Beware of vampires!
Does a single vote matter and how far does that vote go in transforming the nation?
This question was posed to me and other speakers recently at a forum of students of the Ateneo de Manila University. They have eagerly organized themselves into “Task Force 2013” and their goal is to get their colleagues to register and vote in next year’s elections.
They wore white shirts with Botante ako (I’m a voter) emblazoned in bright and seductive colors, their enthusiasm for participating in an old set piece of democracy filling the humid afternoon air.
I wanted to encourage them and be positive about the electoral process which, in my lifetime, has only led to spurts of structural change in the national level and some sustainable reforms in towns and cities.
Our politics is still very much controlled by a narrow elite and power is in the hands of a few, the wealthy who, in turn, dispense it—as if it were a commodity—to their friends and hangers on, as reward for doing their bidding.
Our politicians are like fashionistas who change their clothes according to what is trendy and popular.
Our political parties are eons away from being institutions, from standing firm on principles. Rather, their shifting identities are shaped by election winners, those who have control over the public coffers.
But I left these unsaid. I know that there will be other occasions wherein these bright and chirpy students can talk about these unpleasant realities.
For now, the option is to exercise this right, to get out and vote and, by all means, try to make a difference.
Engage the winners
So here’s what I said, in part.
The easy and short answer to the first part of the question is a resounding Yes! A single vote matters; and counting all the votes each of you will cast next year will matter even more.
The second part of the question—how far does that vote go in transforming the nation?—is the more difficult one to answer. Because making our democracy work and thrive does not stop at the polling booth.
We have to make sure that the mayors, congressmen, and senators we voted into office do what they promised to deliver: be it health services, roads and bridges, economic policy that will level the playing field, and policies that will reduce poverty and hunger.
After we cast our votes, we have to be vigilant, engage the winners, and watch how they perform.
Thus, I would like to make a pitch to you today: make your votes matter by choosing candidates who advocate the twin virtues of transparency and accountability. This is one big way we can reduce corruption: by selecting candidates who believe in being transparent and accountable; candidates who are transparent and accountable.
Because if, to begin with, they practice these twin virtues, then we have a shot at putting honest people in government.
No to vampires
Here’s what we have to watch out for: Candidates who are transparent about their assets, their wealth and how they accumulated it. Of course, they must be transparent about their beliefs.
Choose those who are accountable. If it is their first time to run for public office, what was their track record in the private sector or in government? Were they accountable to their constituents? Their communities?
If the candidates are currently in public office, then we should check their voting record. Did they support bills that push for transparency and accountability?
Did they behave like they were above the law? Did they follow the laws? Or violate them? Did they observe the rules? Or did they use shortcuts?
Accountability should be in the DNA of a public official. It strikes at the heart of what it means to be in public office.
We should vote for those who welcome the sunlight, not those who hide in dark corners. Not the vampires. - Rappler.com