Latest Stories

Santiago: Most voters, leaders not educated


Those who are “not educated for voting” are choosing from those who are “not educated for serving.”

This, in Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s typically trenchant view, is what ails the Philippine body politic.

Speaking before students of the Far Eastern University on Thursday, Santiago said the “greater majority” of the country’s 50 million voters who will troop to the precincts in May “are not intelligent … not educated for voting.”

And, as there is no educational requirement for candidates vying for elective posts, voters are likely to end up choosing among many who “are not educated for serving,” she said.

Compounding the problem is the lack of a literacy requirement to qualify voters so that the “uneducated poor” invariably vote the actors they see in films and television, thinking their screen persona would translate into what they could be or deliver in real life.

And if not to actors, these voters will sell their votes to the “rich candidates,” or those moneyed enough to buy 30-second spots on television in this season of premature campaigning.

Is it any wonder we are where we are?

The problem with elections

Santiago presented her observations in a speech, “The Problem With Elections,” at FEU. Copies of the speech were e-mailed to Senate reporters.

Lest she be charged with plagiarism, Santiago said that “most of what” she said were taken from “Modern Politics and Government” by Alan R. Ball and B. Guy Peters (the 7th edition released in 2005).

The Constitution, said Santiago, bestows sovereignty on the people and that “all government authority emanates from them.”

Problem is, the “people,” or the 50 million voters in this country who are given the right to choose their leaders only need to comply with the “at least 18 years old” age requirement and residency in the Philippines for at least one year.

These are criteria that she believes “are no longer enough for the 21st century.”


Criteria for the 21st century

If the law also provides for free public education up to high school level, why not make this the mandatory educational requirement for voters? Santiago asked.

“If a person is a borderline moron, why should his vote equal the vote of a college graduate?” she said.

It does not help that the law also does not require that a candidate for public office possess a minimum level of education.

She wondered why a policeman needs to have a college degree but the same requirement is not imposed on those aspiring to become senators and congressmen.

In the liberal democratic theory of representation that follows the principle of rationalism, humans are considered creatures of reason who can identify their own interests and opinions and are aware of “the wider claims of the community,” the senator said.

A person would then be expected to “vote in an intelligent fashion, and is consequently entitled to share in the selection of representatives,” she said.

But, whoa! There is a caveat, said Santiago.

This would only be correct “if the voter and the voted are educated,” she said.

Applying visual test

In the case of candidates that voters choose only because they are the ones they see in movies or on TV, Santiago said the voters are only applying “a visual test to candidates.”

If the candidate plays the role of “champion of the poor,” then the uneducated poor will vote him to office for this reason only.

“Thus, they are voting for actors … (who will) continue their acting in the legislature,” she said.

Santiago said there are instances where actors voted to office “are acting as senators and congressmen, merely relying on their legislative staff to feed them with the proper things to say during the sessions of Congress.”

“In effect, therefore, they are little better than talking dummies. And in addition, I worry that they might be more susceptible to the pressures exerted by lobby groups and other interest groups funded by the rich,” she added.

Santiago has four colleagues in the Senate who were actors before they became senators: Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada, Majority Leader Tito Sotto and Senators Bong Revilla Jr. and Lito Lapid, the latter two being huge action stars.

Of course, the deposed President and convicted plunderer Joseph Estrada was a hugely popular movie star whose real and reel lives intersected on the public stage, beginning with the screen name by which he is largely known.

Revilla continues to make fantasy-based action movies that earn big at the tills while Sotto still hosts the noontime show “Eat Bulaga” on days when the Senate is not in session.

There are reports that Lapid will soon star in a teleserye based on his popular “Leon Guerrero” character in ABS-CBN.

Not all votes are equal

Santiago lamented that the democratic vision of “one person, one vote, one value” during elections has been largely wasted.

“If majority of the voters are not educated, then there is no reason why one vote should be equal to another vote. Not all votes are equal,” she said.

“I agree with Thomas Jefferson that there should be a clear emphasis on the importance of an educated majority as a prerequisite for Philippine representative government,” Santiago said.

She said she also supported the suggestion of the 19th-century British philosopher and political economist John Stuart Mill that the right to vote be limited to the literate, and that “we should increase the vote of the people with certain superior qualities.”

Mob democracy at work

The senator said her exposure to politics for the past 15 years has made her really anxious about what she perceives to be a “mob democracy” at work in the country.

“I am very anxious about the uneducated majority in the Philippines,” she said.

She said these conditions have created “election distortions” that eventually translate to undeserving candidates winning in the polls and the decision of the uneducated prevailing over that of the educated ones.

