With no law against political dynasties—and the likelihood of such a law being approved and enforced being as remote as the Philippines hosting the Olympics two, even three years from now—it’s up to honest, fair and transparent elections to determine whether Filipinos want political dynasties to continue holding the reins of power in government.
That was the assessment of Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III in a speech during a forum on electoral reforms sponsored by the University of San Jose-Recolletos (USJR) School of Law in Cebu. It’s not without basis even if he does chair the Senate committee on electoral reforms.
Being the son of Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr., who was himself the victim of “dagdag bawas” in the ‘90s, the second generation Pimentel speaks from experience. He’s been active in ensuring that elections are not only fully automated but cheat-proof, which is near impossible given the culture and existing system of corruption in the country.
The 2010 elections showed that while automation was a noble target, it was not without its vulnerabilities. In Mindanao, subalterns of political warlords brazenly entered precincts and dismantled automated voting machines by dropping them from the third floor of a Commission on Elections (Comelec) precinct center, smashing them to bits.
Then there’s another strategy in which a ruling politician filled one precinct with his followers, stranding legitimate voters outside and causing the voting machines to overheat. This delayed the voting process and opened it to manipulation such as changing flash cards.
Perpetrators of these election cheating tactics are ruling political dynasties or in the case of Compostela town in northern Cebu, the incumbent official who managed to wrangle a Comelec suspension of proclamation of winners. This delayed the assumption of elected officials by at least two years or one year before another scheduled election.
It would take more than fair, honest, credible and transparent elections to justify Pimentel’s assertion. However, it doesn’t diminish one bit its value in ensuring the sustainability of democracy, however flawed and vulnerable to abuse it may be in this country.
It is only during elections that Filipinos are given the choice to choose whoever they deem worthy and capable of governing them for the next three to six years.
It is through elections that the people for once can tell political parties, and by extension political dynasties, whether they deserve to stay longer in power than necessary.
The power to choose our leaders to guide us to the future should not be denied nor robbed from the people.