Carvajal: More equal

“AFFIRMATIVE action” refers to the Executive Order signed by U.S. President John F. Kennedy in 1961 that outlawed racial discrimination in the workplace and required employers to do something positive to get people of color, black Americans specifically, to land a job. The idea was to compensate for centuries of discrimination.

This is really putting in effect our own President Ramon Magsaysay’s “he who has less in life should have more in law.” And it is fairly easy to see that we can still use “affirmative action” to liberate thirty million Filipinos from the poverty they have been forced into by discriminatory economic policies of former Spanish and American colonial masters and by the elitist style of leadership of today’s new political, economic and religious leaders.

Yet the sad fact is that rather than affirmative, the poor are at the butt end of negative action. We have investigations galore into all sorts of corruption cases but we cannot seem to spend enough time and money to search for ways to treat our poor people a little more equally. We seem content to deceive them into being happy scrounging for the crumbs that fall from exclusive economic policies and programs.

One might think it so but it is really not farfetched to trace the roots of this lack of “affirmative action” for marginalized millions of Filipinos to our system of voting for individuals. In this system, individuals do not need to serve honestly and competently to stay in office. So, why bother when it is enough to have money to spend for self-advertizing and vote-buying during elections. Why bother when it is even better that majority of voters remain poor so they are pre-conditioned to sell their votes.

Because they only need votes to win an election, politicians prefer to build white elephants with their names painted on them for easy recall and to prey on people’s sense of “utang na loob.” Because their horizon is never beyond the next election, they prefer projects, no matter how irrelevant, that can be finished during their term and can be bragged about as their accomplishment.

A political party should be formed around affirmative action. But not by today’s crop of politicians who are content to just buy the votes of a poor and politically illiterate electorate.

My readers will forgive me for belaboring this point. However, I will be unapologetic about continuing to belabor it until I start to hear people discuss how to shift to a more democratic and fairer (more equal to the poor?) system of electing our officials. We have to mature towards a system of voting for parties and programs. Voting for individuals has kept millions of Filipinos stuck in poverty and ignorance, both fatal to a democracy.
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