By ERIK ESPINA
We have been nibbled by the ways of dirty politics, we cannot be ready to rise above self, recognizing the decency in men, and the greatness of our dreams. The best of the past is no longer the best of the present.
The last elections served to validate the ever-increasing cost for candidates aspiring for public office. Our democracy is in a free-fall every campaign period. Substance is no longer expansive for electoral victory. It is mostly about the optics of familiarity, “like-ability,” and entertainment. Party politics as we used to know it is dead. Consensus is constructed around winnability, endorsements, not so much on principles and national values. The election is essentially a bidding war for public office for the candidate, and for the latter, side income for much needed staples. At the local level – councilors, mayors, congressmen – is the question – Can a serious candidate win without buying votes? At the national level for senators, etc., will the absence of a multi-million-peso war chest diminish, if not steal, the viability of a true-blue statesman? Note the sky-rocketing media/advertising charges. In a radio station in Cebu, a 30-minute interview involves a P30,000 fee. Thirty-second and one-minute television ads of “pay-before-broadcast” remain a lucrative business. Charges increase several hundred thousand pesos every campaign period. The law on campaign contributions and expenditures is observed in the negative. Why would a candidate spend more than the sum-total of his term/salary? Unless it is an investment? A business, an ongoing concern for preparing a war-chest for “buying” the next elections?
It has become too expensive for deserving individuals to venture into public office. With money-politics, elections are no longer a test of our strength or resolve as a people, but a test of our weakness. Jose Rizal advocated for “virtue” in order to be deserving of our independence. Indeed, we are only as strong as the weakest link in a chain of our democratic ideals.