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. 12 senators on Napoles ‘pork’ list, says Lacson
  2. Save the queen? Aide takes fall for Enrile, Gigi Reyes
  3. Palace prepared to charge its allies
  4. Senator’s kickback from pork bigger than those of Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – Lacson
  5. Napoles turnaround alarms whistle-blowers
  6. What Went Before: Malacañang allies alleged involvement in pork scam
  7. Napoles spills beans on Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – De Lima
  8. Timeline: Napoles tell-all
  9. HK apology: Why Estrada and not Aquino?
  10. Cedric Lee’s cohort flies out of PH despite look-out order – De Lima
  1. Napoles spills beans on Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – De Lima
  2. 12 senators on Napoles ‘pork’ list, says Lacson
  3. Gigi Reyes pins blame on aide
  4. Estrada: Gigi Reyes won’t testify vs JPE
  5. Bernice Lee arrested by NBI team
  6. Enrile chief aide back in PH ‘to face charges’
  7. Cedric Lee’s cohort flies out of PH despite look-out order – De Lima
  8. Suspect in Vhong Navarro’s mauling wants to turn state witness – De Lima
  9. Reckless driver endangered lives of Aquino, entourage–report
  10. Lawyer: Napoles ‘will tell all’
  1. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  2. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  3. Napoles spills beans on Enrile, Estrada, Revilla – De Lima
  4. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  5. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  6. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  7. 12 senators on Napoles ‘pork’ list, says Lacson
  8. Gigi Reyes pins blame on aide
  9. Cudia, dismissed for lying, got 99% in conduct
  10. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano


  • Ukraine FM: We are ready to fight Russia
  • Slain officer’s ‘diagram’ rocks PNP
  • 2 contractors fined P25,000 for delays in Edsa rehab
  • Luisita beneficiaries take over renters
  • 5 years of hard work pay off for top UP grad
  • Sports

  • Sharapova advances to Stuttgart quarterfinals
  • Galedo caps ride of redemption
  • Beermen, Express dispute second semis slot today
  • Lady Agilas upset Lady Bulldogs in four sets
  • NLEX roars to 7th D-League win
  • Lifestyle

  • How Jing Monis Salon gave Krissy the pixie
  • Want to be a supermodel? Work on your inner beauty, says Joey Espino
  • Denims that keep you cool–literally
  • 10 essential summer skin savers
  • Here’s your visual guide to all things cool, hot in summer fashion
  • Entertainment

  • Kristoffer Martin: from thug to gay teen
  • Has Ai Ai fallen deeply with ‘sireno?’
  • California court won’t review Jackson doctor case
  • Cris Villonco on play adapted from different medium
  • OMB exec’s assurance: We work 24/7
  • Business

  • Bangko Sentral readies new bank lending rules
  • Gaming stocks gain, PSEi eases on profit-taking
  • Cebu Pacific flew 3.74M passengers as of March
  • Corporate bonds sweeteners
  • Professionals in the family business
  • Technology

  • Vatican announces hashtag for April 27 canonizations
  • Enrile in Masters of the Universe, Lord of the Rings?
  • Top Traits of Digital Marketers
  • No truth to viral no-visa ‘chronicles’
  • ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe
  • Opinion

  • Editorial Cartoon, April 25, 2014
  • No deal, Janet
  • Like making Al Capone a witness vs his gang
  • MERS-CoV and mothers
  • A graduation story
  • Global Nation

  • Afghan hospital guard kills 3 American doctors
  • Career diplomat is new PH consul general in Los Angeles
  • US4GG: Aquino should ask Obama for TPS approval, drone technology
  • Complex health care system for California’s elderly and poor explained
  • Tiff with HK over Luneta hostage fiasco finally over
  • Marketplace