The next elections are still about two years away but the Senate is already being rocked by a scandal that can destroy the reputation it built more than 60 years ago.
Last week, three senators—Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr.—were dragged into the pork barrel scam by no less than a colleague—Sen. Teofisto Guingona 3rd, also the chairman of the blue ribbon committee. Guingona’s move was not surprising, with the names of the three senators having cropped up for alleged involvement in misuse of priority development assistance fund. His naming names showed that the Senate needed a clean-up.
While the three senators and others linked to the scam await formal court charges, an angry public, for sure, wants those who will be proved to have stolen from the people jailed, and the brains of the multi-billion racket unmasked and punished.
Amid calls to have those involved in the pork scam charged in court, especially those who were voted into office, it is time for voters to learn lessons from the theft of development funds.
Elections in the Philippines are popularity contests and give those unfit to aspire for public office a chance to get elected and gain access to billions of pesos in people’s money.
But gone are the days when media here encouraged debate among candidates seeking public office, and where the candidates themselves were open to dissecting issues among themselves.
In the United States and other developed countries, political campaigning on the road or through television is used to explain to the electorate critical issues.
In the Philippines, however, pressing matters are cast aside in favor of “qualifications” of a candidate: good looks and popularity that are drummed up by catchy slogans.
Who should be faulted for failing to educate the voters to exercise their constitutional right of suffrage wisely? The media, as well as the Commission on Elections, can be chastised.
In the end, however, the electorate itself is to blame for voting undeserving individuals into Congress, especially the Senate.
It would be a tragedy if the voters forgot the lessons that should be learned from the pork barrel scam.
Perhaps, they could take off from the thought that public office demands the highest moral standards, especially now that government resources must be used wisely to alleviate chronic poverty in the country.
Voters in the 2016 national elections should realize that they should cast their ballots very wisely and make sure that corrupt officials are kept out of public office.