TREMENDOUS investments in monetary and human resources have been poured into this political exercise called elections. And if we count the number of human lives wasted in the many years that elections have been conducted since the birth of the Philippine Republic, we can only clack our tongues and shake our heads. But at bottom of these trivial gestures is a quality of pessimism that put elections in grievous doubt if it can ever yet emancipate the people from the miserable morass they are in.
This loss of faith in the electoral system stems from people’s perception of its being a stupendous mockery of democratic principles. Our electoral processes are basically tailored after the interests of the traditional political parties claiming to be representatives of the majority of the people. In fact they represent only a very small percentage of the entire population.
These political parties — chiefly, the Liberal Party and Nacionalista Party — are decidedly tied up to the interests of the economic elite in Philippine society.
And who are the elite? They are the landlords and capitalists, including the bureaucrats who amass wealth while in office.
The entire government apparatus and bureaucracy are made to cater to the wants and wishes of this societal elite. Administrative programs and legislative measures are designed for their exclusive advantage. Political dynasticism and warlordism serve as lance and shield of their perpetual rule.
In any electoral contest, the candidates belonging to either of these two parties, come out the victors. Why? Simply because they have the luxury of resources — millions of money to spend for all imaginable devious schemes and means to climb to power.
What about the true representatives of the basic toiling masses? The workers and the farmers? Can they have a few thousands for campaign expenditures? Never! Unless some landlords or capitalists sponsor them and spend for their candidacy! In which case, they now become protégées eternally beholden to such benefactors. And with that, they have become representatives, not of the workers or farmers, but of the landlords or the capitalists.
And this is the very rationale for the qualification imposed by the COMELEC namely: that a candidate for national post should have the capacity [read: millions] to campaign nationwide.
Under the present setup, there’s no way a worker or a farmer or a fisherman or an urban poor can win an electoral seat, nationally or even locally.
Let us therefore stop calling our elections a democratic process.
Knowing this, what is the alternative road that can make of our elections a truly democratic one? The answer: reverse the situation by reversing the process.
Let the top national officials of the grassroots organizations of the workers and farmers and other basic masses occupy and dominate the seats of the legislative body.
Instead of the individual candidates running under the traditional political parties occupying 80 – 90 percent of the seats in the national legislative body, let it be the other way around: the official leaders of the different sectoral organizations of the masses hold 80-90 percent of the national legislative seats.
No big sums of money will be involved here. The national officers/leaders of the different organizations of the basic masses will automatically be allotted seats in proportion to the size of their respective constituencies. They are the true representatives of the mass of members who elected them as their officers and leaders. And so, they don’t need to be subjected again to elections that require big outlay of money for campaigns.
The same procedure shall be followed in the legislative councils of provinces and municipalities. And even in the barangay levels.
Ambitious politicians, or individual persons from the landlord and capitalist classes who desire to be part of the legislative body shall be elected only by the unorganized sections of the population as their constituencies. They shall constitute a small minority in the national legislature — a small slice of the political pie.
The members of the National Legislature will be responsible in electing the President and Vice-President or Premier and Vice-Premier, as the case may be, in the executive branch of government.
Governors and mayors can only come from candidates of the organized sectors of the majority of the masses. Not from any ambitious persons and individuals who do not belong to any people’s organization.
By these broad participatory processes that involve the grassroots–the grassroots who have long been denied the right to manifest their true will and interests–the fundamental principles rooted in a democracy are put into meaningful practice. A genuine democracy shall have been installed –one that is truly a government of the people, by the people and for the people.
Sadly, what we have in our present dispensation is a government of the elite, by the elite and for the elite. This is anathema to the ideals of a true democracy.
Don J. Pagusara is a native of Mindanao, a multi-awarded author and a Palanca-awardee.