Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Nuisance Candidates and Their Place in Philippine Elections

Well, there we have it. After a week, we now have a list of individuals and party lists vying for the right to serve our nation. All in all, we have 172 individuals looking to gain a seat in the senate, 19 for the vice presidency and 130 for chief executive.

The week was filled with excitement, anticipation and drama. Excitement filled the air as the major candidates brought, what it seemed like, entire barangays to witness them file their COC's.  

The biggest surprise came from Miriam Defensor-Santiago who decided to run for president after taking an extended leave of absence from the senate these past few months due to her cancer. This definitely topped Jamby Madrigal's surprise filing in 2009. The rumblings started when a post from the senator's Facebook page spread throughout social media indicating an urge to run for the top post. Apparently, all she needed was the support of society leaders to go for the presidency.

The biggest drama, on the other hand, came from the Duterte camp. On Monday, he announced he would definitely not run. His filing for Davao City Mayor was then followed by the filing of his own daughter who proceeded to shave her head killing the rumors that she was against her father's potential presidential bid. People were on the edge of their seats last Friday as they waited to see if Duterte would file. Alas, it was not to be. But it's not the end of the world for you Duterte fans. A Duterte campaign is still possible with Martin Diño filing for the presidency under Duterte's party. PDP-Laban can decide to substitute Duterte in for the VACC chairman.

Aside from candidates who actually have good shots at winning, a number of relative unknowns and long-shot candidates flooded the Comelec office in Intramuros. Alleged NAIA bomber and perennial nuisance candidate Ely Pamatong started the week by burning the Chinese flag. Former Tesda chief Augusto Syjuco also joined in the fun in what seems like a bid to avoid the graft charges he is facing.

The whole week, the news revolved around the filing of the COC's. Unfortunately, based on social media, certain aspects of the filing of COC's did not sit well with our brothers and sisters.

One of the biggest concerns brought up in social media is the torrent of nuisance candidates that flooded Comelec. We witnessed a good chunk of people claiming that God asked them to run. We even had a guy going by the name of Arcangel Lucifer joining the presidential race. A guy came out with his kids who claimed that he was some kind of Intergalactic Ambassador. And with all these craziness unfolding, we now ask ourselves, are these nuisance candidates making a mockery of our elections? Should they be denied filing?

Nuisance candidates have been a staple in our elections for generations now. Filipiknow.net shared an informative piece recently regarding Valentin Delos Santos who was Eddie Gil before there was Eddie Gil. The notion that the nuisance candidates issue is new is wrong. In fact, only 9 of the 99 people who filed for the presidency reached the ballot in 2010. Vetellano Acosta was supposed to be number 10 but he was disqualified after KBL disowned him and claimed they've never heard of him. Apparently, that did not discourage him since he filed once again.

Nuisance candidates are good for a few laughs. But is that all they're good for?

Last week, a man named Romeo Plasquita officially filed his bid to be our nations next president. Sure, there's no way he's gonna make the ballot. But maybe in his case, he may have already provided us with good service.

Plasquita, by showing up in front of the media and filing his COC, gave us a face we can recall when talking about the sorry state of our retirees. Being the son of both government employees, my parents have shared stories about their colleagues who got screwed out of their pensions. Mr Plasquita's case is not special. But at the same time, when was the last time we've talked about it?

Judging by the way Mr. Plasquita talked in front of the media, it's obvious he's not really aiming for the presidency. He just wanted someone to listen to him. Hopefully, filing his COC gave his concerns a louder voice because his plight is shared by millions of retirees around the country.

Aside from Mr. Plasquita, we have also heard other ideas worth discussing from other nuisance candidates.

Victor Quijano who is running for senator opened up the discussion for a highly devolved government. The Local Government Code of 1991 has devolved certain powers to the local government like maintaining tricycle routes and slaughterhouses. Aside from that, the law has decentralized departments so that services are more accessible.

Mr. Quijano wants to take it a step further where the national government is reduced to monetary/fiscal policies, defense, foreign policy and macro-level responsibilities. It seems like his model is the US government. Sure, it may not be feasible. But our diverse culture and geographic situation does make decentralization and outright devolution attractive solutions to our problems. How often have we blamed the national government for things that the local officials can handle? These national roads are handled by the national government so when we see potholes in one area, the mayors can only call the DPWH's attention.

