Here we go again…

By Ed Tayao

In a group chat, I received a message forwarded from another group asking “Is he truly our President?” Apparently “The transparency server of COMELEC issued results of 20 million votes for BBM even BEFORE THE COUNTING STARTED.”

The message asked COMELEC to explain “what you have done to the nation.” That it “proclaimed a ‘President’?” If the proclamation was “an order” and “from whom?”

It goes on to ask “since when can someone ORDER who is to be President? I thought he is to be elected? Can someone bring this up in the Supreme Court and the chambers of the Legislative? Why is everybody silent? Because it is useless to seek justice in the Judicial and Legislative branches of government, controlled by the one who gave the order?”

Considering the language, it’s quite easy to just dismiss it. It could most likely be written by some troll or rabblerouser, thus would not be given much attention by some who aren’t swayed easily by such agitators. The allegations are just too serious to be dismissed however, so I just had to ask why up to now, there are still some rumblings with the recently concluded elections. I thought, and this is quite unnerving, up to now those who lost still could not accept the people’s judgement.

Of course, they have every right to complain and in fact they should complain if indeed there was cheating, if there were indiscretions. So I replied right away to the one who shared the message. I said, “If there is any evidence Sir, why just all noise in the social media and not file a proper case in court?” I couldn’t agree more therefore with the latter part of the forwarded message, that someone has to take legal steps especially with this very disturbing claim of a dreadful political crime. I would also ask, given the severity of the crime, why is everybody silent? Why are those who ran in the recently concluded elections chose to be mum and do nothing?

Or perhaps they are doing something, except that the one thing they should really be doing, that is using the process provided by law, file a complaint and have those responsible accountable, is not the one that is resorted to. It’s difficult to assume that they would not have the wherewithal to file a legal complaint; impossible to run for office in the first place, and claim later to not have enough resources to successfully mount a credible campaign. There should be every reason to pursue legal action and get to the bottom of this remarkable claim of election sabotage. There can be no doubt that if there is incontrovertible evidence, the people will support and will be willing to contribute to pursue legal options.

In the first place, it is not only the losing candidates who require and are entitled to justice; the entire, as every Filipino has to be given justice. If indeed, all those who offered themselves to the people to be their leader, all the candidates who ran for office actually care about the people and therefore are champions of democracy, then they should find it imperative to really act and get these serious issues of election sabotage settled. Instead, it seems the singular option taken is the unconventional one of taking it to the social media; instead of resorting to the legal process. So, the question now is, what exactly is the purpose of resorting to appeal to popular sentiment?

It is one thing to allege and another thing to act. Making serious allegations should always come with action, otherwise it itself becomes a serious question as it is disturbing. The allegation is in fact remarkably serious as it does not only claim there was cheating, it insinuates that “someone” “ordered”, and therefore solely responsible for the result/s of the election. If there’s any truth to the allegation, it should not be impossible to gather information and evidence so that proper legal action can be acted on. That is, if, the purpose is really to obtain justice. If the purpose is something else, say, to confuse with an end of agitating the people, it is an entirely different issue.

What is most frustrating is this has always been the case every election. It seems it has become some kind of a default that the winner and losers of the election cheated and or were cheated. This default does not only indict opposing political actor/s, it is actually an indictment of the country’s political process and in all, our democracy. The impact is so far-reaching that it has weakened and continue to weaken the country’s political institutions.

No matter how anyone denies, our problem is really systemic. Not only are there challenges outside the administration, there are no doubt, systemic difficulties from within. What appears from the outside as intramurals within the administration actually has its catalyst outside. The cause of the many issues we now see in politics, from appointments to sudden resignations can all be explained only by spoils.

If we are to carefully pore over recent developments for example, one might be appalled to know that it was in the main orchestrated by a particular group wanting to gain back previous positions. This is a very influential group but their hunger to get back to their positions was only made potent by those who’ve been angling to get appointed as they feel entitled to be given their role in the successful election campaign. This has become a compelling combination that led to sudden changes in the roster of officials close to the President.

Spoils are no doubt integral to politics, regardless where you are around the world in fact. The difference in our case though is that the giving of spoils itself does not have a system, as our political system can hardly be called a system. Anything and everything are dependent on personalities that ultimately, there is hardly any way to anticipate and make sense of how spoils can be given.

That would have been okay if spoils are just some stuff that can be given; stuff that can be consumed and or used without affecting other people. Unfortunately, when we speak about spoils in politics, it is always something much more as it always entails the use of the government. Spoils are in the form of positions in government, and/or a contract or even a policy or project pushed by a sector or group that sadly oftentimes tend to favor them. These then translate to something that affect the day-to-day lives of the people, could be livelihood, security or any opportunity. The giving of these spoils no doubt follows existing laws, but sadly, it seems the paramount consideration for a good time now has become “who one knows”.

If we are to focus on appointments for example, one may have all the right qualifications, but even then, it will not be that much of a value if there if is no personal link to the decision-makers, ultimately to the appointing power or anyone and anywhere near it. Again, this is not necessarily bad or wrong, it is but logical that it is also the case as far as other countries. You may have an impressive educational background and professional experience, but if you are not personally known to the appointing power and whoever is part of the group involved in the appointing process, then you don’t stand a chance.

You can complain all you want that you are a lot more qualified than the one considered for a position you’re interested in, but at the end of the day, “trust” is one important factor in appointments that without it, no qualification would be enough. If qualifications and experience are not enough, certainly it is a mistake to assume that “trust” trumps everything, especially qualifications. Both factors should be considered as a candidate or nominee to a position should have both to be considered.

Getting appointed does not mean in the first place that one simply will be paid for doing nothing and just strutting around telling everyone of one’s important position or worst currying favor for anyone. A position entails responsibilities that have to be performed in order to serve the people. Being able to perform is paramount, not only because the lives of the people are affected, but equally important is that it translates to sustaining or even solidifying support to the principal political leader.

Unsound and/or unbalanced appointments, that is those made mainly on the basis of “trust” can be the undoing of a leader. This is problematic as oftentimes the principal is not made entirely aware of the circumstances of an appointment and or position and how it impinges on public opinion. This brings us back to our consideration of a systemic problem, the intramurals that are simultaneously and constantly happening within and without the administration can take its toll if not managed. Managing these constant intramurals, that it doesn’t compromise the public support of the leader, after all, is the only option available given the lack of stable public institutions like political parties in place.

Ultimately, it’s quite unusual for some to say that this administration is slow and/or not performing well and that the sudden changes in key positions in government is some indication of such deficiency. Infighting has long been a feature in government, especially in positions close to the top leadership. Leadership styles differ from one administration to another. However hard one tries, managing differences between personalities, especially personalities in key positions in government, will always be a challenge. In the same vein, there will always be outside forces that will try to influence, even manipulate the government. These are constant threats that if successful can imperil an administration.

So, is it right to say that the administration has been failing? After 100 days, so many have been quick to judge the government’s performance without even probably knowing what the hundred days are for. Even absent any background of how and why the tradition of a hundred days started, it’s quite absurd to weigh or much less grade an administration’s accomplishments. Considering the breadth and depth of a whole government with its different and countless offices and agencies, the first hundred days is more for the purpose of organizing and preparing for the 6 years ahead in office.

It has not been perfect no doubt. There remain important appointments that have not been made. Those already appointed however are veritable who’s who in their own industries and or sectors. The choices were really carefully made and the background of each suggests the key consideration is not one’s political fealty. Much more can and should be done, starting with the finalizing of the Philippine Development Plan. Fortunately, time remains on the side of the President.