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2010 Elections, Opinions

Brand New Process, Same Old People

The 2010 Automated Elections is simply awesome. Results from nearly 90% of clustered precincts nationwide have been sent – oh wait, transmitted – to COMELEC. Numerous local candidates have already been proclaimed, and today [May 15], nine Senatorial candidates would be proclaimed. All of these within the week after the May 10 elections – containing lots of unprecedented firsts in Philippine history.

Despite all the doubts and rumor-mongering prior to the elections, I firmly believe that COMELEC delivered and lived up to expectations. Curiosity and excitement towards the new election process led to 50 million Filipinos lining up to register – the largest number for any election here in the country. We voted on May 10 mainly to experience the new technology brought forth by Smartmatic’s PCOS machines and to elect the successor to one of the most controversial Philippine Presidents of all time.

Technology was also utilized in the election coverage on TV, as the top three stations made use of large interactive touch screen TV’s and augmented reality 3D effects to introduce a new era of reporting and broadcasting in the country. The use of Facebook, Twitter and Multiply were also prevalent in giving the citizens power to share their views, complaints, praise and suggestions towards the 2010 Elections.

However, the election results were not that exciting, in my view. It showed that even though we used ground-breaking technologies to increase the efficiency of the election process, Filipinos in general did not break new grounds that much, with regards to the candidates we voted.

The leading candidate for President, Sen. Noynoy Aquino, is the son of former Pres. Cory Aquino and former Sen. Ninoy Aquino. Following Sen. Noynoy in the race with a wide five-million-vote margin is former President Joseph Estrada – a surprise outcome considering that Sen. Manny Villar landed at #3. Villar was thought of as Noynoy’s closest rival for most of the campaign period.

Ten out of the Top 12 Senators voted by the populace were current and former Senators, with the remaining two – Ilocos Norte Gov. Bongbong Marcos and Bukidnon Rep. TG Guingona – being sons of former Pres. Ferdinand Marcos and former Vice Pres. Teofisto Guingona, Jr., respectively. Hanging on at the 13th spot is AKBAYAN Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, the only candidate in the Top 15 not coming from a prominent family in Philippine politics.

Leadership changes are minimal in most provinces and cities, most notably in Batangas, Isabela, Cebu, Pampanga, and many areas in Mindanao and Metro Manila. The same surnames come up in news reports, the same faces coming from the same bloodline sitting in local posts around the country.

One possible exception is Vice Presidential candidate and Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay. (I believe that this distinction is not biased, given that I’m a Makati resident.) Currently, he’s leading the Vice Presidential tally, having an extremely close fight with Sen. Mar Roxas, who is the grandson of former Pres. Manuel Roxas.

The difference I would cite in Binay’s case is that he or any family member or relative had never held a Presidential, Vice Presidential or Senatorial post in the past. His experience for his whole political career was on the local level, with him and his family serving Makati City for the past 24 years. Same merits may go to Presidential candidates Gibo Teodoro, Bro. Eddie Villanueva, Nicanor Perlas and JC delos Reyes; and to Vice Presidential bet former MMDA Chairman Bayani Fernando.

What’s my point? The 2010 Elections might be the most revolutionary, modern election in history, but our mindsets are still traditional, as to whom we choose to lead us for the next three to six years. In a sense, most Filipino voters chose the usual, long-established politicians, while most of the new voters – mostly teenagers – selected fresh faces and names. It’s ironic that most Filipinos nowadays hope for change and the eradication of corruption and political dynasties, but here we are, voting for these same people all over again.

I’m not discounting what the Aquinos, Roxases, Marcoses, Enriles or even the Macapagals and Arroyos have done in the past. It’s just that we’re in the 21st century now, and in my opinion, the leaders that we have elected are still those names from the 90’s. I don’t know if we’re just being nostalgic or sentimental.

Or maybe we’re just being loyal, trusting these names and paying our gratitude or utang na loob to them and their works. As a result, there is little room for new faces and timely ideas for this country. We don’t give new leaders a chance to progress, show us what they have, and perhaps lead us to a new road towards another “golden Philippine era” with their fresh ideas. The same old political topics come up in national discussion, without giving priority to the major needs and programs in agriculture, agrarian reform, education, sports, social welfare, and just about every Cabinet department.

One observation I noted for the whole course of this election is that we tend to prejudge the talents of these new leaders. We mostly tend to not trust these “youngsters” and believe in their ideas. We stick with those we know the most, those who have stayed the longest, those who we believe have done the most. In a way, we Filipinos are not risk-takers.

Another is that we tend to vote those who have given us something – material, monetary or immaterial promises – during the campaign period. I have heard this line many a times: Ah, hindi ko ‘yan iboboto kasi wala naman akong natanggap sa kanya eh.

Lastly, traditional candidates resort to instilling fear, confusion and uncertainty in the minds of the electorate. They spark controversies and stir up conspiracies even before something concrete happens. Some even toy with history and emotions, especially of the poor Pinoys, just to have them on their side. We Pinoys are really like bamboos: we are strong, but are easily swayed by winds.

These tactics and the Filipino people’s mindset during this year’s elections are the same ones we have seen in the past. Such is the nature and culture here in the Philippines during election periods, and not even an automated system of election can change that. We need to mature politically and socially as Filipino citizens before anything fruitful can happen to this nation.

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