COVENANTS related to the elections don't usually work, and that is probably why candidates are never hesitant to sign them.

But they do have a function, mostly at the perception level.

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Example: Rightly or wrongly, they ease public worries about the conduct of politicians during elections. Besides, one can use the document signed to accost candidates about promises they refused to keep.

In a way, covenants are like platforms of government that candidates present during the campaign.

Only a few of the elected remember them once they start governing, although their critics have a use for them: as issues in the next campaign.

Reality

Questioning the efficacy of covenants, however, is not meant to denigrate the efforts of people who brought together six presidentiables to the "Choices and Voices for 2010" forum that ended with the signing of a pact for clean elections and governance.

It merely points to reality.

If election laws couldn't effect clean polls, how can covenants?

Most of those who signed the covenant, for example, are already guilty of premature campaigning, spending millions, even billions, of pesos for "infomercials," a euphemism for political advertisements.

If that "infomercial push" is not illegal, it is certainly unclean.

Gold

Which brings us to the question of what constitutes "clean elections."

In the objectionable use of "guns, gold and goons," for example, does clean mean the non-use of the three or the elimination of only one or two?

"Guns" and "goons" the presidential bets can eliminate at their level (the two are mostly used by local bets), but "gold" is the campaign benchmark in "modern" polls. And money scuttles the fairness required in clean elections, especially if it is used not only to buy TV airtime but more votes during the balloting.

The promise not to resort to "vote-buying and its variations" is therefore empty.

Governance

As for good governance, that has always been the vow of politicians and is what people expect of every new government.

But governance is such a complicated matter that only a few elected government officials can be described as having governed well.