Investing in People’s Election: A Proposed System to Democratize the Electoral Process to Guarantee Equal Access to Opportunities for Public Service
This paper will present an idea on how to guarantee a real equal access to opportunities for public service and that is, by not allowing all candidates and/or their supporters to shell out money for the campaign. Since there is a strong move to decentralize the government, this paper suggests that campaigns must be funded and run by the government thru the office of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) in every Local Government Units (LGU). This idea will also lessen the chance of corruption and “payback time” once the candidate started to serve the people.
Background and the description of the problem
Power Elite theory claims that only the elite controls the nation as a whole leaving nothing for the common people. Pareto’s Circulation of the Elite theory presents the same idea, adding that there is a competition between the conservative and liberal, still, making the poor people powerless. This seems to be the set-up in the Philippines since the era of the colonizers.
Since the passing of the Maura law in 1893 in the Philippines, only the wealthy and rich political families were being elected. That goes the same during the time of the American colonizers and even up to now. There are very few “new names” that appear in the quest for an elective position. In several instances, these “new names” often labelled as nuisance candidates.
In context, it is the right of all citizen of the land, meeting the basic requirement of the law, to file their Certificate of Candidacy (COC). This right is enshrined in Article II, Section 26 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution stating that “The state shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.”
It may be a right of all citizen of the land, but, the filing of COC’s and winning the election are two different stories. Poor/common people can only file, but there is a difficulty in getting the position. All candidate needs to spend a big amount of money for the campaign alone leaving the poor/common people left behind. We can even say that it is more likely a combination of gambling and investment or business capital.
This paper does not claim that the elite people cannot really serve the nation. The idea is that most of them, (elite) only know the situation of the poor people on the theoretical level only unlike those poor people who really came from the grassroots. The only problem is how these poor people can take the position to serve their people.
The legal basis
ARTICLE 2 SECTION 26. The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.
This article as part of State Policies ensures all citizen of the land, regardless of their economic status, to be given equal opportunity to be public servants. The financial issue should not be the deciding factor in elections. Election spending must be made affordable to the citizen of the Philippines who are not only competent, deserving, well-intentioned and morally upright.
ARTICLE IX, Section C 7. Recommend to the Congress effective measures to minimize election spending, including limitation of places where propaganda materials shall be posted, and to prevent and penalize all forms of election frauds, offenses, malpractices, and nuisance candidacies.
The idea is to keep election spending at minimum cost and the same provision that can be used as a basis of the whole point of the paper since it can recommend to congress how to minimize election spending allowing common people to campaign.
To keep the expenditure of each candidate in minimum, the Commission on Election (COMELEC) clearly presented in its Resolution No. 9476 the amount that a candidate or a party may be spent by the local and national candidate.
Section 1,. Authorized expenses of candidates and parties. – The aggregate amount that a candidate or party may spend for an election campaign shall be as follows:
a. President and Vice-President —Ten Pesos (PhP 10.00) for every registered voter.
b. For other candidates — Three Pesos (PhP 3.00) for every voter currently
registered in the constituency where the candidate filed his certificate of
c. Candidate without any political party and without support from any political
party — Five Pesos (PhP 5.00) for every voter currently registered in the
constituency where the candidate filed his certificate of candidacy; and
d. Political parties and partyJist groups — Five Pesos (PhP 5.00) for every voter
currently registered in the constituency or constituencies where it has official
candidates. [RA 71,66, Section l3,Paragraphs2 and 3]
Let us assume that candidate A wants to be a congressman of Oriental Mindoro with 400,000+ registered voters3. With a budget of P5.00 per candidate, the candidate will need at least 2 million pesos for the campaign. How and where will a common people get this amount? This gives double burden to the candidate. The first burden is how to raise the needed financial support, and second, how to conduct a campaign and win it.
The easiest way is to be part of a political party since they do help financially and all the support the candidate needs. Unfortunately, candidate A will be tied to the political party. I am not saying that it is not good to be tied to a political party. It’s just that, there are situations wherein your stand is totally different from the party.
Another possible solution is for the candidate to have corporate sponsors or contributions. COMELEC as well gave provisions regarding campaign contributions coming from all sectors. The sad part of this is that they did not put a cap or limitations on how much they can contribute. Knowing that in this country, the debt of gratitude operates well, this may give candidate A another problem. There is a high tendency that if candidate A won, whatever favour or advantage the sponsor/contributor may ask, will easily be accommodated.
