being, so to speak, either fame or money come election time. And controversy affects both.

To understand the headlines even further, it would be good to review the political calendar in the context of next year being a midterm election year. Midterm because it comes in the middle of a presidential term, when the entire House of Representatives, and all local positions, are vacated and up for grabs, and where half of the Senate is also up for grabs. As far as the Commission on Elections is concerned, the last day for voter registration will be on Sept. 30; the period for filing candidacy will be from Oct. 1 to 8 (no substitutes allowed this time around!), and the election period kicks in starting Jan. 12 next year, with all the related bans (on guns, on suspending elective officials, on the movement of officers in the civil service, and so on).

Truth be told as far as the rise and fall of administrations are concerned, only the senatorial elections matter, because the permanent single party of incumbents in the House (the vast majority of whom have party affiliations dictated by acceptability to the ruling coalition of the day), and the nature of all local politics are such that administration control is guaranteed regardless of who wins and loses in local districts. This isn’t to say individual and collective contests don’t matter: part of the powers of the presidency is acting as referee in the selection of local candidates, and the administration has access to the resources all candidates crave. But it is in the Senate, and the midterms results, that fundamentally, an administration is judged (even more crucially before martial law, when only a third of the Senate was up for grabs in every election: making the midterms even more make-or-break in terms of control).

FEATURED STORIES

What we are in, traditionally speaking, is the season for “initial benchmarking surveys,” which takes place in June the year before the election. This is when names are weighed according to their political viability. Then, in July comes the State of the Nation Address of the incumbent president; the time for setting the stage for the midterms which are viewed as a referendum on the president. Then July until October is what’s called the “consciousness-raising” period when there are activities meant to raise awareness of, and excitement/interest/support for, potential candidates. This is to make it worthwhile for those who could potentially buy-in or chip-in to a potential candidacy. It is during this period that the selection of standard-bearers takes place: when, in other words, the parties pick their candidates or, more accurately, candidates pick the party that will serve as their electoral vehicle.

We shouldn’t forget that the President himself expressed a preference for including a constitutional plebiscite in the 2025 midterm ballot. Now you understand why.

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Email: [email protected]; Twitter: @mlq3

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