VERY few people seem to be taking the elections seriously. The political exercise has, indeed, become a national pastime for Filipinos. Because an election is a contest, candidates resort to various tactics, spins and propaganda to have an edge or stay in the game.
As the campaign fever heats up, the dirtier the mudslinging becomes. Candidates and their loyal supporters play really rough, but barely scratching the surface of the legitimate national issues.
And the gullible public appears to enjoy such shows, watching the antics and treating them as a form of entertainment, or a respite from the stress of daily living, particularly in Metro Manila where things have been moving ever so slowly because of traffic congestion at almost every street and instant flooding with the slightest of rains.
The social media has added color and shape to this zarzuela with memes that are often funny and sometimes ridiculous, insulting at other times.
If it is any consolation, these things are happening not only in the Philippines but in developed countries as well, such as the United States. While the US has its billionaire Donald Trump making the campaign period less boring, we have a Rodrigo Duterte using street language that shocks us and a Miriam Defensor-Santiago entertaining us with her popular pickup lines.
The media is partly to blame for keeping the campaign lowbrow or trivial. Coverage of the candidates has been mostly on a “he said, she said” mode while very few engage in substantive discussions of issues.
It was a relief, thus, to know that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) refused to take part in the verbal tussle last week between Duterte and Administration standard bearer Mar Roxas, when the public was watching what the next episode would be to their slapping match, especially when it threatened to turn into a boxing match or a gun duel.
Duterte must have realized that challenging Roxas to a duel could send him to jail because the act is punishable with six months’ imprisonment under the Revised Penal Code. Had Roxas accepted it, he could also be jailed for at least one month.
While trading barbs is part of the electoral process, we could only wish that candidates would try to outdo one another with better, doable plans to improve people’s lives when they get elected. They could talk of how they would, for instance, ensure the smooth flow of vehicular traffic on all roads, particularly major arteries like Edsa, C-5, Quezon Avenue, Shaw Boulevard, Ayala Avenue, Buendia Avenue, Roxas Boulevard, among others.
I wish they’d exchange blows with how they intend to drastically reduce the crime rate across the country, mitigate the adverse effects of climate change, prevent flash flooding that cause traffic gridlocks, reduce the profit margins of traders and manufacturers of consumer goods, and curb corruption in the bureaucracy.
Why can’t they fire at one another with words of wisdom to convince the electorate that they are worthy of our votes?
After all, what we need are leaders who can set a good example, not those who cannot practice what they preach.
The election is less than five months away. The official campaign period will start in February yet, but the candidates for President in particular, are now in high gear. The negative campaigning has somehow been helping to bring out the worst in the candidates, showing their true character.
We could only watch from the sidelines how rivals would further destroy one another in the coming months. As it becomes easier to eliminate those who do not deserve to be in public office, it also becomes harder to pick the one most worthy of our vote come Election Day.
Perhaps, the Comelec could provide the public some hope in our electoral system by tackling objectively and fairly the issues brought before the body. After all, its officers have sworn “to faithfully and evenly discharge its solemn constitutional responsibility of ensuring the sanctity of elections.”
If it decides to disqualify a candidate for lack of residency, it should not allow another to substitute for a nuisance who had filed for another position that was way below the presidency.