“THEY have to show up so that the Filipino people can judge. Otherwise, this is a ... big joke!”

We have to thank Professor Walden Bello for boldly telling the Commission on Elections (Comelec) how impotent it is vis-à-vis the absence of Bongbong Marcos (BBM) and his running mate, Inday Sara, during the latest debate. Apparently, BBM can very well say that it is his right not to attend any debate. All the more is it understandable for him not to be bothered by these debates, given his lead in some surveys.

It seems to me, however, that he has not fully understood the nature of the arena that he is entering. He seems to have disregarded the fact that he is vying for a “public” office, and should he win, he shall be serving all Filipinos including those who do not like him. In a democracy, the government should use all its powers in order to make life equitable for all citizens including the opposition.

Mr. Marcos’ views and position on many matters that concern all Filipinos should be heard even by those who have already decided not to vote for him. It is a test on the part of any candidate to stand for his convictions and seek whatever means to convince, not necessarily everyone, but at least those who are open – that one’s views are worth considering despite some areas of disagreement.

Elections are necessary but not enough to make a country democratic. Constitutive of a democracy is the people’s right to be informed. Democracy thrives because information is made available to the widest extent possible. We mean, of course, reasonable and sound information. That is why the absence of Mr. Marcos makes the current efforts to introduce the candidates somewhat useless. For while there is much to appreciate with the presence of the other candidates, but it is “unfortunate” that the leading candidate is nowhere to be found.

The supporters of BBM have all the right to say that they need not be told anymore as their minds or decisions cannot be changed. However, I find this argument selfish if not self-serving. These supporters do not constitute the entirety of the Philippine population despite their apparent numeric strength. True that in a democracy we cannot discount the rule of the plurality or majority, but we should not forget that part of its treasured principles is also the protection of the “minority” and the rights they should enjoy including “information.”

If Mr. Marcos cannot be transparent in his views this early, why should we hope to see a more transparent one should time come for him to disclose certain things. He may have said something on the questions that were asked of him in interviews and in that debate which he attended. However, discussions in preparation for the elections are still in progress. He should “respect” all citizens of this country by “showing” and “standing” up as a signification that he does have the balls to run this country.