Santiago referred to her loss in the 1992 presidential election to former President Fidel Ramos. While she did not name Ramos directly, she talked about “the person who claimed that he won the presidential election (but who) was only a plurality president” in her speech.

She said the “most notorious” of all election distortions is “electoral corruption” committed by rich candidates.

And it does not help that the media also commit distortions, especially in playing up the images of those who can afford to place costly ads on TV.

She exhorted her student audience to begin a social media campaign that would encourage “smart voting among the uneducated” by insisting that candidates adhere to “academic and professional excellence” as well as a “record of moral positions on national policy issues.”

“For example, you should campaign so that voters will say ‘yes’ to candidates who favors the bills that I have filed such as the reproductive health bill, sin tax bill, Magna Carta for Internet Freedom bill and the freedom of information bill,” the senator said.

Santiago also urged the students to rally against “epal (credit-grabbing) candidates, political dynasties and premature campaigning.”

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: 2013 midterm elections , Far Eastern University , FEU , Miriam Defensor-Santiago , Philippine elections , Philippine politics

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  2. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  3. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  4. Massive infra spending set
  5. OFW brings MERS virus to Philippines
  6. DOJ to NBI: Arrest Cedric Lee, 4 others
  7. Cardinal Tagle to faithful: Join politics to clean it
  8. Estrada, Gigi Reyes denied access to evidence from other respondents
  9. Lacson’s wife loses diamond earring to thieves but recovers jewelry quickly with police arrest
  10. DOJ orders arrest of Cedric Lee
  1. Suspect in Vhong Navarro mauling tries to leave PH
  2. MH370 co-pilot made mid-flight phone call – report
  3. Netizens cry: 6/55 Lotto was rigged
  4. I’ll follow my conscience on Estrada, says JV Ejercito
  5. ‘Wife of Jesus’ theory papyrus not fake – Harvard study
  6. Fr. Suarez says last Mass on Easter before returning donated land to San Miguel
  7. Gay college instructor arrested for oral sex with student
  8. ‘King’ Yabut and I: Driver bares Makati dad ‘abuses’
  9. It was difficult having Japanese blood
  10. Palace: We can’t blame increase in population on Vitangcol
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Pork payoffs to newscasters Erwin Tulfo, Del Prado, others bared
  4. UP back on top as ‘average’ student aces bar
  5. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  6. Model Helena Belmonte wished ‘to slash her wrist and hope to die’
  7. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  8. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  9. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  10. Police rule out foul play in Helena Belmonte’s death as boyfriend is ‘traumatized’


  • Obama launches measures to support solar energy in US
  • Nebraska toddler gets stuck inside claw machine
  • Philippine eagle rescued by Army turned over to DENR
  • Gunmen attack Iraq military base, kill 10 soldiers
  • South Korea president shouted down by distraught parents
  • Sports

  • Vietnam says it will not host Asian Games
  • Nadal passes clay landmark with 300th victory
  • Wawrinka waltzes through with Monte Carlo walkover
  • Power Pinays smash India in Asian Women’s Club volleyball opener
  • PH youth boxers off to stumbling start in AIBA World tilt
  • Lifestyle

  • Pro visual artists, lensmen to judge Pagcor’s photo contest
  • ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  • This is not just a farm
  • Clams and garlic, softshell crab risotto–not your usual seafood fare for Holy Week
  • Moist, extra-tender blueberry muffins
  • Entertainment

  • Jones, Godard, Cronenberg in competition at Cannes
  • Will Arnett files for divorce from Amy Poehler
  • American rapper cuts own penis, jumps off building
  • Jay Z to bring Made in America music fest to LA
  • Why Lucky has not bought an engagement ring for Angel
  • Business

  • Total says makes ‘very promising’ oil find off Ivory Coast
  • ‘Chinese Twitter’ firm Weibo to go public in US
  • World stocks subdued, Nikkei flat on profit taking
  • Asia stocks fail to match Wall Street gains
  • Fired Yahoo exec gets $58M for 15 months of work
  • Technology

  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Filipinos #PrayForSouthKorea
  • Taylor Swift tries video blogging, crashes into fan’s bridal shower
  • DOF: Tagaytay, QC best at handling funds
  • Smart phone apps and sites perfect for the Holy Week
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 17, 2014
  • A humbler Church
  • Deepest darkness
  • ‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
  • It’s the Holy Week, time to think of others
  • Global Nation

  • Malaysia quarantines 64 villagers over MERS virus
  • DFA: 2 Filipinos survive Korean ferry disaster
  • PH asks airline passengers to check for MERS
  • Syria most dangerous country for journalists, PH 3rd—watchdog
  • Japan says visa-free entry still a plan
  • Marketplace