The Proxy Elections

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

I really like what Sen. Serge Osmeña said about the recently concluded senatorial elections, “P-Noy won but Binay did not lose.”

In my view, the 9-3 score is an affirmation of the President’s popularity. I do not believe that voters elected the senators because P-Noy said so, or (Vice President Jejomar) Binay said so. That P-Noy or Binay said so may have affirmed the choices of the people and strengthened their resolve to vote accordingly, but certainly the people chose.

Why, then, did P-Noy win if the choice was of the people? Simple. The most winnable candidates chose to be with P-Noy. That is why P-Noy won – because the most winnable believed they could increase their already good chances of winning by allying themselves with the most popular P-Noy.

It was not an electoral victory for the Liberal Party because only one candidate, Bam Aquino, is a member of the LP. But it was a political victory for the LP because it played most of its cards well. Instead of trying to apply its usual attitude of exclusivity, as when it wants to monopolize available appointive positions, the LP this time virtually admitted its gaping weaknesses by wooing non-LPs to be allies. Winning 9 senate seats with only one LP winner is a coup. Down the line, from congressmen to town councilors, the LPs harvested aplenty by mostly picking the most winnable, making them become party members or erstwhile practical allies.

Of course, this mode of playing to win is wreaking havoc to previous claims of good governance and principled politics. The public will be entertained with sterling models of “moral” victories such as Lennie Robredo’s so that the more common choices of one trapo to another, like dogs changing collars, will not draw too much attention. Many other “good governance” candidates were taught a lesson, not only by losing, but by seeing “matuwid na daan” – mouthing comrades somersault together with their principles. Victory is truly like a god that cannot be denied during elections.

By joining the LP as members or as coalition partners, wannabe politicians acknowledged the popularity of P-Noy. Consistently receiving 70 percent approval or trust ratings from the people even after three years is awesome. That popularity becomes more powerful as other countries or international institutions and organizations heap praises for P-Noy and the Philippines. This is a bad time for P-Noy haters. They can only broadcast their spite in social media, and mostly among themselves in a misery-loves-company drama.

May 2013 was a proxy election, less between P-Noy and Binay, but between Binay against the field in 2016. If P-Noy actively goes against Binay in May 2016, then the 2013 elections will have been a proxy contest between two individuals who prefer working with each other than fighting one another. To have the two most popular and trusted officials turn on each other would be painful and most destructive to the public who have faithfully supported both.

I believe that P-Noy naturally wants the momentum of positive development to prosper beyond his term. This is the LP’s most potent weapon in trying to make a president of change become a chairman of a party. The LP has to make P-Noy believe that only the LP can produce the next president who will pursue the transformation of a corrupt and impoverished country. It is a hard line to swallow, especially when there is none among LP stalwarts known for their uncompromising adherence to principle and personal integrity. There are a growing number of cabinet members who are complementing P-Noy’s stance on corruption, but most are not LP members. They are not even politicians (thank goodness).

Corruption has an evil twin called Poverty. Again, there is also no one among the LP bigwigs known to be a lover of the poor and committed to their emancipation. To the credit of both houses of Congress, the CCT program of the President has received support and an increasing budget. Because of the CCT, it is reported that a great many poor families have had a temporary lifeline. Yet, the CCT alone has not effectively addressed poverty and hunger, and 2016 will be decided more by this reality than any other.

Whoever will be the principal players of May 2016 will do well to remember the elections of May 2013 and previous ones. The so-called intelligent voters will not decide elections by the strength of their numbers – they never have. And they never will unless they can convert the majority whom they consider “less intelligent” to their kind of intelligence. I hope they have the conviction and will to do so because that means more Filipinos will work to get the poor out of poverty.

The same principal players will have to remember with equal importance that there is a youth vote. I believe that voters between 28 – 40 years old already make up the biggest vote segment. What there is none of are visible youth organizations who will cater to 18-27 years old and convert these to be the second largest voting sector.

May 2013, then, was also a proxy elections between a fading generation and an emerging one. This is a process that life witnesses constantly and one which I observe most enthusiastically. I have experienced too much of the former, being a member there, and it is simply time to allow, encourage and cheer the next generation towards a brighter future. I believe that many other Filipinos share this view. I believe this collective sentiment just voted in the youngest set of senators – ever.

I thought for a while that May 2013 would take on a State vs Church color but the Church was just too insignificant an influence this time. I know Church officials themselves were divided, and their acts of commission and omission expressed conflict of views. Lessons taught, hopefully, will be lessons learned.

The proxy elections of May 2013 are over. The journey to May 2016, though, picks up momentum. The interesting thing about Philippine democracy is that the majority usually gets its way during elections, and the minority usually gets its way in between elections. I hope it is possible for the minority to be more influential during elections, and the majority to be more influential in between. Quixotic?


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