Alunan’s choice/ Bobotante who?
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - May 7, 2019 - 12:00am

Rafael “Raffy” Alunan III is running for senator under the Bagumbayan political party (Bagumbayan Volunteers for a New Philippines Party). He is supported by Bagumbayan chairman Sen. Richard Gordon.

Gordon proudly describes the party’s “defined platform of governance, anchored on what the country’s forefathers have envisioned and fought for, to forge a new Philippines that is peopled by citizens who are enabled and ennobled and free.”

Rafael Alunan should be voted to the Senate. Let’s not elect candidates who know nothing about governance, who lie blatantly about their credentials, who look like they are obsessed with power.

Alunan, age 61, has decided to return to public life after a long period of assessment of the national situation, from his time in the executive branch. This is his second try for a senate seat.

He was taught at an early age by his wealthy parents and teachers that “our mission in life, the legacy we should leave behind to succeeding generations is a better country in all respects, at the time of my birth.”
  The stimulus for him to join the political race is that public service is in the family’s DNA. His grandfather served in various cabinet roles under President Quezon, as secretary of finance, agriculture and interiors.

Raffy served in the cabinets of Presidents Cory Aquino (Tourism) and Fidel Ramos (Department of Interior and Local Government). In private life, he was active in the Philippine Army reserves that had combat support and a humanitarian assistance role.

Raffy says he’s been lucky in life “to have been thrust in difficult situations and assignments and being able to accomplish my missions.’’ The assignments that he values were saving lives while he was in the DOT, DILG and the Army (from natural and man-made crises such as the 1989 coup attempt, Edsa 3, Pinatubo eruption and the Baguio earthquake); that defined him against crime, terrorism, rebellion and corruption that called for moral courage and fortitude, e.g. murderous local officials and criminal syndicates, Al Qaeda-Abu Sayyaf, RAM-MNLF-MILF, firing/filing of criminal charges against erring personnel under his watch, and those that called for perseverance in implementing the Local Government Code, peace-building and social reform.

If elected, he would like to focus on education reform with special emphasis on volunteerism, values and character formation and a relevant curriculum to ensure 100 percent employment of all graduates; criminal justice with special focus on housecleaning, professionalization and modernization; economic policy initiatives to maximize economic growth and development with an eye on poverty reduction and bringing the country to middle class status by 2040; funding the long-term requirements of the uniformed services to enable them to accomplish their national defense and internal security missions, and creation of one-stop-shop medical facilities for PWDs (persons with disabilities).

He would like to make amendments to the Local Government Code and Human Security Act. The law, he says, provides that it be totally reviewed and amended, every five years. Not a single review has taken place to date. The political environment is dynamic and has changed through the years. On the other hand the LGC has remained static.

“The Human Security Act is toothless, compared to those of our regional neighbors characterized by swift justice and harsh sentences like the death penalty. The situation here is the opposite which is why we are the favorite targets of transnational crime syndicates and terror organizations.”  

He has no problem with federalism. “What I worry about is our preparedness to make it work for everyone’s benefit over the long term.

“Federalism is being sold as the equalizer to remove political, social and financial inequities. For it to be so, it requires a change in the way we think and behave. Dynasties, warlordism, oligarchies must be excised from the equation. They’re still in place.

“The trouble is that our political culture of self-interest and self-service has resulted in the growth and spread of dynasties and endless insurgency. I would like us to shape up as a society that respects local autonomy, one that values performance excellence and turns its back on wrongdoing that harms society and the state. We cannot bring the mistakes of today and our political culture when we cross over to federalism or that will be the end of it from Day l. It will be stillborn.”

* * *

From the time we’ve had elections, it’s only the one scheduled this coming Monday that the term “bobotante” has come up to describe certain types of voters. Bobo in English is stupid, ignorant, naive, dumb. In the context of the local voting public, the latter English translation seems closest to the intended meaning in Pilipino.

How this term came about only this year could be an indication of many people’s frustration at the way by which many voters do not seem to take their choice of public servants seriously.

This is not to say that voters in past elections were more discriminating or more intelligent in  their choice of candidates for public office. It’s probably just the looming fear among many that based on the questionable background and lack of qualification of many candidates this year, we may be setting a record for the most number of bobotantes or dumb voters.

Have we really come to this ... that instead of voting for candidates with proven integrity and are highly qualified to truly serve us, we instead choose those whose claim to fame has nothing to do with competence and honesty in public service?

I was discussing this with a friend who agreed with my observation but said that I shouldn’t be too harsh on those that we tag as bobotantes or dumb voters. It is possible, he pointed out, that majority of those we summarily dump in that category are simply ignorant, or just do not care, about the background of candidates.

He recalled a conversation he had with a young salesgirl at a department store in Makati. While waiting for his correct shoe size, he asked the girl if she was already of voting age. It turned out she’s a first-time voter, having turned 18 only last November.

Asked about her choice of candidates for senator, she confessed she knew very little, or practically nothing about them, and would vote only for the few whose names she was familiar with or those recommended by her relatives and close friends.

With much of her time spent at work and commuting, she said there was absolutely no way for her to check on the background and qualifications of the candidates. “Sir kayo, sino ho ba ang mahusay na mairerekomenda ninyo?” At that, my friend immediately called up his driver to bring over some hand fans and leaflets of Bam Aquino that were in his car. In the meantime, he pushed for the girl to seriously consider voting for his other candidates (yes, Otso Diretso). He then rattled off the names of those he said she should not consider voting for and why. She promised she wouldn’t.

Dumb voter? My friend emphatically said it’s more of damn candidates who take advantage of voters who do not know the bitter truth about them. 

Today is Bam’s birthday. It’s a good time to greet him, “Happy Birthday!”

* * *

Email: dominitorrevillas@gmail.com

RAFAEL “RAFFY” ALUNAN III
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