Our damaged culture, our vacuous democracy

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THE RESULTS of the May elections show that while Filipinos have taken to democracy as a matter of practice, they hardly have grown in democratic maturity. Filipinos vote according to their stomach, their self-interest, not according to their conscience or for the common welfare.

More often than not, Filipinos confuse electing men and women to power not on merit and what the commonweal demands but based on narrow self-interest, such as jobs, education, and shelter (or securing spaces they have squatted on). Never mind the candidates’ moral turpitude, corruption, lack of education, lack of experience, and incompetence in office. As long as candidates kowtow to the voter’s narrow self-interest, they will get the votes of Filipinos. No wonder vote-buying has worsened through the years.

Who could blame the poor, anyway? They have grown desperate and they will sell anything–their dignity, their soul, their vote– to make the ends meet for their families. Politicians know too well to use all of this to their advantage.

An election demographic showed that more than 48 million voters came from Class D or the middle class, 9.8 million from the poorest, while only 3.7 million from classes A, B and C.

It is no wonder, therefore, that the slate endorsed by President Duterte handily won. The country’s next Senate will see the likes of Bato de la Rosa, the madman in Malacañang’s butcher responsible for carrying out his genocidal war on drugs; Bong Go, the President’s crony who refused to participate in debate forums during the campaign; and actor Bong Revilla Jr., whose silly dancing in his campaign ads should show how show biz could sugarcoat and even obscure the alleged plunder of the tens of millions of pesos for which he has been indicted in a graft court.

Once again, the outcome of the senatorial elections in this country has proven a complete mockery of the previous generations of lawmakers–men and women of intellect, dignity and respect. In electing more crooks to the Senate, Filipinos have consented to Duterte’s governance –full of vulgarity, sexism, misogyny, bloodshed, despotism, treasonous accommodation of totalitarian Communist China, and intolerance of public criticism.

All of this should confirm James Fallows’ claim three decades ago when democracy was restored after the Edsa revolution of the Filipinos’ “damaged culture.” It may be that because of the widespread vote-buying and Duterte’s distaste for criticism and dissent and his naked despotic ways, that the damage has worsened. Philippine democracy is not only damaged or flawed; it is vacuous. Definitely, it is blighted.

In local politics, there are indications of waning political dynasties.

For the first time in decades, no kin of convicted plunderer Joseph “Erap” Estrada will sit in Congress. The family patriarch himself was unseated as mayor of the country’s capital, much to his dismay; he lost even in his own barangay.

The Estradas lost San Juan too, where Erap began his political career in 1969. In Pasig, the Eusebio clan that has ruled the industrial-commercial city for nearly three days also lost.
But in other cities and provinces, dynasties continued to hold sway. The picture, therefore, is mixed.

New politicians who have unseated or deposed political dynasties now a chance to end a cycle that has been in Philippine politics since time immemorial, and raise a new generation of an electorate that would scrutinize their candidates well and make an informed choice come election day.

But they should be warned of turning out to be the very same kind of people they have defeated. Power is all too blinding, especially when one thinks he is a god and that money and influence can solve all his problems.

In the same way that the Catholic faithful were urged not to “leave out God” in voting booths, so should those elected be reminded too when in power.

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