AS we all visit the polls today for what we sincerely hope will be a clean, honest election, we have a real chance to make a difference in the way this country is led and what shape our future will take.
All through the election campaign, the candidates and their supporters have tried to convince us of their competence and noble intentions, and thanks to a few improvements in the way campaign organizations, the media, and yes, in rare instances even the Comelec—although it is entirely fair to say it did apply most of its effort to making a mess of things—approached this year’s election campaign, we think that Filipino voters are better-informed and engaged with the process and each other than they have been in at least a generation, and maybe ever. If that were not so, then we would not have had such an animated, and sad to say, often vicious months-long public discussion about the merits of this candidate or that one.
With all our focus on the individual candidates, however, we tend to forget that because of the way our democracy works—which is not too different from democracies anywhere else—we are not electing an individual, but an entire community of family, friends, personal and business associates, financial supporters, people with leverage, allies of convenience, and others with some stake in the candidate or the office he or she is seeking. Every candidate moves in his or her personal cloud of vested interests, whether they are as innocent and praiseworthy as a spouse and children, or as suspect as other politicians who only recently switched allegiances from someone else.
These are the people we should know something about, because these are likely the ones who are going to do the heavy lifting involved in actually turning policy into the day-to-day running of the country. The importance of this cannot be overstated, but should not come as a surprise to anyone; after all, we are just reaching the end of a six-year period in which we have been oppressed, one way or another, by dubious choices for the leadership of important government departments. The sad facts that we can’t get driver’s license cards, have to stand in line for an hour or more to ride a grossly overcrowded and manifestly unsafe commuter train, have to seal our luggage in plastic and packing tape to prevent contraband from being planted in it, and see many of our fellow citizens still living as refugees from calamities that happened years ago are the direct fault of those who our President put into key positions.
Yes, the ultimate blame lies with him—but the results of his poor choices could have been avoided, if only we had paid closer attention to the people standing behind the man at the front of the stage.
That means we have to make two judgments as we step into the polling place tomorrow: Do we agree with the policies and perspective of the candidate? And do we know, and have confidence in the people who are a part of the candidate’s personal little community to carry out the vision and policies?
We have already seen what happens when too many of us become bewitched by the persona of the candidate and allow ourselves to be taken by surprise by the low quality of the clique tapped to man the country’s institutions. Whoever our preferred candidate is as we cast our votes today, it is a mistake we should all try to avoid making again.