An opinion column by Teresa R. Tunay, OCDS, in "The CBCP Monitor", the official publication of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines. For feedback, please email Thank you!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Our political circus

With the Comelec premises reportedly looking like a plaza on a fiesta during the week of politicians filing their Certificate of Candidacy (COC), the air waves are sizzling with more news and interviews related to the forthcoming 2016 elections.
            With candidates of rather colorful public images, character or background, the scene is getting to look like a veritable circus—with barkers, freak shows, and animals big and small. Some candidates roar (like lions), some come on heavy (like elephants), some inspire fear (like snakes), some look cute (like talking parrots), some are funny and amusing (like monkeys)—and all of them contribute to the season’s entertainment.
            A discerning voter without vested interests would realize that much about the candidates’ image is determined by how media portray them, and since media seem unable to be a hundred percent accurate, objective, and fair about doing their job in spite of their best intentions, voters must not depend solely on “what others say” in choosing candidates to vote for.  Much of what is currently surfacing in the political field can serve not only as directional arrows to guide our choice, but also as indicators of our level of sophistication and intelligence as an electorate, and maybe even of who we are as a people.  And so we try to look beneath the surface and in the process come to probe our psyche.
            For instance, most candidates do not speak meaningfully on issues.  Even when hard-pressed for comment on, say, the conflict with China in the west Philippine Sea, or the Bangsamoro Basic Law, answers are “generic” and noncommittal.  Doing your own research aided by Google won’t yield anything along this line.  Does this silence mean candidates are simply playing safe, or lack knowledge of the given situation?
            Most candidates tell stories instead of discussing policies.  Full of self-confidence, they say they’re the man for the job but offer nothing solid about how they’re going to do the job.  Coached no doubt by their publicists on the kind of image to project in order to appeal to as many people as possible, candidates score high at “porma” but almost zero on “plataporma”.  If their avowed desire to “serve the people” is true, shouldn’t they at least “do their homework” and let the people know what to expect should they win?
            Surveys left and right are exploited and depicted by media as reliable indicators of candidates’ future performance at the polls.  They are not presented for what they truly are—the voice of 1,000 or so voters out of 53,000,000.  Ultimately the victims of such media’s magnification of survey’s significance are the poor and the majority of us who are not aware that like any human endeavor, surveys can be manipulated—if the price is right.
            It’s alarming to find out how many “political dynasties” we have, and that some of these dynasties include even extramarital family members.  Following tradition and the ways of the world, all of such dynasties belong to the moneyed minority in our society.  The “poor” candidates’ names are usually not found in the roster of dynasties.  What does this imply, besides the already known fact that more often than not you need loads of money to run for public office?  That only the multimillionaires are capable of serving the public?  If cash is synonymous with clout in the political arena, does it follow that competent potential candidates may never have a crack at offices higher than that of barangay captain’s?  If the existence of political dynasties proves anything at all, it is that power is addictive.

(To be continued)