As the May 2019 poll nears, you may have already noticed the election scene in the Philippines going to full display. Philippine elections has a unique colorful character: with serious controversies like morality issues, disqualification cases, non-stop word bouts among candidates, meme-worthy issues, and of course, the dramas being thrown around coloring the arena.
Voting based on a candidate’s principles, abilities, and a servant heart is the way to go, hopefully, for the good of the country and its citizens’ future. After all, the Filipinos are some of the world’s most pleasant people who deserve a well-led government.
During election periods the media play a very vital role. The press is tasked to scrutinize the new candidates. They need to find out if they have more potential to be better leaders than the incumbents. They should consider the credibility of the candidates whether they belong to a political clan or not. Newbies in politics should also be covered so the voters will know them much better. Media should of course be fair and balanced in doing reports during elections.
Through the media, voters have the opportunity to look at the lives of the candidates. That is why, media should cover campaign rallies and platforms; expose the controversies and anomalies; and tackle other political issues during this period. Because whatever the media report, publish or air can affect the decision of the voters.
Of course, media are not perfect. Every TV, radio and newspaper company has its own shortcomings in covering election-related stories. And while the mainstream media continues to be the principal means of delivering election-related news to the public, in recent years however, new media including online journalism, social media as well as citizen journalism, which is widely gaining traction, are also aggressively being used in the candidates’ propaganda wars.
In the past years, elections have led to acts of violence targeting particular candidates, especially candidates for local offices, oftentimes resulting in civil disturbances or clashes especially in social media. It is not unusual for the period leading up to an election to be marred by violence between the factions of competing candidates. Attacks have involved drive-by shootings, kidnappings and bombing attacks to settle scores and eliminate political rivals.
In November 2009, a politically-motivated massacre took place in Maguindanao. The attack claimed the lives of 57 people, including 30 journalists, making it one of the worst election-related acts of violence in recent history.
But a much more disturbing feature of Philippines’ electoral democracy is candidates who had faced or with serious charges are still running for positions and being voted despite their tainted past? And this is despite the fact of increasing information through media and rising awareness hasn't led to a shrinking of tainted candidates.
Is it because many of the voters are illiterate, ignorant, or simply, ill-informed? Well, Filipino voters unwittingly support tainted politicians because they are ignorant about the biographies of their political representatives and the government is failing to carry out its functions – delivering services, dispensing justice, or providing security. Well-informed voters, on the other hand, support these candidates in constituencies where social divisions driven by party identification, linguistic affiliation, socio-economic status and/or religion are sharp. In contexts where the rule of law is weak and social divisions are highly salient, it provides space for a tainted candidates to present themself as a Robin Hood-like figure —a signal of their credibility to protect the interests of their parochial community and its allies, from physical safety to access to government benefits and social insurance.
Clearly, crime and politics will remain inextricably intertwined as long as Philippines doesn't make its election system transparent and clean, parties become more democratic and the state begins to deliver ample services and justice.
In truth, the next chapter of politics and administration should be the main story of the electoral event and not just the casting of votes. It’s really holding public officials to account for promises they made. Did the government officials perform well?
The Philippine elections is an emotionally and politically-charged period and place where the real battle happens in a voter’s conscience. And as the country prepares to go to the polls, I challenge everyone to fight the corruptive culture of the election of our country. Let’s cut this vicious cycle and avoid building a nation with no shame.
May God grant the desire of your heart.