New Year briefing as we hit the homestretch to Philippine Elections 2010

This week, we not only welcome a New Year. We also welcome a New Decade. It’s 2010, another election year for our hapless “democracy”. In less than five months we will be marching to the booths to lock in our choices. As such, I got to thinking: If there were only three things that I could recommend that the average Filipino keep in mind over the next five months leading up to the next Fiesta Election, what would they be?

I came up with these:

– Popularity does not necessarily equate to validity.
– Standards of excellence must be the new Filipino ethic.
– We are here to elect a leader and not a mere administrator.

And lest I be, in all ironies, accused of stopping at mere platitudes and motherhood statements, I go further and expound on these.

* * *

Choosing popular options and biting at emotional hooks

The presidential elections in the Philippines comes down to a simple principle: The most popular candidate gets to be president. It can’t get any more complicated than that. What are the implications of this simple principle? Simple as well. The righteousness of The Vote is premised on the concept of the righteousness of what is popular or what is widely accepted in our “democracy”.

But stop to consider the things that are popular in our society. The television show Wowowee holds wide appeal and is, as such, popular. In contrast a program of more substance such as The Discovery Channel commands a smaller following (specially in the Philippines). But then between the two shows, which one would you say is a more reliable source of valuable information?

Or take a simple choice between reviewing for a Physics exam tomorrow or hanging out with friends at the mall. Which of the two is the more emotionally appealing option? That’s a no-brainer of a question, isn’t it? And, indeed, an even bigger no-brainer is the implications of your choice on what the future holds. The path to progress is not always the more emotionally appealing path. It is usually the path that requires sober deliberation to tread that leads us to long-term and sustainable success.

What sets apart humans from their closest primate cousins — chimpanzees, orangutans, gorillas, and bonobos is the ability to exercise restraint in the face of stimulus that beckons an emotional response. Progress is marked by our species’ individuals’ ability to restrain themselves from killing one another, stealing one another’s food, and mating with another’s spouse. The goodness or badness of the societies we build are measured by how inclined these are to wage war, how frequently the weakest of their members are exploited, and how widely accessible its collective resources are. The inclination to violence, exploitation of the weak, and hording of scarce resources are all emotional responses that are legacies of our animal origins. But our humanity is an ongoing exercise to suppress this with reason.

Likewise in these coming elections, our ability to progress — no, evolve — in maturity as Voters lies in our ability to suppress our responses to the emotional hooks extended by our candidates’ campaigns.

Standards: Taking platforms to the next level

For the first time in a Philippine election, issues-based platforms have become a significant subject of debate. What we are seeing now are the larval stages of a truly intelligent democracy. We have come a long way from lamenting non-platforms and gone-platforms to highlighting the existence of some rudimentary (some even intelligence-insulting) token platforms. That’s a bit of progress in just three months to be quite fair.

Now that we have politicians and their handlers scrambling to cough up token platforms, the next challenge is quite obvious. We need to now start applying standards. Standards make Filipinos’ knees tremble. That is because we have a sorry track record of upholding them to the highest degree. Credit that to our rather sad pwede-na-yan culture. But I digress. Kaya nga challenge, e. Challenges that matter are hard. And seeing the current crop of token platforms that have been fielded, we are in for a bit of a slog. But there is hope. If we could accomplish the next-to-impossible but groundbreaking task of highlighting the importance of platforms in a Philippine election, I believe we could meet the challenge of making those that have so far appeared a bit more useful.

In a response to Manuel L Quezon III’s expose’ of known campaigns in the Filipino political universe “Published Platforms“, I enumerate the following quality standards that we need to hold politicians’ platforms to:

(1) Clear articulation of the current (as-is) situation to serve as a context for Points 2 and 3 below and from which priority ISSUES are identified and defined;

(2) Clarity of POSITIONS taken on specific issues pertinent to the articulation of situation (Point 1);

(3) Clarity of ACTIONS to be taken to realise goals based on positions taken on identified issues (Point 2); and,

(4) Structural/relational coherence of a FRAMEWORK tying together the issues, positions taken, and actions to be implemented identified in Points 1 to 3 above.

