The Youth Vote and the Politics of Convenience

by Raymond Clarence Yu Rodis

They say that in politics, there are no permanent enemies and no permanent friends, only permanent interests. In no place is this more true than in the Philippines. Former allies now slug it out for control of the lucrative mayorship of Manila. Two parties that consistently attacked each other during the 2010 presidential election now make up the dominant coalition.

Call it practical politics, call it pragmatic politics, let us call it for what it is: politics of convenience. Even someone who was essential in impeaching a former president was welcomed back by said figure with open arms because it was proven he could deliver votes.

Political parties don’t represent platforms, they represent alliances, and those shift depending on how the political winds are blowing. Is it any wonder that turncoatism has become so commonplace? Almost two-thirds – 190 out of 301 – re-electionists are running under a different party in 2013 than the one they ran under in 2010.

Did their political views change so much in those three short years? Or was it plain opportunism? After all, who wouldn’t want to be part of the party in power? As one congressman so honestly put it after switching parties himself, “You’re not in office for yourself but for your constituents. It’s a big advantage if you’re with the administration because they’re the ones in power who can give benefits to your constituents.” I’m not even sure all of them are doing it for their constituents. Does anyone doubt that a large number will again shift loyalties once a new president with a different party is sworn into office?

It’s not like this in other developed countries. In the US, you have Republicans and Democrats whose differences are as clear as Boy Abunda’s head. One is conservative and pro-market, the other is liberal and big government. The idea of guest candidates running under 2 opposing parties, though they were thankfully dropped in the middle of the election, made a mockery of the party system. This is the political equivalent of playing point guard for both basketball teams. Talk about having your cake and eating it too.

Philippine parties are a different beast altogether. They are catch-all parties who try to appeal to as many voters as possible by not taking a firm stand on potentially divisive issues. Take the RH Bill for example as parties were anything but solid in their voting. They all make the same promise though, that they will fight corruption and end poverty. The question is how? Without an actual ideology behind them, it’s hard to see the concrete plan they have for the country. Rhetoric and vague statements can only go so far.

Which finally brings me to the point of this piece.

We have traditional politicians playing traditional politics. The status quo has only made the rich richer and the poor poorer. This is the system we’ve inherited.

We can say no though. We can do this by voting men and women for their ability and not winnability, voting those from consistent political parties and not consistent political dynasties and voting those for their platforms and principles rather than their personalities and patrons.

The youth, defined as those aged 18-33, are a very strong bloc that can easily make or break a candidacy. They make up about half of the country’s 50 million or so voters and their numbers are only growing. I firmly believe that we young adults are a little more idealistic than our parents; that we are a little less tolerant of corruption and abuse of power and that we are a little more open to change. Online media, as cliché as it may sound, has provided us a never-before-seen avenue for unfettered discussion, electoral organization and social movement.

Young leaders, because of either disinterest or lack of resources, do not often strive for higher government positions. It is disappointing that the average age for senatoriables is 53. That isn’t to say we shouldn’t value experience but youth, idealism and fresh thinking could inject a lot of change into the system.

We have no right to complain about government if we are not judicious about who we elect. Not everyone has to run for office but everyone has to be involved and informed. Plato said it best, “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.

This election, let us stop voting for ‘lesser evils’ and the ‘corrupt but effective’; and start voting for leaders we genuinely think are honest, clean and efficient even if you believe they don’t have a shot at winning. If enough people voted who they honestly thought was the best person for the job, more of these people would actually end up getting elected.

The late Jesse Robredo had only two criteria for choosing who to vote for. Matino at Mahusay. (Good and Competent)

It’s time we stop voting politicians and start voting public servants.

Raymond Clarence Yu Rodis is a third year undergraduate of Public Administration from UP Diliman. He is currently the Student Council Chairperson of the National College of Public Administration and Governance and is taking up his internship at the Presidential Management Staff.