We must really be an optimistic people or there’s simply no other choice but to hope and dream. Here we go again, hoping and dreaming that the coming 2022 Presidential elections would be different, that we’ll have better candidates, and that we should be able to choose who to vote for and lead us to a better life for 6 years being in office.
Not to dampen your spirit. We can try as we should to have the coming elections to be an election of programs and platform as it is in other countries. Nothing could be farther from the truth, however, at least if our previous elections serve as reference, we've never had an election where real substantive programs were not only the subject of debate but were the basis of choosing the winning candidate. Yes, there were debates, candidates discussed programs, but hardly did anyone speak of how to deal with an issue substantively as to make any concrete commitment. Commitments were made only on motherhood statements.
It would be difficult if not impossible to forecast the kind of policy direction of a would-be President that much; whether by looking at the background of a candidate and/or the supposed party s/he belongs to, there is not much anyone can do to make sense of what policies may be adopted once already in government. We may be able to forecast in time who among the candidates will likely make it, but regardless of the many pronouncements a candidate makes, it is only when s/he is already in Malacanang that we will know if any and how of the pronouncements is made into a reality.
This setup is perfect for influence peddlers. There’s a significant need for lobbyists as wanting to have particular policies and programs adopted can only be done when the election is done and there’s already someone at the helm. The need for lobbyists is always there in many countries except that in our case, we don’t have the system to ensure that all lobbyists do their work professionally and even legally.
Anyone who intends or ambitions to have any place or role in government would not want to be entangled politically, whether before and during the campaign. So, advocating as the hustings ensue is incumbent on us the public, to oblige candidates to respond and advance particular proposals to resolve important issues. This shows the limitations of the existing system. Definitely, advocating to a sitting administration would be an entirely different context compared to engaging a candidate running for office.
The disadvantage is with the general public as elections obviously are conducted only to get people get to positions of authority and not to push for much needed programs as in most developed countries. Once in position, it would be impossible to make sense of a particular policy direction for the whole administration. This means in the end, once in position, the public is no longer part of government in terms of its operation, other than recipients of programs and as periodic measure of the good or bad that the leaders are doing.
As part of policy making, it is now entirely up to those in government and the stakeholders who can advocate for their interests, whether directly or through their representatives. This is why influence peddlers and lobbyists are essential given the kind of system we have, where only those who have the resources can take part. This also explains why policies and programs are often conflicting in the Philippines, it depends significantly on who is pushing for what at any given time. A group may be able to have its interests pursued with the adoption of a particular policy or program, but an opposing group would likely pursue another that a conflicting policy is adopted in time.
Even the determination of candidates has become difficult. Compared to previous Presidential elections, we still don’t have much to conjecture and or argue as to the would-be candidates. There had already been questions asked by many if it is not yet too late for anyone planning to run next year; to prepare and as much possible categorically declare his or her candidacy. As it is now, no one among the identified personalities who would most likely run next year have yet to make their plans known.
If we are to look at previous Presidential elections, we have seen contenders making themselves known at least a year before the elections. We have seen this in all Presidential elections under the 1987 Constitution or since 1992. Even with the last Presidential election, for example, the public was already certain that Senator Grace Poe, then DILG Secretary Mar Roxas, and then Vice President Jejomar Binay will be among the candidates, well ahead of the filing of candidacy or at least one year before 2016 elections. Perhaps, it’s because of the still ongoing pandemic that those planning to run have yet to really act on their plans or it could be some strategy.
In 2016, it will be recalled that then would-be Presidential candidate Rodrigo Roa Duterte was the only one of the many eventual candidates who did not make his plans known earlier. In fact, his daughter, now incumbent Davao Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio had both been denying that then Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, popularly known as Digong, will be running for President. In fact, even at the last hour of the filing of candidacy, Digong denied he was running and, in fact, filed his certificate of candidacy for Mayor of Davao.
This despite him going around the country with his party PDP-Laban popularizing his advocacy to have more power given to the local level through a shift from the current unitary system of government to federal. A party mate who is now an undersecretary at the DILG filed a certificate of candidacy for President on the date of filing by October 2015. By way of substitution for his party mate, then candidate Duterte filed his certificate of candidacy through a representative a month after, on 27 November.
This seems to have become some template for those who now have plans to run for President. Make all the necessary preparations discreetly, but try as much possible not to make your intention to run, public. Of course, it could not be entirely denied, especially that one has to make the preparations regardless, if only to ensure an effective campaign when the election bid officially starts. Any and all of these necessary preparations will surely be noticed, but keep on denying until you finally file the certificate of candidacy. It has been seen as a good strategy as it will allow the would-be candidate to avoid criticisms while s/he concentrates on preparations. It worked before for Pres. Duterte to win from an original number 5 position in the surveys so it must be effective. This explains why no one is making their plans known now for the coming elections. We will most likely know more only come October, when the filing of candidacy comes to a head. Until then, everything about 2022 election is nothing more than posturing.
The system, as it is, already makes it difficult to determine or pursue any kind of policy direction. How much more in the situation now where we hardly know who exactly is going to make that presidential bid? In a situation where we already know who is running, at the very least, we’ll have time to carefully check everything there is needed to know about each and all of the would-be candidates. There would be enough time and even options to engage the candidate on prevailing issues and concerns. There is then enough time to really weigh in on each of them and decide who deserves our precious support and vote.
The 6-months campaign from the filing of candidacy to the voting day on May, as it is, is already not enough. There are already so many day-to-day concerns everyone has to contend with, how much more with this pandemic? Yes, we’ll have more time to read as many are just at home most of the time now as they work from home, but it only means that so much will just depend on social media. How many of the social media users know how to filter or distinguish fake news from real news? The main means we now only have will be the exchange of the many propaganda that have in fact already started, which will definitely increase as we move closer to election day. We will then have to plough through tons of filth that will most likely be exchanged among different candidates.
We can then just assume that the names being floated now will be the candidates. Regardless whether they will admit or not, we will have to weigh in on them, find out not only their background but the people and/or groups who are identified with them. We have the same crop of political personalities anyway, so there should be some track record we could use to make sense of things in government once they are in power.
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Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.