Mr. Quijano may not have the actual blueprint to improve our government's way of handling things. But neither does the supposed legitimate candidates.We've been voting for legitimate candidates and our bureaucracy is still screwed up. I mean, to get a business going, you have to get a permit from the mayor, barangay captain, BFP, BIR and, in some cases, an ECC from DENR and whole lot of other stuff that will take forever. I doubt Quijano holds the key to improving our bureaucracy. But he's the first one I heard touch on the issue.

You may say that Duterte was the first to call for federalism. And I may agree with you in some point. But what Quijano brings that Duterte can't is a clear slate. We wouldn't have voted for Duterte had he decided to run. Had he run, he would've said it's the overwhelming support that forced him not his belief in federalism. Quijano, on the other hand, is all in with extreme devolution. If he makes the ballot, we're gonna vote for him for his ideas and not for who he is.

The great thing about nuisance candidates is that they're just like you and me. We're not great speakers who can make people hang on every word we say. We're not graduates of prestigious institutions. Nuisance candidates may not be worth our vote. But just like us, their words could be worth the listen.

People in the internet have questioned why the Comelec even allows these people to file COC's when we all know they're gonna lose. I understand it's added work. But is the freedom to run and talk get the discussion going on ideas not worth the work? Sure, a lot of potential candidates turn out to be complete wackos. But the same can be said about the people we eventually elect.

Now don't get me wrong. I am not advocating for the inclusion of all the people who filed for their candidacy in the ballots like the writers at Uniffors.com. I mean, I believe that for a democracy to be effective, ideals should be shared by our eventual leaders so we know what we're getting ourselves into. Nuisance candidates are incapable of sharing their ideals. They just don't have the resources What's the point of bombarding the electorate of names they can't connect with an ideal?

Nuisance candidates should be welcomed during election seasons. By all mean, file your COC's. Look at the camera and talk to us. Hopefully, when you speak of important issues we tend to forget about, more ears will be willing to listen.

It's easy to dismiss the ideas of ordinary people. But doing what's easy can get you somewhere you don't want to be.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Sexism and Philippine Politics: Liberal Playgirl Party

It's funny how the smallest things make the biggest impressions on people. I remember as a kid in the 90's, men staring and catcalling at women meant nothing and was considered playful. Nowadays though, pulling that sort of crap will turn you into the subject of a viral Facebook post overflowing with feminism. I guess it's better that way. Catcalling, whistling and staring at women are dick moves. They're just a few steps away from rubbing your elbows at a woman's breasts in the MRT. It's because of this attitude change that some people say sexism is fading the country. But then again I ask, what is sexism in the Filipino context?

I'm not really an expert in the field of sexism. I never took a single unit in college that tackled the issue. Heck, I haven't even been in a sexual harassment seminar. Do they even offer those things in companies here? I'm not even entirely sure.

Sexism has been a focus here in the country thanks to the Liberal Party who decided to throw a little soiree here in Laguna. Apparently, the now ex-Chairman Tolentino was the culprit of the mess. Even though he and his allies have denied the allegation, the public backlash has resulted in his desire not to be included in the party's senatorial slate. This doesn't mean he's no longer running. He's just distancing the party from the scandal. Aside from that, a complaint has been filed against Tolentino by a group led by aspiring senator and attorney to the stars Lorna Kapunan.

But I ask though, was it really sexual exploitation as many claim? Don't get me wrong. I don't share the sentiments of Rep. Benjie Agarao who is just too damn hetero to see anything wrong with the performance. I'm just curious as to where do we draw the line?

Sexism and sexual exploitation has been a long-standing issue the Philippines. From the sex dens that sprouted near the US military bases to Jennifer Laude, it's been a constant issue. The underground market of prostitution has turned our country into a destination for sex tourists. There have also been reports and raids of internet-based sex violations. Aside from that, normal days are also littered with inappropriate remarks brought about by sexism. Even the revered field of medicine doesn't escape this reality.

But there are instances that make me stare in confusion when people say something is sexist. One of the incidents that come to mind is the Coco Martin controversy with Bench.