Why do you think these big businesses and corporations gives a lot of money for a certain candidate or political party? Some argue that they may really have a strong belief in the capacity of those candidates or political parties they are supporting. But again, this is the Philippines, where culturally, a high sense of debt of gratitude operates.
The scenarios that were presented not only limit the capacity/possibility of poor people to have the elective positions but at the same time, prone to corruptions.
The politics, politicians, and the citizens
It is really evident that very few people see election seriously in this country. With the current political set-up, common people view politicians as a “Messiah” or a saviour and not really as lawmakers or executives. As a result, the election is seen as simply a process but not a way to make the society a better place for all its populace.
In most cases, when people need financial support for the funeral, when some family members are unwell and need medical treatment or even sponsors in marriage and sports league, they always knock on the doors of the politicians. People do not see or may be unaware of their political roles – they are not ninongs and ninangs.
This is happening because, historically speaking, only those who are financially well-off wins in an election. Marx’s idea of whoever controls the economy controls politics and culture may really be seen as applicable in this context.
When I mentioned that very few people takes the election seriously in this country, it is because, people simply see it as a celebration or a fiesta and at the same time, a gambling with political candidates as their bet. We often hear people saying, “sinong manok mo?” as if they are in a cock fighting arena. The election is seen not as a way to make the lives of the people better. What is happening here is that common people see their political part only during the election process. As a result, whatever these politicians do during their term, people simply allows it and wait for the next election.
These elections create a division between the rich and the poor, leaving the poor populace without anything.
It has been more than a hundred years of electing people in the government with the assumption that our lives would be better, but it seems that nothing has changed. Probably, the reason here is that only those rich people can win the election. Unfortunately, they are not really aware of the plight of poor people. Most of them only know it from the theoretical level, unlike those poor people who have been experiencing it every day.
We need to revolutionize everything in these elections to change people’s perceptions about politics and to give way to an equal playing field. The question now is how?
Levelling the playing field
Since there is a strong effort to decentralize the government, in essence, giving more power to the Local Government Units (LGU), the suggestion is to make a special Public Relations (PR) office do the campaign. This PR office will work as a PR arm of the LGU’s and will work with COMELEC during election season.
How will this thing work?
Since there is already an amount pegged by the COMELEC, they will still base the expenditure from their Resolution No. 9476. It is recommended that the government needs to amend some of its laws to accommodate this suggestion. This idea operates on the notion that, since the government is the caretaker of the people, they will also make sure that all citizens would be valued and treated fairly.
One major issue in this set-up is the proliferation of nuisance candidate. It is suggested that the COMELEC will do the same process and procedure in declaring whether the candidates are a nuisance or not. It is also suggested that some qualifications may be added such as educational background at least until high school since it is free in our public school system and some psychological tests to see the sanity level of each candidate. We need to see these candidates as people applying for a job and not as candidates that will save people from social ills.
The money will definitely be an issue as well. Since every fiscal year, the government presents its budget to congress, we can insert some money for the election campaign, particularly for the national election. Some LGU’s can also allocate finance to Municipal, Barangay and Sangguning Kabataan (SK) elections. It is not every year that we have elections, so it will not be that big. Again, it is like investing, but in this proposal, it is the people who are making the investments for the people in general.
Doing the campaigns
The idea is that all campaigns will be headed by the LGU’s PR firm with direct coordination from the COMELEC. This idea will not only give equal opportunity to the poor candidates but will also lessen the chances of corruption and vote buying as well as garbage connected to election campaigns. It will also make sure that election campaign laws will definitely be observed.
In this process, common people can easily see whether the COMELEC is favouring some candidates.
Summary, conclusion and recommendation
As mentioned, it will increase the chance of poor people to win an election. It will also change the mentality of the voting public regarding the roles of politics in their lives. It will also lessen the chances of corruption or giving favours to the political campaign donors. And lastly, it will make our lives better in the long run.
There is really a need to revolutionize election in the country to level the playing field. It must be the government who should invest and not the politicians. The government is the caretaker of the people’s welfare and not the politicians who shell out money during the campaigns.
For this suggestion to work, this paper recommends that some laws would be amended. It is also being suggested that a pilot study would be made in a certain municipality for a Baranggay or an SK election to see which area needs to be fine-tuned.
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