AT press time, the East Timorese are counting the votes of the presidential elections that have been regarded as peaceful by foreign observers. And this, despite a backdrop of a plummeting economy and a new democracy bereft of mature political experience.
But that’s not all. The presidential contenders are so magnanimous one would think they just came fresh from a holy retreat. Francisco Guterrez, for instance, who is a former guerilla who spent years in the jungles fighting Indonesian rule and who is considered the underdog in this political race told everybody after casting his vote: “I want to win with dignity, but if I lose, I will also accept that with dignity.” That puts all the politicians in the Philippines, who never gets defeated but only cheated, into shame.
On the other camp, the incumbent prime minister and presidential candidate Jose Ramos-Horta goes with the dignity of a Nobel Prize winner, “If I win the election, I win a…huge responsibility. But if I lose, I win my freedom to do whatever I want, to be a writer, to be an academic, to be a tourist, to travel.” You will never hear such sensibility and, really, Christianity, from Filipino politicians.
In Filipino that statement maybe aptly rendered this way: “If I win the elections, I win a huge contract in infrastructure, under-the-table arrangements, and remittances from gambling and drugs…if I lose then I am cheated…therefore…bang, bang, bang!”
Sadly, in the Philippines good men do not become politicians.
Sadly, too, in Philippine politics, what defines the “art of governance” after getting elected is not the assumption of a “huge responsibility” but rather the recovery of a “huge profit” and the return of investment after buying votes and expensive airtime in political ads.
In the Philippines, the cradle of crime and corruption is the election. One wins—or better buys—a political office at election time and dispenses his office by building an empire of machinery and money through crime and corruption in preparation for the next elections. And the cycle goes on and on at the expense of the common good.