Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Reflections: May 2010 Elections and the Senatorial Race

Normally I am not so much into the hopeless, star-studded politics of my motherland, but seeing an opportunity open for the Filipino nation to actually cause a change, you'd begin to have a sense of hope. That maybe, my one vote would count, and maybe my one vote would go a long way into triggering positive change.

You're in for a rude awakening if you thought the same way.

To be fair, the Philippines is not the only country to have actor-turned political leaders. In the United States for example, we have the ever popular case of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Terminator Governor of California (might I add that he was actually sworn into office not once, but three times? Things you learn from Wikipedia). I'm sure there are other well-known examples out there (U.S. President Ronald Reagan immediately comes into mind), but I won't bother listing them all here, as while I have nothing against actors turning into politicians (okay, so I may have something, but I'm trying to suppress my disbelief and lack of faith in favor of a more accurate observation), I do am against politicians who do nothing more than warm their seats.
Let's be obtuse and acute here (wow, triangles). It is no mystery that I am a stalwart (and by stalwart I mean... yeah, stalwart) critic of Senator Ramon Revilla Jr. But let me qualify this (the Comelec chairman had been qualifying a lot lately so why can't I?) by saying that, I have nothing against him personally, it's just that I really don't think he should be Senator. I fully believe that he has nothing that would qualify (there I go again) him as a member of the upper legislative chamber of the Philippines. He is a very good actor (okay, maybe not so very good), and dare I say, an effective VRB chief and anti-piracy zealot, but as a legislative official, he falls so very very short.

A quick look at his achievements and background reveals some interesting facts. He apparently jumped into a bus in a hostage scene to negotiate with the hostage-taker. Apparently the hostages were school children, which is a good cause, albeit a rash and brazen move (he could have been shot, but due to his exercise equipment powered indestructibility, I'm sure being killed by bullets didn't even enter his mind). Now, I am not downplaying this feat; in all honesty, I don't know if anybody else would have done the same thing. To brazenly and fearlessly step into a bus just to negotiate personally with a hostage taker takes a whole lot of guts, desire and determination. But seriously now, this cannot be a basis for putting him in the senate right? I'm gonna go on a limb here and say that this act certainly is that of a hero, but a senator? Really?

Now, you might be wondering, why am I ranting about just one particular senator, when in fact there would be twelve right? I mean, if he's as bad as I claim him to be, perhaps he won't even make it to the magic twelve right? Well, if your train of thoughts were similar to that, then you're absolutely, ridiculously...


At Seventeen million, twenty three thousand, two hundred seventy votes (17,023,270), Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr leads the senatorial race over other names like Gilbert Remulla (who, even while being the youngest elected official in the lower legislative house, authored such laws as the Anti Dangerous Drugs Bill) and Satur Ocampo (a veteran of democratic wars, and tougher than nails), both of which did not even make it to the top twelve, albeit being more deserving (in my honest opinion, please don't shoot me). This is after 85.88% of the Electoral Returns were counted and tallied (not canvassed, apparently this is a separate activity). Seventeen million Filipinos chose to vote for this guy. Seventeen million. SEVENTEEN MILLION!


That's about the same number of Smart subscribers, according to their ads. Seventeen million chose a candidate with a poor legislative record, who as a result is now leading the senatorial race at an indomitable, unbeatable top spot, three hundred thousand votes higher than second placer Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada (son of former president Joseph Estrada who is now second in the presidential race. Both of them were implicated in an illegal gambling controversy which led to the impeachment of the latter). This begs the question, why? Why? Why would someone without a tertiary education have this much voters? Why would someone who barely did anything during his tenure as Cavite governor be this high in the senatorial race? Just why?


To be fair, Bong Revilla Jr did a good job as VRB chief, even getting a Plaque of International Recognition for Efforts Against Piracy by the Motion Picture Association of America and the Huwarang Lingkod Bayan Award by the Consumers League of the Philippines Foundation. I dig that, I truly truly do, being a somewhat of an anti-piracy stalwart myself. But as a legislative official, he really leaves a lot to be desired. A pretty face and a kind character is not enough and is not even that significant in the kind of office he would soon hold. Sure, it will get you a seat, and perhaps this will answer my penultimate question, but still, haven't we learned yet from putting actors into public office? What does it say about us and our society?

A friend of mine told me the disparity between the weak middle class and the strong lower class of our society. The middle class bases the credibility of a candidate on their track record and performance, while the lower class bases the credibility of a candidate on their popularity and approachability. I do not think any one of this is an invalid way of ascertaining credibility, but I do think that the middle class method is a more accurate way, as it measures characteristics that really do matter. Approachability, while being a qualified means of measuring character (for me at least) reveals only so much. In the end, what matters more is whether the candidate can cause change, and having a good track record reveals a lot in this regard.

Now like I said, I am not fond of politics at all, but I do get fired up when opportunities to cause change are wasted. In the end, other than disappointment, I try desperately to still have hope. Perhaps these people are not as bad as I thought they would be. Perhaps next time, voters would have learned their lessons. I do am certain of one thing though. Change is inevitable, I'm sure there will be change, but whether positive or negative now lies on the hands of the elected.