Our Catch-22 politics
The Commission on Elections’ odd decision to leave the candidates and the whole nation hanging in suspense with its sudden adjournment as a canvassing body on the night of Election Day “to take a much-needed rest” was a public relations blunder. It again opened the electoral process, particularly the counting, to doubt and speculation.
Then the double-count glitch in the unofficial tallying added more mass to the cloud of doubt, with Comelec debunkers gleefully muttering “I told you so” at their dinner tables.
But once the glitch was fixed and the counting machines started humming correctly again (or so we were told), the big surprise of the evening greeted us all with a bang. Before anyone could say “Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting,” the name and face of Grace Poe were on everyone’s TV screen, having dislodged the presumptive No. 1, Loren Legarda, from her perch on top of the leader board. Which may or may not have proved that the brouhaha over Ms Legarda’s alleged double filing of her statements of assets, liabilities and net worth did have a negative impact on her vote total and ranking. The usual analysts will now have one more puzzle to divine.
On the whole, the results have borne out the surveys, with a few ranking switches in the actual tally. Some of us will applaud the outcome, others will rue them. That’s the nature of electoral contests: Some win, others lose.
Advertising blitzes in the campaign homestretch proved effective. Poe’s repetitive invocation of the name of her father, Fernando Poe Jr., and her mom Susan Roces’ tender presence in the “last two minutes” commercials catapulted her to a stunning top spot. Ramon Magsaysay Jr.’s blitz and last-minute, word-of-mouth pleadings for him couldn’t do the trick for him, though.
As for Jamby Madrigal, I wonder why she didn’t saturate the media as an attempt to catch up with the rest of the pack? Even her promised endorsement surprise from a big personality (Ping Lacson?) didn’t materialize. For Magsaysay and Madrigal (and Risa Hontiveros, a near-winner in 2010), being in the final 12-0 wasn’t meant to be.
But, no doubt, media exposure was vital for some of the candidates (Poe, Alan Peter Cayetano, Koko Pimentel). And, conversely, evasive media maneuvers were what, ironically, helped others (like Nancy Binay) win. Binay avoided all the public debates and simply let her name do the talking. Now she’ll have to make good on her pledge to do the debating in the Senate—but not, as it turned out, with Hontiveros.
Meanwhile, no amount of ad blitzkrieg could save Juan Ponce Enrile Jr. as he snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, no doubt due to his controversial past and recent controversies involving his father and namesake, the Senate president. Migz Zubiri, too, paid for his controversial usurpation of Pimentel’s Senate seat for four years. While many Filipino voters are still unsophisticated in their discernment of political nuances, they can sense when people have been treated unfairly and act accordingly.
Again, as in 2010, computerized voting and counting saved the nation the ordeal of an agonizingly slow count. To their chagrin, Garcillano clones in and out of the Comelec lost a vital source of income through alleged tampering of the numbers during the counting. Other means of cheating were attempted, through computer signal-jamming and other creative ways.
But computerized elections are here to say, notwithstanding the attempts of nonbelievers to go back to manual counting. Fast and less-friendly to manipulators, the computers have made the whole process quick as lightning and almost impenetrable by crooks (unless the crooks are the same ones running the elections).
The downside is that the swiftness of the computers also brought us the election-results letdown just as fast. Our dismay over the list of the “usual suspects” running for key positions during the campaign quickly became reality with the speed of light. Look at the names of some of the senatorial winners and you’ll know what I mean. And locally, Joseph Estrada, the luckiest guy in all politics, is back in harness and will soon preside over the further decay of the once proud city of Manila. Many other undeserving or unqualified politicians have won seats all over the country.
Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose, the French say with a shrug to lament the unchanging state of things even as all things change. On the surface, things change—in politics, in society, in life. There’s movement, activity, stirring in society, in public. But, to use a redundant compound word, the end-result is the same. The same political names, affiliations and coalitions prevail. No new blood, only new dynasts.
And even the young blood who tried their luck in the various contests weren’t so hot themselves. One or two newcomers among the senatorial candidates were articulate, but they didn’t really say anything innovative, profound or inspiring.
Ah, well, that’s politics. It’s so sleazy and rotten, good and qualified people are loath to dirty their fingers and reputations with it. The Philippines needs upright people to cleanse politics because it’s dirty, but upright people don’t want to enter politics because it’s dirty. That’s our political Catch-22.
Leandro DD Coronel’s column, Manila Observer, appears in Fil-Am newspapers in Toronto and Washington.
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