The Mythology of the Philippine Elections

    The first election I was aware enough to remember was the 1992 elections which Ramos won. Ramos’s victory was not overwhelming. In fact, most of the country did not end up voting for him. It was a plurality victory, not a majority. But he still won–in the face of formidable opponents such as Danding Cojuangco, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, and Ramon Mitra.

    Since then, I have always seen the following formula used in the presidential elections by almost all candidates: “I will save the country.”

    This statement is far more loaded than it seems, since it has a very important premise: The country needs saving. The mere fact that this premise underlies all of the presidential candidates’ campaigns means that they know the country is messed up and that the people are aware the country is messed up.  I’m sure we are all in agreement that the Philippines needs saving. What we cannot agree on is who can save this country.

    Here are a few important tips, especially for the undecided.

  1. Myth: The president is the Messiah and will save the country in short order.
  2. False. The problems of the Philippines have deep roots in the hearts of everyone. The low-level corruption that occurs in the government—fixers in the LTO, for example—are there because there are citizens who patronize them. Sure, the system’s bureaucracy is frustrating and should be fixed, but there will always be people who want it the easy way.  As long as we would rather pay to get out of the long line instead of waiting for our turn, there will always be an industry of corruption.

    The president is not an omniscient and omnipotent arbiter who can smite offenders with legal lightning.  He or she cannot just suddenly teleport in when you have a complaint and set it right.  There are checks and balances that prevent that, which is probably a good thing.  The last time the president had the power to smite at will was between 1972 and 1982, and I don’t think we want to go there.

    No matter who is elected president, we have to remember that a vote is not enough to save the nation. The change has to happen in everyone’s heart. I know this statement is deeply pessimistic and idealistic at the same time, but we have to choose our candidates based on reality–and the reality is that not one of the candidates is the savior of the country.

    Only one person has the capability to save the country, but His agenda is a more personal change. He didn’t come to make a country outwardly religious or make the poor rich. As Dr. Ravi Zacharias often says, “Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good. He came to make dead people live.”

    For a president to succeed in changing the country, the people have to change first.

  3. Myth: Politicians running for office have no ties to anyone. They float in a void if they say so.
  4. False. A vote for a candidate is a vote for his or her backers. No matter how idealistic a candidate may seem in his or her ads, he or she has backers with vested interests. Some candidates have backers who are less obvious, but even the most innocent-looking candidate has people who are investing in order to profit. This is why I tend to prefer underdogs in the survey–they’re less likely to have a campaign driven by profit motives (even if those profit motives do not actually belong to the candidate). Watch out for the people around them, especially if the candidate himself or herself does not display the ability to resist popular pressure.

  5. Myth: Surveys are accurate representations of society’s pulse.
    1. Who is asking the questions?
    2. What kind of questions are being asked? (Are they leading or are they neutral?)
    3. Who is being asked?
    4. How many people are being asked?
    5. Is the sample representative of the population?
    6. Who commissions the surveys?
  6. If there’s one thing I learned in my graduate statistics class, it’s that statistics are only an approximation of reality based on a sample. Of course, the my questions about the surveys are:

    All we get in the media are graphs. The studies are not published in any rigorous academic format, where the formulas, questions, sample size and population are included. If they are indeed using a scientific method, where is the peer review? Where is the detailed study? What’s the margin of error?  The “surveys” published in the news are simply ticking off numbers– no credibility whatsoever.

    It’s very easy to just cook the numbers and post a table. Anyone who knows graphics can do that. One doesn’t even need to know Excel or any number processing program to do that. MS Paint is enough.

    Now while the SWS and Pulse Asia organizations may publish the complete scientific results of their surveys, the media does not.

    I have no reason to believe that the surveys are published in the media without any bias or prejudice. Of course they don’t want to bore anyone with the standard deviation and ANOVA. So they filter all of that out.  When filtered, the surveys simply seem to be just another political engineering tool. They give us a false dichotomy: “Either vote for this guy or this guy, because they’re the only two likely to win. The others? Don’t bother. They won’t win anyway.”

    The surveys that the media publishes are not the whole picture. That leads us to the next myth.

  7. Myth: The media is an upright watchdog institution.
  8. False. They’re a business, an industry. A business is meant to profit above all, and as such is not above bias. If it is profitable, they will do it.

    Please prove me wrong. Why do they have colossal facilities, state-of-the-art equipment, and extremely competitive lineups of artists and programs that keep the country glued to their TVs all day long? It’s simple–they want our attention, because our attention gives them money.

    It’s pretty obvious that their motive is profit; one only needs to look at popular noontime TV programs that make a show of being charitable. Ultimately all they do is profit off the poverty-stricken people who are just itching to get a break out of their lives.

  9. Myth: Voting for a candidate who is “losing” in the surveys is wasting your vote.
  10. This one doesn’t even make any sense. My duty is not to make a guy win. My duty is to choose the candidate I believe is best for the country. As such, getting a counted vote is the extent of my duty. If the candidate I support wins, then that’s awesome. If someone else wins, then I did my part.

    A wasted vote is one made with neither conscience nor reason, a vote made on emotional appeal, based on popularity, or God forbid, the surveys.  A wasted vote is one made without thinking.

    Now I don’t want to campaign for any candidate on my blog like I’ve done in the past—Facebook has a more personal touch to it for those purposes. I think it’s fairly easy to deduce whom I’m supporting here. Instead I’d like to declare here my voting principles:

    When one votes, one considers the facts, one goes beyond the media and does their homework, one prays for wisdom in the decision, and then one chooses.  Conscience and reason are not mutually exclusive–they go together. Conscience cannot make ignorant decisions, and the rational logic has to be tempered by conscience (Do I just trust the “scientific” polls? Do I vote for the only candidates who can win?) and a critical attitude towards the information one acquires. What one digs up on the Internet or sees on TV is not necessarily true; fact checks should be used to shut down email chain letters and constructed media scoops.

    The leader whom I should vote for one who should have integrity and competence. Integrity and competence are shown by the person’s track record and character when dealing with other people. As human beings, all presidential candidates have their flaws, but I have to remember that there are flaws that are tolerable and flaws that are completely unacceptable.

    Each of the candidates likewise has strong points, and each of them may not necessarily be untrustworthy and evil, but I have to remember—are they what the country needs right now?

    I’ve seen the way voters my age think, and the way my students, who will become voters within the next six years, choose their candidates. They—we—don’t trust the surveys. We seek knowledge and information. Our consciences are informed.  We don’t buy into the old myths of democracy anymore and are empowered to both seek out that knowledge and spread it to others. We think critically and know when to look beyond the media blitz. We deny the nation’s political myths their power.

    I may not be very optimistic about this election, but I’m very optimistic about the 2016 elections.


~ by J. R. R. Flores on May 1, 2010.

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