It’s still a year and a half before the 2019 mid-term elections, yet the major parties are now preoccupied with filling up their 12-person senatorial slates. It’s premature for a couple of reasons, and is nothing but a disservice, if not disrespect, to the Filipino electorate.
On Friday, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez reportedly announced that Palace Communications Assistant Secretary Esther Margaux “Mocha” Uson (who is also a blogger and ex-dancer) and Palace spokesman Harry Roque will be drafted to the senatorial slate of the ruling PDP-Laban party in the 2019 mid-term elections.
Also set to run for senator under PDP-Laban, are Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles, Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Benitez, Bataan Rep. Geraldine Roman, and former Metro Manila Development Authority chairman now the President’s political adviser Francis Tolentino, Alvarez said.
The PDP-Laban president, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd, quickly texted a clarification to Senate reporters that the firebrand Uson was “not yet” an official senatorial candidate of the ruling party.
Yet Pimentel, whose reelection bid could be subject to a legal question (he is technically on his second and last term, after winning his electoral protest against Juan Miguel Zubiri in 2011), had no qualms including himself in the mix, saying: “It is a good list. Once I join them in that list it becomes a mix of ‘old and new faces.’”
Was it a “good” list? To the party bosses, yes. But the reaction we saw on social media was different.
To be fair on Alvarez and Pimentel, they were not the only ones to announce their likely senatorial bets this early.
On September 3, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the Liberal Party Senate slate would be led by Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th and former Quezon representative Erin Tañada.
Later that month, Sen. Cynthia Villar, member of the Nacionalista Party and wife of former senator Manny Villar, said Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos and Taguig City Rep. Pia Cayetano were likely to lead rival slates in the 2019 senatorial election.
Without casting aspersions on the names mentioned or removing their right to run for public office, the violent reactions to the early announcements indicate a dissatisfaction on the quality of the candidate pool, and even a resentment that certain names are being foisted (forced?) on the electorate this early in the game. This begs the question, “Is there no one else?”
These premature announcements only show the lack of maturity of Philippine political parties and these parties’ low regard for the voting public, which is assumed to be easily enamored by celebrities and other “winnable” candidates.
There is no serious primary or winnowing system that allows not just party officials, but also voters to vet candidates and examine their fitness for office, even before their names are included in the ballot.
In their provocative book, “Why Nations Fail,” American scholars Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson blame the absence of political inclusion or broad-based political power for the lack of prosperity in a number of countries.
“Countries such as Great Britain and the United States,” they wrote, “became rich because their citizens overthrew the elites who controlled power and created a society where political rights were much more broadly distributed, where the government was accountable and responsive to citizens, and where the great mass of people could take advantage of economic opportunities.”
Not so in the Philippines, where power is monopolized by a “narrow elite” that is more concerned about self-preservation than improving the lives of the people.