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Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Philippine Election Campaign... Olympics Of Hypocrisy (Part II)

The Political Democratic Institution
Photo courtesy of philnews.ph
In part I, I focused on the 1965 national election, considered as the longest and most hotly contested campaign in our political chronicle where the late Ferdinand Marcos won over then incumbent President Diosdado Macapagal. Marcos' reign continued followed by his re-election in 1969. Not content with 2- 4 year term presidencies, Marcos fortified his authoritarian regime by declaring Martial Law in 1972, justifying his decision due to a heightened communist rebellion and deteriorating civil obedience. 
Again, in 1981, after relieving some martial law restrictions, Marcos orchestrated his election victory “helped” by the decision of some opposition parties to boycott the election. However, the assassination of then Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. in 1983 led to the people’s popular unrest forcing Marcos to call for a snap election in 1986. 
Photo courtesy of namfrel.com.ph
Despite the massive election fraud, Marcos declared his victory over Corazon Aquino, widow of the assassinated opposition leader. This was the last straw that “broke the camel’s back” so to speak. Nationwide, enraged Filipinos protested in the streets and stormed Malacanan Palace. Virtually all military forces led by Marcos’ Defense Secretary joined the demonstrators, leaving no other option for Marcos but to flee the country. Corazon Aquino was installed to power as President and since then democratic electoral transitions were seen in the election of Fidel Ramos in 1992 and Joseph Estrada in 1998.      

The fragility of the democratic government however became evident again when in 2001 then President Estrada was ousted and removed from office because of alleged embezzlement of state funds and abuse of power that resulted in another (EDSA II) rebellion. Then Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was sworn into office to serve the remaining term of Estrada.  Amidst a huge electoral fraud through the scandalous “dagdag-bawas” vote counting scheme, Pres. GMA eventually won the 2004 Presidential election over opposition candidate Fernando Poe Jr.

Once more, the frail stability of our democratic institution was rocked by a staged siege of Oakwood Hotel in Makati in July 2007 by more than 300 military officers and soldiers. Fortunately, the attempt to overthrow the government under then Pres. GMA was brief and swiftly overcome by the military.

Many research studies have been made on the political elections in the Philippines since the country was established as an independent democratic republic in 1898. Yet there is not one among them that clearly enlightens the skeptics and elucidates on the complexity of the political democratic process.

The High Cost of Running a Political Campaign . The Power of Money

Today, a serious issue in every political poll anywhere in the democratic world including the Philippines is the escalating expenses for election campaigns.

A typical example would be the case of the last US Presidential election late last year. The political campaigns of Democrat Pres. Barack Obama raised US$ 1.0726 Billion and spent US$ 985.7 Million while Republican Gov. Mitt Romney raised US$ 992.5 Million and spent US$ 992 Million. Individual candidates Obama and Romney personally raised US$ 726 Million and US$ 467.3 Million respectively.  These are staggering figures that make many wonder why this incredible is the amount of money for election campaigns are spent to win the election.

Photo courtesy of 2010presidentaibles.wordpress.com
This is also true in the Philippines. In the last 2012 Presidential election, records have shown that Sen. Manny Villar’s campaign spent approximately P431 Million while eventual election winner Pres. Noynoy Aquino’s campaign expended more than P 400 Million. WHOA!

Another sickening example of a questionable campaign expense is that of AKAP BATA, a party list group claiming to represent poor children. According to Malou Mangahas, Executive Director of the Phil. Center for Investigative Journalism, Akap Bata was able to afford an advertising contract with ABS-CBN worth P 23.6 Million in the 2010 election contrary to the fact that the party-list group is representing a marginalized sector. Where is the logic on this one?

The escalating campaign expenses showed lesser amounts for Senators, Representatives, Governors Cities and Municipalities Mayors, Vice Mayors and Councilors but still the amounts are enough to boggle the human mind as to why political candidates have to spend millions to get the much coveted political position. 

Maybe it is for this reason that only wealthy individuals or candidates with big fund contributors could run for public office with success thereby isolating highly qualified candidates with poor financial resources and without moneyed backers.

The high and swelling cost of running for public office has raised grave concerns since fundraising  fastens elected officials to political “kingmakers”, who devise ingenious backdoor funding channels, affirming the already deep perception that politicians in office serve the interests of their donors over the interests of their constituents.

Critics of the current system of campaign financing affirm that the high cost of seeking public office not only distract elected officials from their primary task of public service and leaves the door open  to   “influence –peddling” of funds donors, relatives and political supporters. This is so that when a politician is influenced by either the need to solicit fund donations from special interests contributors to finance a costly election campaign, the politician may no longer represents the interest of his constituents because of the sense of obligation to his benefactors.

Money is the top resource in political elections especially so that deficiencies in weak areas of a candidate can be easily overcome by “vote buying”, where other campaign resources fail. Furthermore, the ability to influence election results with the infusion of money poses a significant challenge to the principle of equality expressed as “one man-one vote” upon which a democratic government is anchored. Naturally when election results can be greatly settled by the amount of money spent in political campaigns, the special interests benefactors have greater power to influence the election rather than the voting public.
March 6, 2013  Fresno , Calfornia, USA
Part III and Final Part will follow.......

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