November 19, 2009

Kabataan party list shows the way

For all intents and purposes, election rules be hanged, the campaign for the 2010 elections began several months ago. The ubiquitous paid political ads, the news headlines and opinion pages herald the fact. But except for the laudable efforts of a few media outlets, the academe and election reform advocates to draw out what the candidates stand for, the trend has been to focus on the admirable qualities of the candidates, be they pedigree, professional credentials, business acumen or government positions held.

And, oh yes, which showbiz personality or media figure is running with or has endorsed whom.

In an election season, one expects that candidates aspiring for national office will endeavor to explain the body of principles, objectives and policies on which they stand in appealing for the electorate’s vote. If it is not in the form of an official document called a platform, then by way of their innumerable speeches and other public pronouncements in the course of the campaign.

But this has not been the case. More often than not the public is left to deduce such an orientation or platform from the candidates’ safe, motherhood statements and elections promises that have no connection with historical precedents, current realities and future directions. The candidates merely pander to what they think the voters want to hear. Or else they try to hoodwink the public into thinking that programs and platforms are not all that important because in the end, it is the character of the candidate that matters.

Certainly, the many crimes of the Arroyo regime involving moral turpitude – stealing, lying, cheating – have so scandalized the people and dominated the political landscape that many of our people are led to throw up their hands in despair and look to heaven for the God-fearing Lot in the Philippines’ version of Sodom and Gomorra. In the process, key and substantive questions of public policy and governance are forgotten, set aside or papered over.

Such as how to revive an economy, create jobs and salvage livelihoods ruined by decades of anti-people, pro-elite and foreign-dominated policies and programs. How to protect the little that remains of our plundered and devastated environment. How to resolve intractable armed conflicts rooted in poverty, backwardness and social injustice. And, not least, how to keep the country from being a surrogate field of battle for the US and other powers bent on maintaining their strategic interests and spheres of influence in this part of Asia.

One political pundit who likes to “explain” things to those he thinks unenlightened or ignorant even posited his own scenario and theory of 3 stages in the current campaign leading up to the May 2010 polls. He does so to explain away why programs and platforms could not possibly be a prominent feature of the unofficial campaign so far.

There is supposed to be the first stage of “Hi and hello!” wherein the candidates “introduc(e) themselves, individually, to the public”. Upon the holding of party conventions, the same candidates will be “introducing themselves as standard-bearers of parties with platforms”. Then come the official campaign period, “they will be competing with the other candidates to convince voters… that they, their platforms, and coalition partners, deserve our vote.”

Thus the acceptable introductory spiel is supposed to be: "Hello, I'm running for President... I'm still looking for a running mate and we still have to build our senatorial slate. Let's talk about our platform later, okay?”

The thing is all candidates are paying lip service to the buzzword “change”, pretending to be the one who will change things for the better. Thus the public’s search for platforms and a serious discussion of issues doesn't stem from ignorance of the “stages” of the campaign. It stems from a demand to know from the candidates what change is needed and what they will commit themselves to.

Unfortunately, the logic that the slate must be put together and then the platform decided is that of the quintessential reactionary politician’s logic. To content oneself with this “staging” is obscurantism and tantamount to advocating things as they are. It even naively projects that at the 3rd stage - after the line ups have actually been formed – candidates will actually shift to a higher level of discussing the issues that people have been clamoring for.

The "explanation" also glosses over the fact that in the more economically and politically advanced countries, including the US, even in multi-party systems, the parties have clear political orientations which their members strongly adhere to. And the platform is a particular time-bound program for implementing that orientation under the prevailing circumstances and to address current issues.

In any case, there is nothing in the COMELEC rules which should prevent a prospective candidate from presenting his stand on the current issues of the day. There is not a single serious candidate on the national level who is still unknown and has to "hi and hello" himself or herself to the public.

The fact that there is no longer such thing today as a party orientation, and party-switching has become commonplace does not militate from the candidates' putting emphasis on their positions on issues and programs; if, as they claim, their new alliances are based on principle and not on political expediency and opportunism.

Thus, the demand on candidates, especially on those who claim they are frontrunners and harbingers of change, to base their introductions, alliances, and campaigns on issues and not on personalities, emotional appeals and other advertising devices is not only reasonable, but intelligent and wise.

One refreshing contrast to the prevailing political cynicism and opportunism dished out by the traditional political parties thus far, is the keynote speech of Kabataan Party List representative Raymond “Mong” Palatino in their recently-held national convention. In lays down simply but eloquently what it is these young, politically aware and committed Filipinos stand for, essentially what their component organizations have been fighting for long before their first foray in the electoral arena in 2004.

It is neither the first nor the last time they cogently articulate their advocacies and vision of what should and can be. First, quality education for all, serving foremost the needs of the Filipino people. Second, decent jobs for all and protection of the rights and welfare of working people so that the youth need not go abroad to get jobs and secure their future. Third, good governance starting with the prosecution of corrupt officials under the Arroyo administration. Fourth, protection of the environment starting with a stop to destructive mining and an earnest program to address the devastating effects of climate change. Fifth, charting an independent domestic and foreign policy that is not held hostage to the vested interests of foreign powers especially the US.

In general, national leaders who are patriotic, pro-people and democratic, who uphold and protect human rights and who are fully supportive of the youth’s aspirations for a happy, productive and bright future.

Kabataan Party and other like-minded parties competing in the party list elections, show us how to conduct a campaign based on issues and not on personalities. Where the hi-and-hello is immediately followed by, here-is-what-we-stand-for. #

Published in Business World
20-21 November 2009


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