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 DiƱo 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.

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