Sick Electorate, Sick Parties and Sick Nation

by Nap Imperial
24 May 2001

What do you say about voters who gleefully and repeatedly put back to a high office a convicted child rapist?

What do you say about majority of the people who rewards and makes a hero of a person who cannot decide whether he is a senator of the Republic and or a leader of agitated mass of people seeking to topple a government whose Constitution he is sworn to defend?

What do you say about a big number of people who almost voted President a person like Imelda Marcos and elected unopposed her two children for positions of Governor and representative when just years before, they were almost lynched and were forced to an exile for supposed sins to the country and people we cannot overstate?

And what do we say about the political parties that put up and harbor these kinds of candidates for public office? Indeed, why is it so easy in this country for the likes of these people to run for high public offices as if they were angels and saints and why do they have no problems getting elected?

This morning, according to the news in the papers and Internet, Romeo Jalosjos won resoundingly for the third time as Congressman of Zamboanga del Norte. He rejoices at the fact that he got more votes this time than the last election before his conviction.

What's the matter really with the people of Zamboanga del Norte? Have they run out of good people to represent them in Congress? Is it really nothing to them that their Congressman is behind bars and therefore cannot properly participate in the task and process of lawmaking? Is it another case of collective allegiance to a person, never mind the moral values that he represents and the message that his election sends to the young people and potential criminals? What price did buy their amazing loyalty? Is this what we can consider as a microcosm of a corrupted and corruptible people?

Have I not heard so many times from Filipinos returning from abroad that the way we have made so easy for the Marcoses, Pacificadors, felons, cheats, etc. has made the Philippines a laughing stock of the civilized world.? I have often heard that because they can no longer stand the scorn, they feel so ashamed to be identified as Filipinos. And don't we have many in our midst now, who are seriously thinking that if nothing can be done about the shame and stench of the electoral system that produces crooked leaders and perpetuate social corruption and misgovernment, they see no other option but to migrate?

I would like to ask not only the lawyers but also the legally inclined in the PF: don't you think our liberal and individual-oriented legal doctrines of human rights, presumption of innocence, due process, etc. have gone too far? Have we as a people and our legal system not thoughtlessly favored the offenders more than we care about long-term common welfare and the larger interests of the community?

Have we not evolved a brand of electoral democracy that has become the "refuge and sanctuary of the scoundrels"? How many times do we hear of shenanigans who claim untouchability because they have been elected by the people. With their election, they can shamelessly argue that the people and not the courts, is the better judge of their right and fitness to public office. Not a few scoundrels have indeed safely gotten away with their crimes with their electoral victory. And instead of reining on the political partied to make them responsible and responsive organs of participatory democracy, we have allowed them to serve as shelters and coddlers of the misfits and criminals.

Worse, everyone, even all of us in the PF, subscribes to the long-held myth that "the voice of the people is the voice of God" and that voice is supposed to be heard only through electoral exercises. (SAM, our resident Old Testament expert, do you find this in the Scriptures?) We should tremble at such heresy and sacrilege. With this well-entrenched myth , we do not only institutionalize, but we also sanctify political scoundrelhood. But now, I should know better. I now agree with Justice Isagani Cruz in his Inquirer column last Sunday. Certainly, such stupid decisions people make during elections cannot and will never be VOX POPULI, VOX DEI. In all probability, this can only mean VOX DIABOLI.

If the laws are the concrete mirrors of our institutionalized culture, I'm afraid that we indeed institutionalized political/electoral scoundrelhood. Tsk, tsk, tsk. there must rally be something palpable and pathetic with our electoral laws and exercise of democracy. When we legislated those laws, we might have conveniently overlooked or perhaps taken for granted the sure evils they will engender in our society. We have always assumed good faith on the part of every Filipino and future politician. This is the trouble when we resolutely refuse to acknowledge the damaged culture. We don't even want to admit that we need to be cured.

And so, for so long a time, we have not even dared or cared to put the needed safeguards against the very obvious defects of these laws. So, here we are, so helpless in curbing the excesses and bad effects of electoral democracy. THIS IS THE BIG ROOT OF OUR SHAME.

You have all read the press release that one of the most important legislative priorities that GMA will push in the next Congress is electoral reform. Towards this effort, I call on our PF lawyers to put in their collective and individual weights in the crafting of the needed legislation. Our lawyers can best start with the analysis of the holes that need to be plugged. We, who have been raving and ranting about defective and shameful political exercises that make us laughing stock of the world, let us pool our best and practical ideas to cure our well-entrenched electoral defects.

We should ensure that the legislation will not only be about modernization via computerization of election processes. More importantly , the law should ensrhine a clear and coherent moral philosophy, address the weaknesses of the political parties, strengthen the moral and intellectual qualifications of candidates (people with pending cases should be disqualified from running), prescribe stiffer penalties for and effective apprehension of vote buyer, riggers, sellers, fixers, etc. and invest in effective voter education.

Shall we again commission our good friend JOEY LEDESMA to draft a position paper that shows the correlation of systemic corruption with the basic defects of our electoral system and processes, s well as the specific areas of reforms that should be contained by the legislation. We can ask our guy BOBI TIGLAO to submit to and articulate that paper in Malacanang and the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office and the LEDAC.

So YOUR HONORS, please help ponder on the above nagging questions and their solutions and gear yourselves up to actions in the fullness of time.

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