Note how the above make use of four mutually exclusive but collectively exhaustive concepts — issue, position, action, and framework. Together they describe the whole point of what it means to be democratic and free: an ability to regard our problems, take a stand on them, and do something about them in an as efficient a way as possible.

Right role = right accountability

This goes back to the whole “debate” on whether a Philippine President is considered to be a mere administrator or a true leader. Among the first bloggers to fall into the trap of demoting the role of leader of the Filipino into a mere custodian of our laws and by-laws is the esteemed blogger Marck Rimorin in his article Excellence of Execution. While some clarity was achieved in my subsequent comprehensive response to the potentially misleading views Rimorin expressed there, the Elderly “Expert” himself Abe Margallo chimed in recently to deliver his two cents’ worth on the matter:

The president’s role in the process is administrative in nature (i.e., execution of those policies) except where other presidential powers are granted or recognized by the Constitution.

Unfortunately for the forces of primitivism, our experience in responding to Rimorin’s earlier snafu made coming up with a response to this moronism quite easy.

In short, our check-and-balance democracy (which originated in America’s own founding fathers’ phobia for tyranny) makes it easy for our officials to dilute accountability. Rather than take a categorical stand on a specific vision or direction that our country should take, they defer to the nebulous concept of “the people’s will” as their source of “guidance” and “inspiration”, in effect setting themselves up for a comfy no-results administration (in its most literal sense).

There is no true leadership in maintaining comfy and administering the status quo. Real leaders are those that are able to exhibit the courage to lead his people down difficult paths. A real leader is so respected by his people that they will be willing to follow him out of their comfort zones and into the unknown.

* * *

Perhaps five months is too short a period for Filipinos to learn lessons that escaped us for the last twenty five years of being a self-described “democratic” society. But considering the option — seeing the same results yet again, we may as well look to the next twenty years as an extended term over which our continued efforts to become a people worthy of the title democratic can be applied.

Happy New Year!

About benign0

benign0 is the Web master of GetRealPhilippines.com
This entry was posted in Elections and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to New Year briefing as we hit the homestretch to Philippine Elections 2010

  1. ilda says:

    As Abe Margallo would say:

    An excellent post! Very scholarly and well-written. Keep ‘em coming Ms. Lila.

    Just change the name from Lila to Benign0 🙂

    I might add my own reflection though. You said that:

    Progress is marked by our species’ individuals’ ability to restrain themselves from killing one another, stealing one another’s food, and mating with another’s spouse.

    Given that most Filipinos haven’t got the ability to restrain themselves from killing one another, stealing one another’s food and mating with another’s spouse, we can safely say that the Philippines has not progressed yet and will still not have the maturity to vote wisely. Heck, they won’t even understand your excellent post!

    • BenK says:

      Heh. I’m glad someone else noticed that. New Year’s Eve in our neighborhood was actually a depressing example of how far people still have to climb, despite the glimmer of hope our efforts have provided: the next door neighbor enthusiastically banging her boyfriend (husband’s working in Singapore), while a herd of trolls from up the street carts away food from the party downstairs, and two guys in the courtyard of the building in front of us scream and hurl beer bottles at each other for whatever reason.

      • Kahlil says:

        Hey everyone…

        BenK, you described a grim picture indeed. I grew up in Davao and back then (before 2001) this was a reality I was used to. I’ve not lived there for several years since then but have spent holidays there once or twice. It’s actually an amazing experience not to hear any fireworks go off at midnight. It’s a lot less crazier than in Cebu and I imagine a lot different from your neighborhood. I don’t know if this will work in other cities as well but i’ve heard some Davaoenos actually prefer the quieter kind of merry making. Read the link below, an article about Duterte’s role in all this:

        http://ph.news.yahoo.com/gma/20091231/tph-with-firecracker-ban-davao-city-reco-ce44f36.html

      • Kahlil says:

        “Real leaders are those that are able to exhibit the courage to lead his people down difficult paths. A real leader is so respected by his people that they will be willing to follow him out of their comfort zones and into the unknown.”

        There’s much to be said about Duterte’s “methods” of maintaining peace and order but one thing is for sure; enforcement makes a big difference.

      • Chino says:

        Hey! Now that’s something good to implement in Manila. If only someone would like to do what Duterte in Davao did. With the same level of will. Hello, presidential candidates? Nationwide ban of firecrackers, please!

