imyeyes-banner-sqIn My EyesBy Edward B. Antonio

IN MY EYES: Rate your candidates

The heat is on fellas this campaign period, fellas.

Now you see them, now you don’t. This Holy Week, some of our candidates sported that penitence look and joined the processions, holding a couple of lighted candles. That’s a form of campaigning, too, being Maka-Diyos. But do they stay in church for another hour too after the procession?

Still confused on who to vote on May 13? Everybody wants a change for the better or best, but things are confusing nowadays especially so that their promises for a better future are reaching higher levels.

When I was young, all I thought of election campaigns were a sort of fiesta – lots of colorful decorations that lined the fences and walls. One time, while we were flying kites in the farm one post-harvest season, a chopper suddenly emerged, roaring low. We watched the chopper in excitement, then, all of a sudden, small pieces of paper (we thought they were peso bills) were thrown out of the chopper, decorating the atmosphere like a shower of confetti.

We, children, ran to get the “money.” The race was around 300 meters away, but to our dismay, all we got were campaign ads for a politician the size of a paper bill.

And so, what should we do to get the best of our precious votes, fellas?

Well, here are 3 tips to a confused voter to clear up his mind as suggested by Ayee Macaraeg:  

1. Score your candidates

Know your standards and how well candidates meet them. Paola Deles, deputy director of the International Center for Innovation, Transformation and Excellence in Governance (INCITEGov), presented a candidate criteria: integrity and track record, legislative agenda, and “capacity to win power for reform.”

Sample questions include: Has the candidate been implicated in corruption or grave public scandal? What is the reputation of the people closely associated with the candidate? Has the candidate ever been caught cheating, lying, stealing or applying double standards? What is the candidate’s track record in human rights, respect for women and children, dealing with minority groups and peoples?

2. Balance ‘anti-epal’ campaign with need to know accomplishments. Edna Co, dean of the University of the Philippines National College of Public Administration and Governance said politicians must be able to present their track record like the bills they authored, those passed into law, resolutions adopted and positions on key issues.

For Co, screening candidates boils down to 3 P’s: profile, platform and performance.

3. Engage with reform-minded candidates early on

“The wake-up call for us was really bakit parang walang iba. (Why was there no one else?) It was really because we did not start early in taking care of candidates. It’s something we want to start working on but we cannot do it without the actual political parties working on it but we should be part of that process,” said Deles.

In the Philippines, vote buying is prevalent in poverty-stricken areas such as those alongside skyscrapers, industrial estates, haciendas, and gated communities.

How many poor people do we have in the country? A research shows that if we go by the subsistence minimum approach, which is less than $1.90 a day, 2015 data from the World Bank show that around 22 million Filipinos or one-fifth of the country’s population still live below the national poverty line, while 1 in 10 individuals are vulnerable to falling back into poverty.

Meanwhile, when it comes to self-poverty ratings, the results of the Social Weather Stations survey for the last quarter of 2018 showed that 50% of Filipino families think they are poor. Although poverty incidence in the country has significantly improved throughout the years, poverty in aggregate numbers remains high and the pace of poverty reduction has been slow. The poor, who make up a significant chunk of our population, have the ability to elect either seasoned or rookie politicians into positions of power. This is understandably why politicians do their best to appeal to the masses, and in most cases, they make claims that they too were once poor, hence they supposedly have the best interests of the poor in mind.

But why are there so many poor people in the country in the first place?

   Social scientists have answered this already, but the myth of rich thinking vs poor thinking, and industriousness vs laziness keep on getting stuck in people’s minds. This is because we get bombarded with rags-to-riches stories in popular media, making us believe that the key to living a comfortable life is the mindset of rich thinking coupled with perseverance and patience.

   But when we are confronted with facts that show there is global inequality where about only 10% percent of the global population own 90% of the global wealth, while 3.7 billion people are living a life of poverty, then we get to realize that this is not just about rich thinking vs poor thinking but poverty by design.

Mark Anthony Abenir, an associate professor and director of the Simbahayan Community Development Office of the University of Santo Tomas said that this poverty by design is played out in political dramas. When trapos get elected, they do their best to recover the money they spent in bribing the masses by pocketing government funds and accepting bribe money from dubious government transactions.

Nowadays, trapos have become innovative in their strategies to buy votes. They claim government projects as their own, acting as if these services were funded with money from their own pockets. They are also wise in scheduling the delivery of such social services, usually when elections are near.

When people say that poverty breeds criminality as crimes in the country are often committed for survival, we can also conclude that poverty breeds trapos since a lot of people who need to survive allow their votes to be bought.

Indeed, poverty is the bread and butter of patronage politics. If we want to prevent trapos from holding public office, we should do more to address the root causes of poverty, instead of blaming the poor and branding them as “bobotante.”