It is election day tomorrow and I observed that I have hardly written anything about it. Well I picked on Manny Pacquiao, but I am not even voting in his district. In a sense I find it ironic since my blog has been about nation-building lately. And when we speak about hands helping build a nation, shouldn’t we start with our people writing down names and casting ballots?
Here is my piece on why you haven’t been hearing much about that lately here on Akomismo. This sums up a lot of what I have to say about elections, politics, democracy and Philippine society.
I think it is just right that I drop all pretenses right now: I don’t care much about the contest tomorrow although I care a lot about our democracy. It is quite a tenuous position to be in, but I don’t find a lot of our choices particularly compelling.
I haven’t followed the ads. I glimpsed most of them but none of them captured my imagination. I haven’t seen the TV spots and interviews. Every now and then I glance at survey results — tailored or what not — but only to make sure that one of my four senatorial votes continues to remain in the top three. There is one man there I would want to see as president someday. (I won’t name them since I don’t wish to campaign for anyone. I would like you to come up with your own choice as I did with mine — by myself.)
I would have to give a shout out to the Inquirer.net Eleksyon 2007 podcasts. They have been very educational, and I have arrived at all of my four choices through my education there. The medium has allowed me to listen not only to what they say, but how they say it. As for the other eight slots, I abstain.
Lately, I have grown more optimistic about our people. I am starting to be convinced that we are capable of making the right choices. However, I remain pessimistic about our politics. I have yet to be convinced that our choices would be respected, if at all any real choice is given us.
I always tell my students and most people I know to vote, regardless of how unattractive the field is. If you really don’t feel like voting for any of them, abstain. Some people say that having a low voter turn out sends out a strong message. But I say that a high voter turn out with a large number of abstain sends out an even stronger message. It is one thing to say that we don’t care, but it’s an entirely different thing to say that we care too much.
As for those who choose not to vote, there is also the lingering sense of not wanting to waste the effort — they believe their votes will be manipulated anyway. But what most people forget is that elections reach a certain critical mass. When politicians cheat, they will manipulate the votes to a certain degree insofar as the margins are relatively small. If they choose to manipulate a wide margin, then a political backlash will ensue — look at what happened to Marcos.
I personally believe that if we wish for our democracy to work, we must preserve this critical mass. Politicians who cheat the elections rely as much, if not even more, on blank or uncast ballots than on those who actually vote. I always say that we must believe in our democracy if we want it to remain and improve. This critical mass is precisely why.
This explains only half of the matter however. I have explained why I continue to vote, but not why I could only settle on four out of twelve senatoriables.
Basically I am making a statement — the same statement which you make when you cast your vote — that these are the people who I want to chart the course of our nation. That is democracy. And so far, I firmly believe that only four of them deserve my vote in the coming elections.
I will continue to vote and I hope that I add more names to my ballot in the future. My regular readers know too well that I am not one to give up on our nation. That is why thus far, I am in a perpetual state of waiting and working on nation-building.
In the blog of Rob Roque, my student who was never my student, I challenged him to figure out the link between economic and political development. There are many ways to slice that issue, but I’ve already stated one such way in a previous entry: with true economic development that improves our people’s quality of life, they will have a greater sense of self-determination that frees them from the traditional hold of politicos.
I am of the firm belief that if we want to see genuine political reform and development in our country, we must start with our economy. We must begin with empowering our people and transforming them into responsible stakeholders in society. With regards to elections, I am seeing that happen, slowly but surely. The relatively poor performance of actors in surveys and junkets is a sign of things to come (see related entry, “Why Cesar and Goma run, and why they will lose”). I have faith that none of them make the Magic 12. But more substantially, people are really starting to think about their choices.
Perhaps we should also begin advocating that democracy goes beyond elections. Here is something personal. In the next few years I plan to rebuild and relearn by taking post graduate studies in the field of public policy. If all goes to plan, I will be done by 2010 and by then I would begin my steps towards what I now realize I’ve always wanted to be: a political educator.
I can imagine myself going around the country, giving seminars to different groups of people on the hows and whys of government and politics. Just as there are a lot of spokespeople for entrepreneurship and leadership who help people build businesses and empires, I would like to explore the theme of nation building and make it relevant to our people. I’d like to be one of those people who really lend a hand in building our country.
But we don’t have to wait that long. Right now, we can do our part. In keeping with the scope of this article, we do that best by casting our votes tomorrow. For those who can’t vote yet, I hope you have devoted some measure of your time to election-related volunteer work.
Beyond tomorrow, there are so many nation building projects you can devote your time to. And this discussion will be another matter for a much longer time. Until then!