'Crabs,' or what is propelling BBM to power

'Crabs,' or what is propelling BBM to power Featured

WITH a possible 50 to 60 percent of the votes, the Bongbong will have a majority, reprising his father's two terms. Ferdinand got 51.94 percent of the votes against the then incumbent President Diosdado Macapagal's 42.88 percent and Raul Manglapus' 5.17 percent in 1965. In 1969, he won with even bigger margins, 62.24 percent against Sergio Osmeña Jr. with 37.75 percent.

If the current surveys hold, we have a majority president with the next four ranking oppositionists, Snow White and the three stooges with the band of dwarves — the nuisance candidates having been tolerated their 15 minutes of fame in the political stage, sharing the balance. This columnist will not apologize for these mixed metaphors simply because these types of elections have been foreordained by the dysfunctional system we have had in this country. It is the height of irony if the son of a vilified and banished dictator wins with a clear majority — giving a strong signal that a majority of Filipinos are tired of "politics as usual" along with the bungling opposition as a sideshow.

Elections are democracy's way of allowing the citizenry to gift deserving and qualified individuals the privilege to govern. As such, the candidates must be exceptional with superb character traits and compelling personalities, inspiring voters with ideas reflected in their unique platforms. We deserve no less. And central to all these, a clash of diversity is provoked, in opinions and concepts — the better to give the voter a choice. Having gone through a process of discernment from among the array of candidates, the final act is for the voter to anoint the best and brightest. But what has transpired in the 2022 campaign period belies this concept of a sensible process of choice and instead sanctioned the perversion thereof.

Many against one

There was nary a clash of ideas — a thesis-antithesis-synthesis construct that aids the voters in their choices. Debates were contrived and catatonic. Premium was given to made-for-TV bite-size motherhood statements and slogans. What was portrayed was simply a clash of personalities that precipitated an orgy of dirt and muck dominating mainstream and social media — no doubt emanating from partisans — but with tacit license by the candidates themselves.

It was obvious from the beginning that from the five major presidential candidates, four directed their campaign against one man — the Marcos heir — whose father's ghost has hovered over Philippine politics for decades. But the campaign also revealed the dark side of Filipino culture, succinctly described as a "crabs in a barrel" mentality where the opposition were all over themselves pulling each other down. What contributed perhaps to the eventual triumph of Marcos was the inability of the opposition to fashion its message of hope and deliverance against BBM's clarion call for unity; the opposition unable to perform a dichotomy between the son's future trajectory with a father's nebulous past, lumping the two incongruously as one.

The whole electoral process failed to ennoble the candidates, perforce elevate the voters to appreciate the nuances of each candidate short of purely partisan considerations. Which brings to the fore the basic questions.

Selection before election

Who selected these dozen or so politicians and non-politicians in the first place to compete for my vote for the highest elective office in the land? Who made the decision that only these people should be considered by the millions of Filipinos as worthy of their votes? What mechanisms are in place to pre-process and cull out the dregs from among them before being allowed to present themselves and their wares as it were for our scrutiny? Are the provisions of the Constitution the only prerequisite for allowing such people to run for office: a natural-born 40-year-old citizen, a 10-year resident and registered voter, and able to read and write?

Excerpts from my column in 2016 are as relevant today as they were in five prior presidential elections ("What's wrong with Philippine politics 2016," May 5).

"Were people consulted on the process of selection? Was there a vetting process similar to that in politically mature countries — like the preliminaries and caucuses of the United States. These are selection processes sanctioned by their political parties; where only the best of the lot is selected and will be presented to the public as candidates worthy of contending for the highest honors the citizens can gift them? In our case, I don't remember being asked about the criteria I want for these people to possess, prior to their being paraded before the scrutiny of the millions.

"We boast to the world that ours is the first and oldest democracy in Asia. And by definition, the demos, we the people, perhaps through our political parties, should first set the criteria for the aspirants to possess before they are allowed to enter the political arena and engage in partisan combat, winning our hearts and minds through the force of their character, the courage of their convictions, their moral standing and familiarity with the longings and aspirations of their constituencies, and the articulateness of their submissions to the body politic.

"Unfortunately, we don't have this kind of democratic vetting process or preliminaries unlike the mature countries in Europe and the United States. Instead, we have a practice that belies our boast as a democracy."

Distorted selection mechanisms

We don't have real political parties in the Philippines to select from among their membership one who has proven that he can lead the party ably and legitimately and by inference the country. So, the people who run for the presidency are those self-selected who are entitled as if the office were a family bequest. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ran as president following her father President Diosdado Macapagal in 1961; Benigno Aquino 3rd, Cory's only son; Mar Roxas, President Manuel Roxas' grandson; and now BBM, the son of Ferdinand Marcos.

The next category refers to those whose popularity ratings are high in their professions in sports and entertainment — Manny Pacquiao converting his popularity as "pambansang kamao" to a presidential run. They rely simply on 'name recall' and brand placement — a commercially viable product to sell.

A third category are those who have convinced themselves that they alone can make a difference, wide-eyed fantasists — with no money, no organization and no strategy for winning except perhaps that God appeared to them in a dream promising a miracle or a deus ex machina.

Fourth are those who use the campaign period as a financial opportunity to acquire wealth as admitted by one candidate whose previous campaign funds were deposited in private bank accounts. A permutation is a candidate whose withdrawal from the race can spell a difference in votes to an opponent — for a lucrative consideration.

But the most dangerous candidate who often wins in our dysfunctional system of governance is one who is chosen by political patrons, the oligarchy, and their allies, the political dynasties. They vie for power to protect the patrons' interests.

And this is the sad state of traditional politics practiced in this country. This condition will persist until this structural defect is rectified.

Is President BBM up to the task?000
Read 120 times Last modified on Thursday, 05 May 2022 18:12
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