      • ilda says:

        Hi Kahlil

        Wow! I love the way Davao imposed restrictions on the use of firecrackers.This is a good example of progress. Someone thought of a solution to prevent accidents year after year!

        I love Davao. I wish I could go back and visit there soon.

    • jethernandez says:

      “Heck, they won’t even understand your excellent post!” ….

      hehehehehe…. nice one…. AHHHHHHHH BASTA…. TAMA AKO… MALI KA!!!!

      • Homer says:

        “Heck, they won’t even understand your excellent post!”

        Yes, I thought that line alone spoke a thousand words.

        Not part of their “gut feel”, I suppose.

  2. Chino says:

    Practicing restraint = human
    Lack of restraint = animal or sub-human

    I like this point of the article. Bato-bato sa langit, ang tamaan ay guilty. hehe

  3. benign0 says:

    Guys,

    Indeed! It’s like Philippine history is a story of reverse-progress. The Marcos era (albeit much of it forced) was characterised by more restraint than post-1986 Philippines. In the Marcos era, inane and inciteful commentary, consumption of imported goods, and cultural trash was suppressed. Marcos controlled speech, curtailed importation, while his wife Imelda, steered culture in a clear direction (mostly her direction, but even then…).

    Of course curtailment of freedom of speech, free trade, and cultural expression are in more general terms bad. But it is evident today that the extremes of expression and consumption described by the above three examples are among the key factors contributing to the lack of coherence of our politics and lack of stability in our economy (due to consumption — of imported goods, particularly — eating up whatever funds could have been channeled to capital investment). In short, removal of artificially-induced restraint resulted in a degradation of our standing and dignity as a sovereign people.

    Today, the hollow-headed demagoguery of the influential, rampant consumerism burning through OFW dollars, and the trashy fare belched out by the Philippine Media are what characterise our society.

    • Kahlil says:

      “In the Marcos era, inane and inciteful commentary, consumption of imported goods, and cultural trash was suppressed.”

      hello benign0…

      now i’m really starting to wonder how pinoy culture was in the 60s in relation to the other Asian countries at the time. i heard stories that the philippines was an enviable country for the progress it was making then but i’m starting to suspect that the downward spiral of our culture started even before that time. i’m curious why the marcos regime had to suppress “inane and inciteful commentary, consumption of imported goods, and cultural trash” and what these materials are. i know voltes V was canceled but i don’t know the reason why it should be canceled.

    • Kahlil says:

      “In the Marcos era, inane and inciteful commentary, consumption of imported goods, and cultural trash was suppressed.”

      hello benign0…

      now i’m really starting to wonder how pinoy culture was in the 60s in relation to the other Asian countries at the time. i heard stories that the philippines was an enviable country for the progress it was making then but i’m starting to suspect that the downward spiral of our culture started even before that time. i’m curious why the marcos regime had to suppress “inane and inciteful commentary, consumption of imported goods, and cultural trash” and what these materials are. i know voltes V was canceled but i don’t know the reason why it should be canceled

    • benign0 says:

      @ Kahlil: I’m sure Pinoy culture was fundamentally the same back in the 1960’s, although today, there seems to be a general loss of direction compared to that time. It seems to have something to do with the kind of freedom we enjoy today — too much of it underpinned by too little substance and vision. It’s like the difference between a 5-year-old left to do as he pleases and a 25-year-old also left to do as he pleases. The 5-year-old will probably engorge himself with sweets, make a mess of the house, and play video games all day. A 25-year-old on the other hand will be out there making something of his life. A 5-year-old will lack all but the most rudimentary and shortsighted regard for his future, whereas a 25-year-old will be well aware of where he will most likely end up in if he doesn’t shape up.

      Between the 5-year-old and the 25-year-old in the above example, which one of the two do we think earned the right to be free?

  4. Homer says:

    It’s funny how Health Secretary Duque contemplates on banning firecrackers next season. Did that idea occur to him only now? And isn’t his term almost over? Hmmm….

    Another thought…isn’t it true that it’s almost impossible to get firecrackers away from the Chinese? That’s like asking them to ban soy sauce. It will be difficult to enforce a total ban, to say the least.