People cried foul because they saw a woman being dragged around the stage by a man. Of course, Gabriela got into the fray. Netizens were pissed and could not understand how a show where a man walking a woman like a dog was allowed to be showcased. But then again, they were not trying to show a woman in a leash. She was portraying some sort of feline and Coco Martin was supposed to be some kind of lion tamer. I don't see anything sexist about it. For one thing, the woman was bending like no woman would. She was obviously trying to portray something completely different from a woman.

I don't see a hint of sexism in this example. It was just a performance. Provocative as it may be, it's a performance.

But let's return to the liberal party and this little mess they made. What made this wrong? If you use my explanation for the lack of exploitation and sexism of the Bench fiasco, I wouldn't blame you if you'd think I see nothing wrong with the performance in Sta Cruz, Laguna. I mean, they're just portraying some oversexed women looking to screw anything that moves. Their not generalizing women. They're just portraying fictional versions of themselves when onstage. Plus, they're doing it willingly and they're happy with the cash. It's common practice here and abroad. There can't be anything wrong with that, right? WRONG!.. well for me...

Before I start discussing the difference between the two incidents, I'd like to let you know that I'm not a big fan of the Liberal Party or "Tuwid na Daan". It's a fair assumption that I'm just pulling them down. But sexism and sexual exploitation are not isolated in the LP. A lot of politicians regardless of their party have been linked to mistresses. Child rapist, Romeo Jalosjos is even supporting Grace Poe.

Returning to the Liberal Party incident, there are a few things that set it apart from the Bench incident or even bold movies.

The occasion in Laguna was attended by people just looking to support their candidates and celebrate with their congressman. Unlike the Bench incident where only the fashion world was meant to spectate the event or bold films where people of right age are the intended viewers, the event in Laguna was meant for all who supported the LP. Some of the crowd were even under-aged. What happened in Laguna was a form of sexual exploitation because these women who performed were exposed to people who were not conditioned to appreciate their performance. Sexism is a form of hasty generalization brought about by a trigger and that trigger can be a sultry performance. And I doubt the dirty old men in the event thought of that.

A defense given by a lot of people in the internet was that the members of the Playgirls were not exploited since they happily accepted the gig and the cash they were given. But if a drug addict happily snorts meth, is that okay? The Playgirls, like addicts, were conditioned not to realize what was happening. They are not like a twerking Maja Salvador because if Maja stopped twerking at ASAP, she is still going to get paid. If Coco Martin no-showed that Bench event, he'd still be a star today. Unlike Maja Salvador or Coco Martin, they need to grab every opportunity to perform. Even if they saw the kids and thought it was inappropriate to perform, it's unlikely they would deny the officials there of their performance. I mean, had they not performed, they wouldn't get paid and get this media exposure.

There are a ton of things in this event that can piss me off. But after going through everything connected to the issue in my head, the main thing that irks me is the fact that come May, this event won't matter. Those politicians in the event will easily get pass this. This has happened before, especially in local government. And it will happen again. Their electoral fate won't be determined by this incident. The LP's electoral fate won't be determined by this incident.

We can draw the line on sexism for the average schmuck. But as far as politicians are concerned, that line can be pushed as far back as they want.

Sexism is alive and well in the Philippines even if we may think it's fading away. We may think we are slowly shifting the tide. But taking into consideration the leaders we elect, we can't fathom the amount of damn we don't give.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Are Elections Derailing Our Long Term Development?

Infrastructure development is a key cog in economic progress. At least, that's what we are taught. If you think about it, what kind of an investor won't take into account the traffic situation of an area in determining where to place a business? No sane businessman would willingly deal with constant water shortages or power outages, right? These are things that even a normal, high school kid would know. But why is it that the government constantly fail to address looming or current infrastructure problems?

I've written about traffic and one of possible steps that could be taken to lessen it on this blog. But recently, traffic is not the only infrastructure concern popping up on TV news broadcasts.

Lately, a problem with water supply is being felt by our friends under Maynilad. But the government has assured that they're on top of it. Fears of hoarding are apparently unbounded as the air force is ready for cloud seeding operations and a "water czar" will be ready to quench our thirst in the coming months. 

