The American author Rita Mae Brown likened insanity to ‘doing the same thing over and over expecting different results’ and she could not have articulated her point better.
Indeed it is insane to expect a different result out of a habit we constantly do, but consistently fail us. And if this is indeed how insanity is diagnosed, then a majority of us Filipinos should be locked in a straight-jacket by now.
Harsh words, perhaps, but there is truth to this and I will break down my point in this article. But first, let’s delve into some context.
In a Pulse Asia survey conducted last March respondents were asked: if they were to vote on that very day for their next president who would be their first choice.
An astounding 40% of those polled said they would vote for current Vice-President Jejomar Binay as our next head-of-state. The VP’s closest rival only polled 15% of the votes, incumbent Senator Grace Poe.
Perennial favorite Miriam Defensor-Santiago followed Binay and Poe at third place with only 10% identifying her as their first choice.
Completing the list were Senators BongBong Marcos (6th) and Alan Peter Cayetano (tied 7-8), TV host Kris Aquino (tied 7-8) and Senators Bong Revilla and Panfilo Lacson (9th and 10th respectively).
If the survey was indeed legitimate and the numbers accurate, despite not having any background in mental health I have to diagnose the respondents with insanity. Why? Because time and time again I hear Filipinos complain that living standards have stagnated and poverty seems to be perpetual. That despite who they vote for, their condition remains the same.
Which begs the question: if we’re so tired of getting the same results, why do we repeatedly make the same mistake of voting second-rate candidates?
Majority of the presidentiables included in the list have all given us a reason not to vote for them, repeatedly so in fact. Yet here we are, still enumerating them as our first choice.
Take the frontrunner for example, Vice-President Jejomar Binay; it wasn’t that long ago when his two children, both politicians, were involved in an altercation with the security personnel of a high-end subdivision in Makati.
The CCTV footage showed the son, Makati mayor Junjun Binay berating the security guards, with his own bodyguards behind him – like a bully who relies on the brute of his peers to compensate for his cowardice. Junjun’s sister Nancy was with the convoy as well, albeit with less involvement.
Such conduct can only be expected from people who think they are above the law, individuals who have gotten used to getting their way all the time they can’t take ‘no’ for an answer. And such people are the Binays, which includes their patriarch the Vice-President.
Does anyone remember when Jejomar Binay first took office in 2010 and hustled his way into receiving a hefty Php200M as his personal ‘prok barrel’ fund? It was a hustle since its’ inclusion in the budget was not debated and was only inserted in the bill on the last day of budget hearings and done so very subtly as well. This despite the allocation of pork funds exclusive only to lawmakers.
How could we forget the Typhoon Haiyan blunder? When the Vice-President made use of typhoon victims’ misery to distribute relief goods bearing his name and image on them – clearly to forward his popularity. Not only was it classless, but it was also condemned by international news agencies.
Bear in mind also that this Vice-President has his own official residence, courtesy of a favor from the President. Binay is able to live in the prestigious Coconut Palace, a brainchild of Imelda Marcos and costed Php1.7B in 1978 valuation to construct.
The structure is intended for prominent guests of the state, and was built especially for the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1981. The irony however, is that the Pope himself refused to stay in the palace as he deemed it to be ostentatious. Yet,
his excellency Vice-President Binay didn’t find a problem making it his residence.
Binay will be the most comfortable Vice-President in our nation’s history, the first to literally live in a palace.
That criticism may be harsh, but Binay deserves it for someone who has such a high approval rating which in my opinion, is undeserved. This goes without saying that Binay is the only one in the top 10 list who is unworthy.
For some reason, TV personality Kris Aquino made it to the top 10. And for what reason, I may ask? Kris is someone with no credentials in public office at all, regardless of how many of her supporters may point at the fact that she is the daughter of a former president and the sister of the incumbent. The art of governance isn’t passed on genetically, but it’s not like her mother or brother have anything to pass on in the first place.
Following Kris Aquino in ninth place is a current prisoner, Senator Bong Revilla – implicated as one of the conspirators in the ‘pork barrel’ scam. While there may be substantial evidence against Revilla in his trial, he is innocent until proven guilty.
Yet the idea of electing someone embroiled in a gigantic scandal to represent the nation is embarrassing. The Philippines was once featured on Ripley’s Believe it or Not for the story of Romeo Jalosjos, a convicted pedophile who won his gubernatorial campaign despite being in jail. That was shameful enough, imagine if our head-of-state was a convict as well.
Revilla’s cringe-worthy privilege speech, complete with a toy backhoe and a tribute mellow-dramatic song, should have been enough to put off any potential voter. In a statement that was suppose to prove his innocence or at least restore some dignity, he used it by smearing the President, and his colleagues in the Senate of the same crime.
In that moment Revilla demonstrated a sickness inherent to Filipino culture, the dreaded ‘crab mentality’. He knew he was guilty, he knew there was barely anything he could say to make his situation easier yet the Senator thought if he was doomed to go down he may as well drag down several people with him.
This has long been a bad habit of Filipinos, and just like any bad habit we should aim to cure it. Electing someone who is so inflicted by it to lead our country cannot be productive, hence I make a case against Senator Bong Revilla.
Similarly to Kris Aquino, Revilla doesn’t have much of a political background to brag himself. He was elected because of his popularity, being a movie star himself. His father is also a former movie star, and coincidentally was also elected as Senator.
I can’t decide if Aquino and Revilla’s inclusions are surprising or frustrating, or maybe both. Do we really just vote for anyone who is famous? If so, then the presidency may no longer be public office but rather a twisted reality show which is funded by the hard-earned tax contributions of Filipinos, many of which are finding it hard to make ends meet.
That is exactly why criticism of such a poor choice of head-of-state is crucial, because 2016 is make or break for the country. We are finally seeing golden years once more, the economy is on an upward trajectory, investor confidence is high, consumer confidence is high, Filipinos are starting to opt out of working overseas and are finding decent jobs domestically. Corruption incidence is at a low as well, and more foreign investments are being announced.
We cannot let go of this momentum, instead we should sustain it. Remember the glory years known of the Ramos administration? That was followed by three years of turmoil when someone incompetent and corrupt like Joseph Estrada was elected as his successor. Estrada was elected due to his fame as well, being another famous movie star. Unfortunately, his action star heroics did not translate into an epic presidency.
I’m confident in saying that majority -if not all – of Filipinos do not want to see a return of the early 2000’s. In those years we witnessed low economic growth rates and a mass exodus of skilled workers, our aim in 2016 should not only be to stop that from happening again but to exceed every expectation we have.
The only way to do that however is to lose this habit we have of voting for the wrong people. If this country wants to move forward we need to stop electing the people we colloquially call TRAPOs – or traditional politicians. Politicians who put approval ratings before their constituent’s welfare, the politicos who only perform when they seek your votes but disappear once they have it.
The recent Pulse Asia survey is a disappointment, but luckily it’s only 2014, there’s roughly two more years before we cast that final ballot and decide President Aquino’s successor. Let’s use that survey as a warning, that TRAPOs can be elected again if we do not think hard about our vote.