    Perhaps a ban on the ones that “explode” wouldn’t be too much to ask in Manila for a start. I think that’s reasonable…..Diba, Mr. Secretary?

    Every Jan. 1st, we get treated to the same film clips of bloody emergency rooms filled with drunk bozos and stubborn kids crying, “Arayyyyy!” …(sigh)…We never learn, do we?

    • Chino says:

      That ban has been contemplated for decades, but never implemented or enforced, or else the bribes will be lost. I thought firecrackers were banned, but they’re everywhere anyway since the enforcers are bribed.

      Maybe they could ban firecrackers, but not non-explosive fireworks. The makers should be able to shift to non-explosives, although they should be regulated since the products are still flammable. Pailaw imbis na paputok. I also don’t think Chinese are that embracing of firecrackers, as I see them as too practical to love something that can burn up their business, hehe. Are the Bocaue suppliers mostly Chinese?

      Of course, we can expect the customary controversy and resistance to this kind of thing, hehehe.

      • Homer says:

        I agree the fireworks allowed by authorities should be safer. i also remember the ban on fireworks before. Your guess is as good as mine with why it was never enforced….And yes, fireworks that don’t explode would be too boring for some. Thus, the usual resistance. Nothing new there.

        I didn’t intend to generalize about Chinese and firecrackers, but you can’t deny how much more significant it is to their culture. For one thing, they handle it much better than we do, and they’ve been at it much longer than we have. I just wanted to illustrate ONE example of how difficult it would be for local authorities to ban paputok “just like that”…And no, the Bocaue suppliers aren’t mostly Chinese, but you can ask them who (among their many patrons) comes back every year to pay a hefty sum for them…and they aren’t mostly Pinoy.

      • Kahlil says:

        “…but you can’t deny how much more significant it is to their culture.”

        Hey homer…
        I’m not sure how significant firecrackers are to the Chinese but i’m mostly sure they’ve not forgotten its symbol. What i’ve noticed about some pinoys who like firecrackers is the fact that they like it even more if it’s louder and bigger. The risk factor is so enticing to them that i’m not sure if they’re really out to rid themselves of evil spirits or they’re tired of having useless limbs.

      • Kahlil says:

        “…but you can’t deny how much more significant it is to their culture.”

        Hey homer…
        I’m not sure how significant firecrackers are to the Chinese but i’m mostly sure they’ve not forgotten its symbol. What i’ve noticed about some pinoys who like firecrackers is the fact that they like it even more if it’s louder and bigger. The risk factor is so enticing to them that i’m not sure if they’re really out to rid themselves of evil spirits or they’re tired of having useless limbs

        oh, now it’s working

      • Kahlil says:

        “…but you can’t deny how much more significant it is to their culture.”

        Hey homer…
        I’m not sure how significant firecrackers are to the Chinese but i’m mostly sure they’ve not forgotten its symbol. What i’ve noticed about some pinoys who like firecrackers is the fact that they like it even more if it’s louder and bigger. The risk factor is so enticing to them that i’m not sure if they’re really out to rid themselves of evil spirits or they’re tired of having useless limbs

        oh, now it works

      • Kahlil says:

        “…but you can’t deny how much more significant it is to their culture.”

        Hey homer….
        I’m not sure how significant firecrackers are to the Chinese but i’m mostly sure they’ve not forgotten its symbol. What i’ve noticed about some pinoys who like firecrackers is the fact that they like it even more if it’s louder and bigger. The risk factor is so enticing to them that i’m not sure if they’re really out to rid themselves of evil spirits or they’re tired of having useless limbs

        now it works

      • Chino says:

        Thanks for your clarification, Homer. And yeah, Kahlil’s spot on. The bigger the bang, the more they like it. In other words, the more fingers you stand to lose (or the whole hand), the more exciting it seems for them. Until the fingers or hand actually come off. Well, there you go, I’m sure they have the same attitude towards the country…

  5. Homer says:

    Hey Kahlil….

    I share your sentiments on the risk factor and the “bigger bang” theory in the case of the pinoy’s enthusiasm for fireworks. As for the significance to the Chinese, maybe one of them can post to set the record straight. What I know is that they have used fireworks since the 7th century, and I doubt it’s because they want it loud for their fiestas, hehe.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s