IN WORKING to criminalize its violation, the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms hopes to give more teeth to the ban on early campaigning. Offhand, it’s a commendable move. But closer scrutiny reveals a fundamental insincerity.
Sincerity is in serious doubt as committee members are supposed to be smart enough to see that the ban on early campaigning is impossible to enforce. “Early” is no problem because time is easy to set. What is contentious is the “campaigning” part. Like exactly what actions constitute “campaigning?”
In the first place, I doubt if the committee will define “campaigning” neatly and tightly. Committee members are traditional politicians who will, as expected, provide themselves with some very convenient escape routes. But even if the committee defined “campaigning” precisely and exhaustively, if I know Filipino politicians they will find loopholes in the law faster than any responsible agency can plug them.
The only way to stop early campaigning is to allow perpetual campaigning... not by individuals but by authentic political parties. In thriving democracies political parties perpetually promote and educate their members and the general public on their vision, political philosophy and program of government.
Democratic processes like conventions are required mechanisms for the selection of a party’s candidates. Thus, individuals wanting to be nominated by the party can campaign as early as they want for their nomination but obviously within their party’s registered membership.
Only when a party convention has elected its candidates can the latter start campaigning. But as voters will vote for parties and not for individuals in a party-system of elections, candidates will not be campaigning for their individual popularity but for that of their party’s vision, philosophy, program of government and stand on the day’s burning issues.
If we have a genuine or authentic political party system, we do not need to ban early campaigning by individuals with their whimsical promises as much as we need to encourage political parties to perpetually educate their members and the general public on their vision for the country, philosophy, program of government and code of discipline.
This again is a perfect vision of a mature democracy which is light years away from today’s unrepresentative and oligarchy-dominated sham of a democracy. But we can get on the road towards a mature democracy if we worked for a federal charter that provides for authentic political parties to become truly public institutional avenues for people’s participation in nation-building.
If we know, therefore, what’s good for us we should vote only for candidates who are for such a new charter.