Sunday, May 02, 2010

Space for optimism

IT’S barely a week before the first automated national elections in the Philippines and everybody seem still grounded on procedures—distrusted, unpopular and smeared procedures, if you may. The cynicism is all about the failure rate of the Precinct Count Optical Scanner (PCOS) machines, the bloated voters list and the hovering ghosts of the “garci gang”.

But instead of procedures, the electorate should now be given the chance to think about the “substance” of candidates so they can start debating on their conscientious and educated choices. To be able to deliberate or, as the bishops suggests, conduct “communal discernments” on the pros and cons of political aspirants is a very basic component of the democratic right of suffrage which is neither about voting blindly nor about choosing in an environment that is bereft of any intelligent option.

The candidates, on the other hand, perhaps taking advantage of the situation, are only giving out slogans instead of substance—in much the same manner that advertisers do with shampoo or tuna sardines. And so now suddenly the country is flooded with slogans and catchphrases from the ones posted on lampposts to those blaring on LCD screens. Indeed, the election campaign is a multibillion heyday of advertisers and giant media networks that gorge on every 30-seconder timeslot like one does a gold mine.

Although disputably, survey firms have also become a very lucrative livelihood despite the social cost of psycho-sociological conditioning that numbs voters from being analytical citizens to simple consumers of manufactured statistical byproducts. While survey operators claims that this is a legitimate and intelligent way of educating voters, albeit sans the educational part of it, a presidential candidate, who is a tail-ender obviously, hollers that this is a subject of criminal prosecution for being false and misleading.

The internet, too, is clattered with political dirt. The political campaigns and mudslinging aside, scenarios painted by a growing number of overnight political analysts abound in the virtual world. One blurts of anarchy after a massive failure of the first automated polls. Another sings of a grand plan by the Arroyos of a perpetual Malacañang occupation. And so on and so forth.

There is indeed some wisdom, or maybe better, faith, in the call of the Catholic Church for prayer and vigilance. This maybe the best thing to do in the face of a political exercise where there is so much at stake yet too little a space for optimism.

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