Sunday, February 25, 2007

Citizenship and mendicancy.

The Philippine election season is definitely on.

Posters of candidates are everywhere, you can't listen to AM radio without hearing an election campaign jingle, local TV (during the very few times I watch it for the news) has several political ads showing every fifteen minutes, and newspapers carry on with election related articles day after day.

Last month I had been called by people connected with one Senatorial candidate or another, seeing if I'd be free to write articles for them. They call it PR (as in Press Release) writing or Political Writing or more ambiguously, Communications. I have so far considered just one or two and actually went as far as meeting the candidates for job interviews. I know I'd come highly qualified for the job, having done most (if not half of all) of the writing in Richard J. Gordon's 2004 Senatorial campaign.

Just last week, my wife (who is pregnant but not yet heavy with child, just plain heavy), got assigned by her TV Station to do political commentary and she has so far trained her sights on the performances of certain Senators, hoping to tilt at the windmills in an attempt to show the folly of voting for certain types of candidates.

Talking with my wife regarding her new role at her TV station led us to a discussion about the relevance of this year's election. I mean, so what?

The 2004 elections, being an election year where the country would elect its President along with Senators and all the local executives, was perhaps more pivotal or crucial to determining the direction which the country would take.

The 2007 elections, however, is a different game. This is when, quite possibly, the Legislative branch of government could have a great change in character -- something akin to the change of character which was seen in the United States Congress. The last Philippine congress, particularly the House of Representatives, was dominated by pro-Administration congressmen and this was crucial to the Arroyo Presidency, especially in the face of attempts to impeach the President. The Legislative body arising from this year's elections is expected to be dominated by the opponents of President Arroyo, from the Senate to the House of Representatives. But what of it?

Well, impeachment can rear up its head again. So called crucial legislation may not be passed. The proposed 2008 budget itself may go under more scrutiny than usual. Generally, the Arroyo administration might have a more difficult time from 2007 onwards.

This may or may not happen. So what?

My view is that it does not matter what the composition of the Legislature becomes this year. We will definitely have more of the same as we did in every other election prior to this.

The debates in both houses of congress bear little relevance on the lives of most Filipinos. Political issues are self determination issues, propagated by the very few people in this country who have evolved beyond gut and social issues. In other words, while most of our politicians promise to solve the gut issues of voters, what they really do when they get elected is to try and resolve their self-determination issues.

Charter Change, dominated the discussions in the last Congress. We had a few laws that might deliver on gut issues (Mar Roxas' cheap medicines law, Richard Gordon's Tourism law).

Every election is a vote for the Status Quo or against it. Since the lives of most Filipinos have not changed (with most of them still being concerned mostly with immediate gut issues), I think we will elect more or less the same kinds of government officials -- people who can deliver or credibly promise to deliver the goods. And the goods haven't changed... jobs, health services (meaning generous dole outs for medicines, hospitilzation, surgery, etcetera), food (meaning, again, dole outs), etcetera... all essentially basic need items... The majority of the population generally look to dole outs to solve their problems.

The thing is, none of the candidates will really deliver these goods... They can't. No one can provide for the entire livelihood of 20 to 30 million voters.

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