The ‘culprit’ behind political mess | Inquirer Opinion

The ‘culprit’ behind political mess

THIS REFERS to Fr. Cecilio Magsino’s letter, “Limit presidential contest to only two candidates” (Opinion, 11/3/15). My focus is Father Magsino’s observation that “our electoral system is very flawed.” Curiously, what appears as the “culprit” to which may be attributed the perceived flaws is the 1987 Constitution itself, which adopts the multiparty system (Sec. 6, Art. IX-C) and the party-list system, and prescribes the “highest number of votes” standard for the election of the president and vice president (Sec. 4, Art. VII).

With so many parties, there could be so many candidates. Such a scenario would likely spread thinly the electoral base and, coupled with the “highest number of votes” standard, could result in the denial of a clear mandate to the winner.

Exacerbating this chaotic political situation is the so-called party-list system that adds party-list groups—with names that range from the sublime to the ridiculous—to the limitless list of political parties.


An inherent flaw in the party-list system is that it is the party list that is the candidate, not its nominee. In fact, the electorate votes for the party list itself, not for its nominee. And it is the partylist that actually does the campaigning, not the nominee who just lends his name to the party list. As a consequence, the voters are denied the opportunity to assess the qualifications of the individual nominee who, in all likelihood, is not even known to them. Hence, it is possible that even a weak, unqualified, unfit or undeserving party-list nominee, unvetted, could win solely on the influence and clout of his party list.


On the other hand, the “highest number of votes” standard opens the possibility of the president and vice president being elected by a mere plurality vote. This means a candidate could garner a minority of the votes cast and yet still win for as long as such minority represents the “highest number of votes” cast for anyone in the field. It is, therefore, possible that the winner may be the choice of a minority of the entire electorate.

The peculiarity of this standard is that it allows the minority to rule over the majority. It will be, as it were, the case of a “majority of the few” prevailing over the “minority of the many.” The result is not truly reflective of the will of at least the enfranchised segment of the people.

Parenthetically, the multiparty and party-list systems as embedded in the 1987 Constitution tend to spawn an overdose of politics in this country, already reputed as the national pastime of the Filipino people. As I see it, our leaders in the political agencies of the government are much too preoccupied and obsessed with their political fortunes, most often at the expense of the people. The corroding effects of too much politics in our midst are being felt in practically all aspects of governance. Partisan politics is one of our weaknesses, above which we have yet to rise.

Politics in this country is a crazy, cockeyed game. Anybody who is popular and moneyed, albeit intellectually inadequate, can run for any elective position and win hands down. And people no longer ask if the candidate is fit and qualified to occupy the position for which he is aspiring. Also, it could happen that a candidate who may be the best qualified for a position, once elected, becomes the worst official.

It is said that in this country there are only two kinds of politicians—the bad and the worst, and that the only good politicians are the dead ones.
Of course, politics is an essential ingredient in our scheme of government. But the practitioners themselves, the politicians, are the ones who make a mess of it, one proof of which is the mudslinging that characterize our election campaigns.

And it is generally accepted that the masses are generally gullible, easily fooled by unscrupulous, scheming candidates who woo them with false promises. We never really learn; we keep electing corrupt and incompetent candidates into public office.


In any event, I second Father Magsino’s proposal for a return to the two-party electoral system so that we can have a president and vice president with a clear, categorical mandate from a majority of the electorate.

Bartolome C. Fernandez Jr. is a former commissioner of the Commission on Audit.

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