THERE'S more to the clamor for change than froth in the mouth and sore throat. As the election campaign goes for the jugular with its clunky jingles and canned speeches, what matters most is long overdue: voice lessons for voters.

Sing for your supper. That’s the overture from a lady senator to Cebu’s senior citizens whose leaders she met recently. Legislations catering to their concerns don’t come on a silver platter, she told them. If they could learn to “have a unified voice” out of their grumbling guts, Congress-bound candidates might listen.

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Indeed, there’s more to the broken record of belly-aching than licking what’s cold on the cynic’s plate. Get over the gag reflex, and a feast of possibilities might yet come out of politics.

Let’s try waxing lyrical this time with mouth-watering ideas about empowering the electorate. That’s necessarily neither breakfast in Pluto nor humming with a head-bang to the clouds as long as voters would cotton onto the notion of pro-active participation in governance.

When people whet their appetite for taking their share in the process of policy-making, beyond merely waiting to be served, expect a “powerful predictor of government performance.”

That, according to political scientists Tom Rice and Alexander Sumberg, is civic culture. Take, for instance, what’s been brewing up in Philadelphia where citizens have seized the initiative in stirring up a cauldron of issues: quality of life, education, jobs, peace and order, government reform, etc.

This repertoire for a responsive delivery of public service has struck a chord among Philadelphia’s politicians, getting their ears pressed to the ground-breaking program known as “Citizen Voices.” A series of dialogues moderated by the local newspaper, this has compelled the candidates to swallow the slop of rhetoric and brace themselves instead for “unscripted conversations with citizens.”

Ningas cogon? No way, as long as the “Citizen Voices” continue to gather steam even after the smoke of the campaign. Beyond the elections, the project participants have moved on to committing themselves with the mayor and the city council in cooking up “an agenda for the city of Philadelphia.”

Nothing fishy under the table when government’s priorities and resources are seasoned with communal input and public access.

When ordinary citizens and civic leaders are in concert with self-styled public servants, down the drain goes the cliché about too many cooks spoiling the broth.

In other American cities—-like Tacoma in Washington and Dayton in Ohio, among others—-neighborhood-based assemblies have been breaking bread with elected officials through regular public forum and call-in talk shows. In Oregon, the governor has been inviting constituents to assess administrative performance in interactive as well as televised meetings.

“You cannot really talk,” an American professor warned, “unless you are listening." That ought to be echoed in this election season so fraught with noise and too needy of food for thought.

(geemyko@gmail.com)