CAGAYA DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 31 Oct) – No need to trot out the ugly statistics of vote buying and other widely-reported anomalies attending the just-concluded elections to say that they were very revealing and instructive… and symptomatic of the poor state of our so-called democratic system.
These were elections at the very base of our Republic: the grassroots, the wellspring of state sovereignty and the home of every Filipino—thus the cradle of our sense of honor, pride, and nationhood that we are called upon to die for if necessary.
But the unseemly spectacle of corruption and impunity in virtually all neighborhoods revealed how badly performing is our polity (various sectors of the community) to perform the essential roles necessary for good, honorable governance in a democratic order.
Can it be said that our supposedly democratic society is populated by a citizenry that is actively engaged in its electoral process? Are Filipinos participative and vigilant in their oversight of elections, assertive of the norms of behavior enshrined in the ideals reflected in our Constitution? Are our primary communities, the barangays, concerned about enforcing rules and regulations that ensure fairness and accuracy?
Of the Comelec, its deputized agencies, and other units of the bureaucracy that play a role in the electoral process, can it be said that they have been responsive, active, proactive, and readily corrective or obliging where defects and weaknesses in the system arose or were pointed out?
Far from it. To this day, evidence or signs of venality committed not only in these elections but in elections past still remain plastered in conspicuous places of our communities, proclaiming to the world that we are a society of scofflaws.
Of officialdom, high and low, instead of a sense of mission and statesmanship in the interests of open, fair, and honest elections, what was manifest was an in-your-face-defiance of the law and abuse of the norms of propriety. The very enforcers of our society’s mandates and values have often shown themselves to be the worst perpetrators of partisanship, dynasticism, and the culture of impunity that has come to characterize grassroots politics and public administration.
How about our venerable institutions (schools, churches, businesses, corporate citizens)? Could it be said in the course of these elections that they were civic-minded, earnest about corporate social responsibility, and an influential force for responsible citizenship? Far from it. Even churchmen are hard to imagine as truly engaged in rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s. Pulpit admonitions or advocacy can hardly qualify as engagement in the work and the ethos of the community.
Many families—so-called basic units of community and society—instead of serve as bastions of righteousness and moral conduct, became purveyors, perpetrators, and financiers of ugly electoral practices fielding cheats, deploying vote-buyers, harboring partisan campaigners in defiance of Section 38 of the Omnibus Election Code. Others that did not actively participate or exploit the electoral system simply stood passive and apathetic, oblivious to the tide of corruption that inundated many of their neighborhood compounds.
These collective failures caused the full play of atavism and amoral politics, letting what probably has been the most corrupt elections ever in the history of our grassroots democracy.
Have we lost our sense of delicadeza or propriety? How could we ignore the distinction between right or wrong? How could unfettered vote-buying, vote-selling, and myriad other violations take place without challenge or question?
To contemplate all these and let matters be is to accept that Philippine society is amoral and without ethical standards to live up to. It is to be resigned to the proposition our Republic stands on dubious moorings, rotten and corrupt.
It is to deny that it takes responsible citizens to establish a responsible government, that dishonesty in contending candidates can be a valid basis for an honest community government. A community that tolerates dishonest elections can only be one that subscribes to dishonest governance. Tolerating or suborning illegitimate voters can only establish illegitimate government.
Let’s face it: Wherever vote-buying triumphed, there will you find a government born of corruption, tainted by illegitimacy. Of the 42,028 barangay governments of our republic, how many are legitimate, created by honest votes?
No matter how small a fraction they may represent of the total, the nation’s integrity is already compromised. It is a blot on our nation’s honor.
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Manny Valdehuesa writes from Cagayan de Oro and is the president and national convenor of Gising Barangay Movement Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)