The preliminary results of the May 10 elections being flashed by the minute on our TV screens tell us something about the kind of future we have voted for and who we’ve become as a people. Here are 10 lessons we learned, and hopefully will take to heart and act upon:


1. We were bombarded with ads, but they didn’t seal our votes.

2010_elections_lessons_aquino.jpgAfter all, we had Manny Villar’s campaign jingle on LSS (last song syndrome) throughout the campaign; his story of swimming in a sea of garbage had him in one of the top positions for most of the past nine months. And yet, it is Noynoy Aquino, who didn’t have effective ads or catchy campaign jingles, who has clearly won the presidency with a 4 million margin against his nearest opponent. That this opponent isn’t even Villar shows that advertising doesn’t necessarily deliver the votes, at least not at this level of public office.


2. We are quick to forgive and forget as a nation.

Joseph Estrada
’s No. 2 standing for the presidency is a strange if not disturbing thing indeed. After all, didn’t we oust Erap in EDSA Dos? And yet it is telling as well of the kind of electorate there is, the kind that isn’t all about what people have done but about what it is they could still do. There’s a sense of justice here: Erap’s last advertisement was about his being ousted and not being allowed to prove what he could do. So who exactly went to EDSA Dos? Doesn’t it seem like there were very few of us there, now that he has millions in votes? It’s time to think of the possibility that we failed to educate the majority about corruption and Erap.


3. Dynasties die hard.

Another example of our collective short memory shows up in the ultimate political dynasty: three Marcoses are back in power. President and dictator (and acknowledged human rights violator) for 21 years, Ferdinand Marcos’s son Bongbong is senator-elect, daughter Imee is governor, and wife Imelda is now congresswoman. We panic when we hear the phrase martial law, but we seem to have forgotten the worst period of martial law our country endured—perhaps in that sense we have failed truly understand democracy and that fact that no violation of our rights is acceptable. In addition to the Marcoses, there are the countless mayors and congressmen who have passed on their positions to wives, sons, daughters—who have been welcomed by their constituents with open arms.


4. Name recall is king.

While popularity through advertising may not be everything, there’s the list of our senators-elect to consider. When asked to choose a number of candidates from a larger pool of unfamiliar or even forgettable names, a popular name—indeed, a celebrity name—seems to be essential. We’re seeing old names in the list of likely senators, made worse by the fact that some of these are actors and trapos (traditional politicians) who have done nothing in the Senate—at least nothing we can feel and hold in our hands. Stars like Bong Revilla, Jinggoy Estrada, Lito Lapid, and Tito Sotto going strong indicate that we still have some way to go before we can go beyond names. Because in these elections, it seems to be nothing but name recall.


5. Voters’ ed didn’t extend to pre-election research.

Even across the social classes, very few of us did think about our 12 senators, and that’s also because there was very little information available about them. While this is obviously true for those without Internet connections, money for newspapers, or cable television, even those who watched the televised debates in the end couldn’t keep track of all the information about the individual senatoriables and party lists. Which seems to be why name recall was a deciding factor in many votes.


2010_elections_lessons_pacquiao.jpg6. We still want stars to lead us, but it depends on which ones.

Those who didn’t win: Joey Marquez for mayor (who has won before), Ara Mina for councilor, Aiko Melendez for vice mayor, Jobelle Salvador for vice mayor, Imelda Papin for senator. These celebs may have been running against more popular (or proven) local candidates, or perhaps their own popularity has waned. Of course there were a lot of winners: Manny Pacquiao is now congressman of Saranggani (without any experience as mayor or vice mayor), Lani Mercado in Cavite has won by virtue of being Bong Revilla’s wife, and Lucy Torres in Leyte won in husband Richard Gomez’s stead. Finally, there were wins by celebs who have worked long hard years in public service, forsaking the limelight: Herbert Bautista is finally mayor of Quezon City after long years of service as vice mayor, and Isko Moreno (who started as uneducated garbage collector) is now vice mayor of Manila.


7. We made independent choices—independent of political parties, that is.

If we look at how the Aquino numbers for president rose vis-a-vis Mar Roxas’s numbers for VP, it’s obvious that people decided to vote for one and not the other. Jejomar Binay’s numbers rose at the same time that Aquino’s did, which is an indication that the NoyBi combo has become a potential winner. This rarely happens in elections, and it shows political parties in the local setting are tenuous alliances at best—and that we’re still dealing with personalities instead of platforms.


8. We were surprised by the power of the city mayor.

While Bayani’s track record with Marikina may not have cut it for him, Binay seems to have successfully sold himself as the best mayor there is, issues of corruption notwithstanding. As far as Binay’s PR and Makati residents are concerned, he is the best because he provides basic services that the rest of the local governments—make that the national government—are unable to provide for its citizens. Free education, senior citizen benefits, and health services have worked in Makati under Binay’s reign—and hopefully will translate to similar success serving the second highest office in the land.


9. We focused on machines and not people.

While it may have been time for a new automated process, organizers forgot to account for people management. This meant long lines for certain public schools, and the disenfranchisement of people who couldn’t—or wouldn’t—wait hours to vote. Some voters were pressured by the time limits, machines broke down, teachers were blamed, and people became frustrated with the act itself of voting. And while the leading candidate for president is winning such by a wide margin, it’s valid to ask for a breakdown of votes per region, which we used to have with manual vote counting in the past. Transparency with the results and their composition is the best way to give voters a good idea of where the votes are coming from, which areas voted for whom, and which area is the baluarte for each candidate. This should relieve the nagging suspicion that the quick and convenient results seem too good to be true for automation’s first run in third world Philippines.


10. We’re still very much influenced by the media, but we can use it to influence others too.

Still all-powerful and painfully so, the media now comes in more forms through which it can convince us. During the 24-hour election broadcasts on TV and up to now, across all the channels, the tendency of media personalities was to articulate happiness and awe at how fast election results were coming in, praising the automated system as if it were faultless. This has made the public think this system is perfect and its results unquestionable. But this isn’t true at all. When you think about it, all it takes is for someone to tamper with a CF card where all our votes are, and voila, different election results altogether. But now we can use the newer media—Internet, social networking, mobile messaging—to demand the truth and ask: how secure are elections in this country? Technology barely matters to people for whom staying in power is a matter of life and death, and in private-army-country, it’s easy to smell fear here, even if we weren’t victimized by it at all.


FN asks: What do you think? What else did you learn? What can we do about it?


(Photos courtesy of PEP.ph)

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