OVER weekend lunch, a friend asked what my opinion is regarding the Liberal Party’s Otso Diretso senatorial slate. I expressed strong certainty of not supporting one but I also told him that I would surely vote for the only female contender in the opposition’s roster. “I read about them,” I said. “Maybe I’ll download their recent debates,” my curious friend responded. I convinced him to watch the debates in order to get to know the candidates better and eventually be able to make an informed decision this May.
I like the fact that I am able to discuss topics like political leaders or social problems with my friends. Other than getting information from reputable news sources, it helps to hear about people’s opinions which are usually influenced by first-hand encounters with the politicians themselves or from the people in their circle. When choosing our leaders during election, we need as much information as we can get so that we can make the best judgment on whether a candidate deserves our support.
Back in 2001 when I was in high school, I remember a local candidate in my hometown who had a very motherly, neat and friendly look on her official campaign picture. Her poster was basic, with her name in bold and clear font style. But what struck me was her charismatic, warm smile, her crisp polo shirt and a professional, reliable aura which her overall look exuded. I would have voted for her if I could. She was a neophyte but the way she presented herself even in photograph convinced me to believe that she was organized, had authority and therefore qualified to be one of our city councilors.
Fast forward to being an adult, I realized that it takes more than having a polished look to be an effective leader. Also, while I believe that politicians should always look pleasant and presentable, as a way of showing respect to the position and constituents that they represent, the voting public must be able to discern beyond this superficial qualification. We don’t need another Imelda Marcos who is undeniably immaculate but whose integrity will forever be questioned.
Being able to choose our future government leaders is one of the most liberating aspects of our democracy. Choosing conscientiously is truly about claiming the control that we have on our fate. It reminds us of the power that we have in shaping our lives at present as well as the lasting impact of the decisions we make on the future of our children.
Often times, when we join the workforce as soon as we graduate, we don’t get to choose our bosses. When we are unfortunate to be in an organization where we don’t like our leaders, we excruciatingly swallow our pride and still obey them because we are at their mercy. If we could not handle it anymore, we leave. As studies have shown, employees usually leave because of bosses that they don’t like. But this is not the case when it comes to our public officials. The power of putting people in position is our responsibility. And even if we don’t like the people in authority, we don’t just leave and move to another country. Our city or our country, is one big organization; but it is one that is governed by the tenets of democracy. We have a say, and it is up to us to exercise it.
For at least three generations now, corruption in the government has consistently been an overarching issue that hampers growth and progress; causing the public to lose its trust in the officials and our institutions.
Transparency International reported that in 2018, our country’s score is 36/100. This score pertains to the public sector’s perception of corruption on a scale of 0, which means highly corrupt, to 100, meaning very clean. Throughout the world, we ranked 99th out of 180 countries in terms of perceived corruption in 2018. From 1995 to 2008, our record high was when we ranked 141st in 2008. Our record low was in 1995 when we were 36th.
May the upcoming election be an opportunity -- especially for the 18-35 year-old voters who according to the Commission on Elections, comprise one-third of the country’s expected 63 million voters -- to make wise decisions on who to endorse, support and vote. Information is available everywhere, especially online. Accessing them is a no-brainer especially for this age bracket since according to We Are Social, majority of Facebook users in the Philippines also belong to this group.
Only when we will educate ourselves by reading, sharing and exchanging credible information, with our friends and family, that we can truly be responsible voters. For sure, there are concerns that we can’t control-- maybe for now-- like the candidates running for both the local and national positions. But as in all overwhelming problems, we know that the wisest way to overcome is to deal with them one at a time, mindful of our capacity and the resources available.
Filipinos, in general, are hardworking and always aim for the best. At this age and with the availability of information, hopefully, we would make a conscious effort to judge beyond the smile or charisma, or the crispness and color of their polo shirts on their posters.
The coming election is a crucial time to demand for the brightest and most qualified, in terms of track record, integrity and credentials. My personal weight for credentials-- educational attainment and professional experience in relation to the positions that they aspire-- is 30%. I give track record, which pertains to professional achievements, another 30%. The remaining 40% is for integrity, which is essentially the candidate’s character. Specifically, I would ask myself whether the candidate always chose the right thing to do even if it was the unpopular one.
We have an important role to play as voters. By making informed choices, we would be able to proudly say, that we did our part as citizens. That is how we exercise the power of our democracy.