Through the Looking Glass

Words by: Claudio Sanchez

Supporters of Aguinaldo paid off the participants of their convention to cast their vote in favor of Aguinaldo, the first president

Philippine Elections – A Closer Look

Elections in the Philippines usually have three qualities, festive and colorful like its many fiestas, controversial and headline-grabbing like its celebrities, and dirty like its history. Many candidates build themselves up as the greatest thing to ever happen to the country; the fabled hero destined to grant them salvation from the cold fingers of poverty… only if you vote them because they can’t do all of that without the grand machine of the Philippine Government working for them. Mudslinging is the norm and overly optimistic promises are the SOP. Violence has also become an election staple – it’s during this time that crime rates spike. Each candidate hires a crew to assist the voters and as well as to look out for cheaters who were hired by other candidates to manipulate the result of the election. Cheating has sadly become an election tradition.

All tension between parties would escalate and reach its tipping point on election day.

A quick history lesson would show us that electoral fraud was already there during the birth of the Philippine Republic – the 1897 Tejeros Convention. Allegedly, supporters of Aguinaldo paid off the participants of the said convention to cast their vote in favor of Aguinaldo, our first president. Quite riveting stuff. Despite being the first republic in Asia, The Philippines has not evolved much when it comes to the election process. What first started off as a simple piece of paper and a padlocked box has evolved into a symbol of power. A remnant of an archaic system that is riddled with holes just waiting to be abused.

It’s been 116 years since the first election and not much has changed since then: People flock to the precincts, put their votes into a box along with their hopes and dreams for themselves and the nation, the boxes will be then taken to the COMELEC for counting and tallying. Just 3 steps and a whole lot chances for “accidents” to take place. These accidents include but are not limited to: power outages, fights, ballot boxes missing, kidnappings, etc.

But it gets better.

It would then take two to three months (which technically feels like an eternity) before winners are proclaimed. And then add another 6 months or so because there is an 85% chance that a losing candidate would accuse the winning candidate of fraud.

A Dynamite Lit on Both Ends

It’s not just the “election fiesta” that poses a problem but the voting body as well. We, (by “we” I refer to the Filipino masses) have an annoyingly personalistic view of political leaders. The majority of the voting body rely on the personal appeal of candidates like his or her demeanor, looks, charisma and political heritage. Most voters pay no heed to the one actual thing they should be focusing on – party platforms.

How a candidate delivers a line (and how that certain candidate looks when delivering that line) poses more concern for the mass voters instead of tax reforms and regulations, how to EFFECTIVELY make education a priority again, and the like. You know, things that actually affect the nation.

The Silver Lining

US elections are a far cry compared to ours. While ours is in theory a depopulating tool, theirs is something worth emulating. I’m not saying that it is a paragon of electoral efficiency but it’s at least something worth looking into. And normally, the election season in the U.S. would only take around 6 months, here we have designate a whopping year and a half for it.

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