Elections, for what?

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

Ballots being fed to Vote-Counting Machines at the Philippine Consulate in New York | Photo via Facebook

To hold on or to move on?

We hold on to what we want to be permanent in our lives. Our most cherished values, the foundations of that kind of life we strive for, can only grow deeper and become the DNA passed on from generation to generation. These we hold on to. These we choose to be our forever anchors.

However, their changing expressions and upgrading versions need to move forward and up. That is the only way life delivers change for the better. A mindless moving on simply extends what is – which, if it needs to be better, will only bring us closer to unbearable tension. We seek to make things better as our permanent purpose to gain more substance until virtues permeate our collective lives.

In the advent of a post-election situation and the entry of a new administration contrary to our choice, many of us are caught in a quandary. Do we hold on, or do we move on? Some have tried to give new terms to the same options – like moving forward, like moving up. Yet, the essence of the quandary is the same, with many still trying to rationalize a deep sense of loss.

I know many cannot move on. However, I would like to believe that we will be clearer soon. Even grieving will bring us who campaigned for Leni more clarity along the way. We have made a great investment, and that investment still seems worth sustaining. What made us give our all for Leni is what she stood for – and that remains an open invitation.

The election results may officially point to a huge endorsement for the winner and a huge rejection of a loser. Please dispel this thought and frustration from our hearts and minds. There are many reasons why the electronically-generated results make many suspect large-scale frauds. The laws of the land are legally responsible for addressing that, and they have not yet done so. Meanwhile, let us not play with the numbers game because we are and may never be sure.

“There are other reasons to consider that may even be more grievous than vote-buying. There is deliberate misinformation to prevent voters from processing facts if these are not favorable to some candidates. “

I, too, find it hard to accept our recent elections as clean and honest. In fact, to do so would mean I have to close my eyes, my ears deliberately, and my mind to rampant violations I know have happened. It is embedded in the law that vote-buying is an electoral crime. Vote-buying was so rampant that it is difficult, if not impossible, to find one municipality that did not experience vote-buying. The talk of every town from days before May 9 to after the elections were on how much money was offered and accepted by millions of voters.

Yet, we are being asked to move on without a massive rejection of vote-buying as a crime committed in our electoral process – morally, materially, and legally. Accepting this and quietly moving on guarantees that vote-buying will happen again and again. We are at that point when we should dispense with elections if we cannot keep them clean.

There are other reasons to consider that may even be more grievous than vote-buying. There is deliberate misinformation to prevent voters from processing facts if these are not favorable to some candidates. Fake news is the new global threat, and it impacts Filipinos even more viciously. The level of poverty and want, and the severe lack of opportunities for the marginalized, make them much more vulnerable to disinformation and propaganda.

If we cannot resolve clean and honest elections, we should consider eliminating them altogether. After all, they may just be a zarzuela, a ruse to give the veneer of democracy. If money can buy everything and we as a nation and society cannot dislodge it as our primary god, the sooner we accept the truth, the better.

It is not as though vote-buying, directly or indirectly, is a new thing. Those who enter politics already know it, anticipate it, prepare for it, and prepare for the money needed to win. If, by and large, that is the best way for candidates to win, by spending more, buying votes at higher prices, let us make money the centerpiece of elections.

“Each of us finds a pathway to more than just survive. We are part of one people, one motherland, and whether we take the easy way out or struggle for our highest aspirations, I pray we choose well.”

We can do that by first eliminating elections. The government can earn more income by holding auctions instead of having elections. It can set a floor price for every elective position and begin in the billions for Malacañang. Elections can become a huge industry that experiences a boom every three years.

An auction will finally bring to the open the commercial aspect of elections. Vote-buying becomes legal and not directed towards voters but at the government treasury. We can avoid all the emotional investment of ordinary citizens in partisan campaigns, and we also can have the auctions online, open, and transparent. Imagine the savings on government expenses and the revenue elections can generate.

Proving vote-buying in its current rampant and universal scale is not doable because it will counter proclamation schedules – also designed by law. Proving electronic fraud may prove to be even more impossible without a whistleblower and within the prescription period for the proclamation of winning candidates. Helpless as we are to change the pattern of things and see only their becoming worse, I am forced to propose a more honest way out of a mess – auctions instead of elections.

And one day, if our people, in their majority or the intensity of their passion, want to return to elections as clean and honest elections are supposed to be, let them in their time make it happen.

Each of us finds a pathway to more than just survive. We are part of one people, one motherland, and whether we take the easy way out or struggle for our highest aspirations, I pray we choose well.

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