Cloud seeding and forming special agencies to help with the water problem is all well and good. The same can be said about the HPG manning EDSA, truck bans being halted to prevent port congestion and the Interruptible Load Program to lower electricity demands. But why did we have to come to this? Why hasn't the government been planning for the EL Niño? It's not like this is the first time it happened. Why did we have to wait until now to address the traffic problem? LTO should have known and alerted the president or whoever of the increasing number of vehicles, right? Shouldn't the DOE have an expected power demand data sheet or something?

Why did we have to come to this?

It is easy to blame the present administration for our problem with infrastructure. I mean, they are the ones in charge. But to say it is all Noynoy and his stooges' fault is not enough. 

The Philippines has not been the best when it comes to devising and implementing long term plans. It's not this administration's fault that a person from Bulacan needs to get a job in the Metro to gain "decent" salary. It's urban planners of past generations that gave us this setting. The power crisis we had last summer may not have been an issue had the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant been running. But of course, Cory and succeeding presidents allowed that plant to rot. The blame is not solely on this administration. But of course, they are not free of responsibility.

One of the most noticeable trait of our politics is how our leaders refuse to acknowledge the great things being handed down to them by their predecessors. This trait is not exclusive to the national level as I'm sure all of us have noticed how projects in our towns are stopped once a new mayor comes in. This behavior is due to the need for politicians to hog the glory and credit. 

Voters attach a certain project or policy to an individual politician. A good example of this is how Marcos supporters point to the expressways to legitimize the dictator's rule or how the Aquinos brought democracy back to the Philippines. But aside from being too simplistic, this behavior can be a deterrent to progress.. 

The North Rail Project that the Arroyo administration tried to initiate may have proved valuable to us. But since there were anomalies in the project, it's been thrown to the back burner by its successor. The same happened with the Nuclear Power Plant. Politicians are discouraged to look through the ideas of their predecessors because they don't want their names to be attached to these ideas because if it ends up being good, they have to share the credit. And if it doesn't end up well, they get all the blame. This lack of cooperation within succeeding leaders is why our development on all aspects has not caught up with our neighbors'.

"Ipagpapatuloy ko ang Tuwid na Daan"

Ever since the fall of Marcos, presidents have usually been succeeded by the opposition or by someone who they did not endorse. The only presidential winner who had his predecessor's endorsement was FVR.

From 1986 to the present, the older generation have said that life was better in the 50's or 60's. The Martial Law era may have been a major cause of that as people like me maintain it had a negative effect on our development. But at the same time, why haven't we been able to at least return to that period of optimism? Maybe we have now. But why did it take us so long? Was the Marcos era that devastating or have the quality of leadership regressed? Remember that that time of supposed prosperity came a decade or two after World War II. It's been three decades since the supposed slump of the Marcos administration. Even with the help of the Americans, I can't see Martial Law having been worse than a war.

Maybe the ever-present call for change has done more bad than good? Maybe it's because of how we understand "change". News programs keep saying change starts with us. "Ako ang simula" has been the saying in TV Patrol since 2010. But what do we change? Some think that merely changing the leaders is the thing. Some say the ideology needs to be changed like how a Duterte federal government, tighter leash style is needed. Some say the way voters think needs to change. Whatever the case may be, some sort of change will occur in 2016. Whether it be a change for the better or a drastic enough change is the question.

As of writing, three major candidates have officially declared their candidacy for president. Grace Poe has said that she will rule with her own version of "Tuwid na Daan". Mar Roxas has said he will continue Aquino's "Tuwid na Daan". Binay on the other hand has criticized this "Tuwid na Daan". While all these have been happening, we can only assume Duterte is riding his bike around Davao like the apparent bad-ass he is. (It's official; Duterte has joined the presidential election along with Miriam Defensor-Santiago)

Change is a coming folks. Like a storm heading our way, we can't stop it. I just wonder how Aquino's successor behaves with regards to things Aquino's administration started. If long term projects don't get awarded to bidders by March, will they get another chance with the next administration? Long term projects like the Manila Flood Control Plan may not reach the deadline. If no bidders are awarded for projects like this, will they be forgotten by the next administration? Will Aquino's high approval rating affect the decision?

The lack of long term planning is one of the reasons why we are still under the "developing country" label. It does sure take a lot of time to develop. And with another sort of change coming this 2016, we can only imagine what that change would mean to our "development".