image taken from mynamemattersnot.com
Now that the dust has settled on one of the dirtiest, most contested, and crucial elections in the country, one thing has become glaringly clear: we are a country that suffers, or chooses to suffer, from long-term memory loss.
No doubt, the spirit of democracy is fully expressed when we elect—and elect freely—the people who represents our interests in the government. That inalienable freedom based on the dictates of our conscience is one that I truly respect, regardless of whether we have a difference in opinion on who we vote for. But I believe there should be a few non-negotiables when making decisions like this:
One, we do not vote for an impeached former president—or any indicted aspirants for that matter. It continues to perplex me how, in this day and age, we have not put safeguards in the constitution that prevent people who have been convicted of wrongdoing from running for public office. Then again, that many of these elected officials can unashamedly get away with crimes against the nation is equally baffling. But that’s another story. When the courts have proven without reasonable doubt that these people have plundered our coffers and betrayed the mandate we have given them, how can we think that putting them back in office will benefit us in any way?
Two, we do not elect people who have no experience in public office to crucial, high government positions. I have no doubt that many people have the heart to serve others. But sadly, the truth is that is not enough. Not when you have to formulate laws and policies that affect a country of 103 million people. I have always held the belief that the “read, write” only requirement for people to run in public office is a misguided execution of democracy. In the same way that we require doctors, lawyers, and engineers to take an exam to prove their capacity and ability to carry out the responsibilities of their respective fields, people who run for higher offices should be expected to have had experience as elected officials in local governments. How else do you hone your skills than by starting at the microcosmic level?
Three, we do not assume that the sharing of the same last name equates to shared accomplishments—or shared legacies. My father can be the best neurosurgeon in the country or even the world, but that doesn’t make me an equally talented neurosurgeon—and more importantly, even qualified to cut into your skull and tinker with your brain. The same can be said of politics. I submit that yes, the “heart to serve” can be passed on or shared by a family, but that totally excludes the capacity to do so. Those are two different things. Contrary to what many seem to believe, a person’s ability to serve his country honorably and with integrity is not a genetic trait that can be passed on from father or mother to child.
Lastly, we do not put to office incumbent officials who have clearly and brazenly used their positions to cover their own—or their friends’, families’, or relatives’—offenses and save their own skins. One could argue that this describes almost 80 percent of all elected officials in the country. But when it’s an in-your-face, defiant, and blatant disregard for professional and ethical standards, that should be enough to tell us that these people aren’t even worth the paper their campaign materials are printed on.
And yet, election after election, we continue to make the same mistakes and vote for these very people. Shame on us for perpetuating this vicious cycle of poverty, despair, and failure.
Down the road, when the vast majority take to the streets of Mendiola or to the Internet to protest the scandals, the grave abuses of power, and the repressive policies and laws that are put into effect (as are wont to happen when you elect unqualified people), remember that:
We voted for them.
We put these people into office.
We put our future, the future of our families, countrymen, and nation in their hands.
We did all that. We are culpable.
I used to think it cheesy and just a little bit sad how we Filipinos tend to celebrate every single thing (no matter how seemingly minute or unimportant) that puts us in international news. But truth be told, there was always a little part of me that did feel that sense of Filipino pride. But after this election, I think it’s safe to say that that has withered away. Why? What pride could I possibly have left when we as a people seem to have made the conscious decision to allow politicians to continue to make fools out of us.
It’s ironic, really. We take every opportunity to shout from the rooftops to tell the world that we are a country that has so much to offer. Sadly, with the choices we have made, it seems we don’t really think of our country highly enough to want good and decent people to look after its welfare.
I am reminded of the oft-quoted aphorism: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”
I ask you today, what does this say of us as Filipinos?