The issues that matter

LESS than two weeks from now, Filipinos will troop to the polls to elect local and national officials. As Election Day nears, the campaign intensifies and becomes heated but the main focus is still on the personality of those who seek public office. 

Philippine election after all is highly personal or very personalistic. The person who is running for public office to most voters is more important than the issues that are at stake and political discourse is dominated by personal issues, gossips, and juicy innuendos.

But issues matter and issues more than personalities must be the most important consideration when choosing the people who will occupy public office. In this election, these are the issues that matter the most.

Foremost issue facing Filipino voters is the grave danger facing democracy in the country. Today, Philippine democracy more than at any time since its restoration in 1986 is in a very perilous situation. The cornerstones of democracy are the rule of law and the principle of check-and-balance. These are being fatally eroded since Du30 assumed the presidency. The principal mission of his presidency it appears is to tear down the democratic project and restores the authoritarian past. 

Not since the days of the Marcos dictatorship has the Supreme Court been cowed and cornered to submission. Through creative combination of stick, carrot, moral bankruptcy, and idiocy, Du30 succeeded in co-opting the judicial branch. The current High Court has been reduced to a mere stamping of Du30, giving legal imprimatur to his patently illegal actions. 

Congress abdicated its role as a check to the executive even before Du30 assumed the presidency. The Lower House at present is nothing but an extension of the executive, giving in to its every whim and caprices. Under the leadership of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the House is once again the nest of everything that is wrong with Philippine society.

The Senate, on the other hand, is the last holdover, the remaining block standing in the way for the complete dismantling of democracy in the country. It is the ground zero of the coming election. The battle for the control of the Senate will determine the fate of the nation. If Du30 succeeds in capturing more than two-thirds of the Senate seats, he is in a stronger position to raze down the 1987 Constitution and replace it with his own which will enshrine his autocratic and illiberal impulses.

Rule of law is dying in the country. Du30 and his minions are vigorously promoting the twisted and distorted view that people are presumed guilty until proven innocent, the complete inversion of the time-tested principle that people are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Suspected drug addicts and pushers are slaughtered by thousands without trial or even the benefit of a simple investigation. Du30 habitually concocts accusations against his critics based a piece of paper without producing a shred of evidence, another indicator of the weakening of the rule of law. 

The issue of human rights must be placed at the center of political discourse in the election. Voters must demand this issue should be articulated by candidates. Concept of human rights has been attacked and slandered by Du30 and his fanatics. They portrayed human rights as bad and evil and should be discarded. Gross distortion of human rights is one of the trademarks of Du30’s presidency.

People are humans because they have rights. Remove their rights and people are stripped of their humanity. The concept of human rights is one of the finest achievements of the Enlightenment. Du30 and his supporters must not be allowed to get away with their mangling of human rights. Defense of human rights should be a central issue in the election and candidates who disregard human rights must also be discarded in the polls.

National sovereignty is another issue that must preoccupy voters. The territorial integrity of the country has been badly compromised with our big bully neighbor China stealing Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea. What is very disturbing is not only the failure of the Du30 administration to defend the theft of Philippine territory but its acquiescence and submission to what China is doing. 

Du30 is also leading the Philippines to Chinese debt trap by burying the country in huge Chinese loans riddled with onerous and lopsided conditions. Patrimonial assets of the country as well as the future of the coming generations of Filipinos have been compromised and mortgaged to the thief China. 

Worst, Du30 allowed Chinese nationals to enter the country and steal jobs from Filipinos. Thousands of Filipinos are leaving the country every day due to scant job opportunities here. For the Du30 administration to permit Chinese nationals to snatch from Filipinos the meager jobs available in the country highlights its cruel heartlessness and sickening insensitivity. 

The above-mentioned issues are only some of the things that should matter in the coming election. Instead of focusing on the personalities, these issues must be at the center of political debates and discussions. Voters must carefully examine the positions and stand of the candidates on these issues, especially those running for national positions. Candidates should be chosen on the basis of their stand on democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and theft of Philippine territory by China, invasion of Chinese nationals and job loss of Filipinos to them and other issues affecting the country. 

Only by making position on these issues the standard by which an official is elected in the coming election can Filipinos ensure that the democratic project as well as the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are defended and preserved.