Liberal Party candidate for the President Mar Roxas (left of center with palm raised to sky) and candidate for Vice President Leni Robredo (in front of Roxas) with their family members and celebrity supporters.
Filipinos are fascinated with entertainment even before colonization. From traditional public recitations of our epics to the contemporary forms of storytelling in kalye seryes, we always find ways to entertain ourselves. Perhaps, our fascination with entertainment has been reinforced throughout our history of suffering. We treat entertainment as a way to ‘escape’ our daily troubles. In effect, we anoint entertainers as ‘heroes’ who save us from our melancholic lives.
Electoral campaigns deploy celebrity endorsers to capture the attention of the voting public. This strategy plays around with both our fascination with entertainment and our adoration of entertainers. Celebrities are perceived as effective tools to draw and mobilize crowds into campaign rallies. Not to mention, the recent decades have also shown a substantial number of celebrities elected in various national and local positions. This indicates the currency of celebrities in Philippine electoral politics.
The protection of indigenous peoples’ rights was not given priority during the entire term of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III. Indigenous peoples’ concerns were never mentioned in President Aquino’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) in 2010 to 2012 and only barely mentioned during the SONA of 2013 to 2015. In the 2013 SONA, President Aquino mentioned that the data for the PhilHealth coverage for indigenous peoples are still inaccessible. In the 2014 and 2015 SONA, indigenous peoples (IPs) were mentioned as among the beneficiaries of the Department of Education’s Alternative Learning System (ALS).
Photo from gov.ph
The Aquino Administration would like to believe that it has made strides in improving transparency and accountability. While there is empirical support for this, corruption is not the only gripping problem of Philippine democracy. There is also a need to improve government responsiveness, political inclusion, and popular participation.
There is reason to believe that current political leadership has not paid attention to these dimensions of democracy. With this in mind, the 2016 elections should be an opportunity for the new administration to explore instituting political reforms by amending the 1987 Constitution.
Voters fill out their forms in the mock elections held at the old UP Integrated School campus on February 2013. File photo by Jun Madrid.
Aside from a sense of duty and love of country, more Filipinos should vote on May 9, 2016. The reason is tied to the very essence of democracy. Statistical analysis indicates that because there are only two effective candidates in local elections, non-voting will make one’s least preferred candidate win. Here are the details of my argument:
Elections are no doubt stressful for candidates and the Comelec, but such stress is healthy for our democracy. Democracy is often measured through the regularity of electoral exercises and the extent to which these exercises are competitive.
The House of Representatives in session. Photo from Philstar.com
It must have been a shock for health officials and public health advocates to have learned that about a billion pesos was slashed from the Department of Health’s budget. The amount, allocated for the purchase of reproductive health commodities, was reportedly stricken out surreptitiously during the bicameral conference for the 2016 budget bill.
Reproductive health is among the issues considered priority by majority of Filipinos. Pulsa Asia’s 2007 survey on family planning, for instance, shows that an overwhelmingly majority of Filipinos believe in the importance of family planning and in government’s duty to provide budgetary support for it.
Its 2010 survey, on the other hand, indicated that about seven out of 10 Filipinos agree with the reproductive health provisions of what would become the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012.
The more recent 2015 Ulat ng Bayan, meanwhile, reveals that controlling the burgeoning population is among the ten most urgent concerns (although less pressing compared to the need to control inflation and increasing workers’ pay).