Elections
EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star) - May 13, 2019 - 12:00am

Today is the day of fervent hopes and butterflies in the stomach; the day we choose between the devil we know and the devil we don’t; or the day some of us will hope the surveys were wrong, partly wrong or just totally wrong.

For today, once again, in this nation of 100 million, is yet another election day. There is so much hope and there is so much desperation. 

Whatever happens, Filipinos will again make history. We will troop to cramped school buildings, the one with faded walls, missing chairs and broken ceiling fans, to cast our votes. We will be assisted by sleep-deprived teachers and surrounded by paid honchos of power-hungry politicians.

The homestretch is never easy, but the journey was even more difficult. Some have died because of this election, brutally murdered in broad day light on their wedding anniversary or killed in front of their children.

The disparity in politics has been stark and telling and the race has been shameless - siblings fighting endlessly, husband and wife running in two different districts in the same city, and spin doctors weaving tales of conspiracy so absurd Morpheus and Neo must be rolling on the floor laughing.

The campaign has deeply divided this country, online and offline. God’s army of trolls were extra nasty, old friends have become enemies and journalists have been called either good or bad, depending on our tweets and likes.

Every election season, the narrative is simple -- victory is the goal, the enemy is the incumbent and the champion is the new messiah who will do us no wrong. 

The army of the sitting king has everything they need to win the war and they probably will, thanks to a huge machinery and celebrities who raised their arms for that trademark fist bump.

On the other side, the crusaders are hoping against hope that victory will be theirs. They are fighting until the end, but they unfortunately could not even come up with a strong platoon. 

For sure, the bigger battle in 2022 won’t be easy, especially if their goal is to topple the sitting king or the feisty red princess who will likely succeed him.

It will not be long and this country will soon have new senators, new lawmakers and a new set of local government officials. Some will be new but some will be recycled names who have completed one reign after another with shameless uselessness. 

Everyone, I am sure, has made a promise during the campaign trail that things will be better if they get elected. 

Elections are necessary in our journey toward achieving genuine democracy and I believe in this exercise; it is better than nothing. 

But the narrative I’ve seen in past elections is problematic and there’s a lot of fixing that needs to be done. Filipinos hold on to campaign promises and there is so much hope. Sadly, the promises are soon forgotten and everything just fades into oblivion.  This should not be the case. Elected officials must be made accountable. 

After the ballots are cast and the winners are proclaimed, things go back to the way they were. The poor stay poor and the rich stay rich and generations and generations of politicians are unable to save this country of 100 million. 

It has a lot to do with the system’s follies. One of the most serious problems we face as a democratic nation really is this -- it’s the great divide between those who govern and those who are governed. There is an enormous distance between the common citizens and the policymakers who govern from their heavily guarded chambers. 

This distance makes it impossible for those who are elected to really know what to do and the power they get makes them numb to the harsh realities of society.

Majority of our local politicians think governance is just about attending wakes in basketball courts where they shake hands and give their constituents a few pesos. It’s not. Governance is knowing what their constituents need and actually providing that -- jobs, education, health care and many, many more. It is enabling citizens to live decently, way above the poverty line.

Those who know what to do can’t do much either. Why? Because promises were made to the voters, but the real commitment was given to campaign donors with vested interests. They will soon forget about the millions who put their names on their ballots.

The citizens on the other hand, don’t really mind. They are too busy making a living.

The result is a monotonous co-existence between those who govern and those who are governed and elections and campaigns have become nothing but a break from this boring life.

People go to sorties for a chance to see Sarah Geronimo.

Because of this great divide, the common citizens often don’t know why they need to vote or who they can vote for.

What do people do then? They turn to nightly soap operas for answers. They think the action star in FPJ’s Ang Probinsyano will be the kind of valiant hero we need in the Senate. 

Or they take the cue from Freddie Aguilar’s songs. 

Iris Gonzales’ email address is eyesgonzales@gmail.com. Her Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales.                 

ELECTIONS
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