THE WORM’S EYEVIEW 523: We deserve the government we vote into office

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/18 July) — It’s a truism in a democracy that the people deserve the government they get. It means that in our case, if we don’t like our government, it’s just too bad—because it’s what we deserve!

After all, we are the ones who established it in 2010 with our votes. We elected PNoy and his team. Well, maybe not us, but his team won most of the votes. Even if we voted for another team, they won, so we’re stuck with them till 2016.

Because they won, we delegated to them the power and authority to recruit and appoint the functionaries that take charge of the bureaucracy. So if we don’t like the way they run things, it’s too bad again, because that’s the way democracy works.

As for congress, we also elected the people who became our congressmen and senators. And we pay the law enforcers with our taxes.

Thus, if we’re unhappy with them, it means we made the wrong choices. Or we didn’t have enough sense to vote for or campaign harder for better people. So we end up with officials who make us unhappy.

We ought to learn a lesson from this. One is to select candidates more acceptable to us—and not rely on traditional politicians, trapos, to do the selection for us. Doing so creates a situation where big trapos with bigger ambitions get selected, then commit grand corruption.

Meanwhile, unhappy though we are, we have no cause to complain. We chose them, or we let others do the choosing, so we deserve them!

It’s sad to realize that other Filipinos cause our society to get stuck with undeserving politicians. We deserve better. We don’t deserve trapos who wallow in the morass of corruption and impunity, dragging our society down.

We should confront this problem. We should learn to keep away dishonest, hypocritical, or mediocre people who mislead instead of guide us onto the path of righteousness and good governance. We can do better. We just have to learn our lessons.

If we choose well, we would have an honorable, efficient, and reliable set of government officials. Unless and until we do, we deserve to be badly governed.

The idea about holding elections is to affirm the principle enshrined in our Constitution that “sovereignty (political power) resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.” Article II, Section 1.

But it seems this principle is misunderstood or ignored. It has not seeped into our society’s consciousness. It is ignored, substituted with stupid ideas like letting the money of trapos decide the outcome of elections.

Take the senators who won during the 2010 elections. They spent fifty or more million pesos to win the votes they needed. It was money that made them senators, not ideas, programs, or statesmanship.

Those who voted for them should now be asking about the value of their services to our society. Are they living up to the honor and the privileges bestowed on them by our nation? Is there any statesman among them?

Next time, be choosy. Be sure the candidates you choose are a cut above the norms we usually apply to good men and women.

To be a good man or woman is not enough; this applies to everyone. To be honest and well-behaved is the minimum expectation in a human being.

But to choose a lawmaker, and certainly a president, what to seek is exemplary character, vision, ideals. And there must be uncommon dedication to the common good—committed to good government, to social justice, with a strong sense of integrity. In other words, a leader and role model for everyone, not just to some, or to his barkada.

At the least, there must an uncommon commitment to serve, a strong conviction to uphold the rule of law, and dedication to duty. In other words, morally decent and fastidious as well as intelligent and responsible.

It is wrong to resign one’s self to the corrupt political culture spawned by the trapos; they are people with dubious attitudes and eroded values.

Be clear about what’s proper for our society, what’s good or bad governance, and what’s honorable public service. Then seek suitable personalities who meet the criteria and work for their candidacy.

It does no good to encourage self-styled politicians who think of freedom as taking liberties with whatever they can get away with. As long as they think that way, so long will corruption persist. And as long as we vote such people to office, so long will the corrupt culture endure. Learn to be discriminating! Be choosy! Because you get the government you deserve!

Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific; secretary-general, Southeast Asian Publishers Association; director, development academy of Philippines; vice chair, Local Government Academy;member, Cory Government’s Peace Panel, and PPI-UNICEF awardee for outstanding columnist. [email protected]