[Editorials of The Connection] Keeping watch



For the 2013 national and local elections, The Filipino Connection published a special edition and carried the banner story Hope in the Filipino vote? The search continues. The point of that story was not even a second run of automated voting, said to be a major outcome of Philippine electoral reform, “can’t stop usual, serious offline glitches that mark Filipino voting.”

During election season, there’s vote-buying, flying voters, election-related violence, and mudslinging among candidates. With 2016 looming, news even at this early have seen signs that politicians are up and about. National-level political figures are posturing themselves already (whether they admit it or not). Quietly, movement had begun in local communities.

Some are of the opinion that article of The Filipino Connection seemed to carry a negative tone, especially since the lead paragraphs show a voter purposively not casting his vote for a lack of worthy candidates.” What the phrase “the search continues” meant was the search for political maturity. Technology had solved a major constraint every Philippine election: keeping the sanctity of the ballot. After the first run of automated elections in 2010 that elected President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, allegations of vote-tampering and vote padding had significantly decreased.

And yes, the search for political maturity continues.

Just months after the May 2013 elections, the nation was rocked with the discovery of alleged large-scale corruption of Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) said to be engineered by an operator named Janet Lim-Napoles, now detained. Even the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) had enlightened the citizenry by getting themselves more involved into knowing how public funds are (mis)used.

The drama tales continued months after Napoles. Related to PDAF, Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon Revilla III and then Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile (then the Senate President who presided the impeachment trial of then Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2011) are currently detained over allegations of plunder for their reported involvement in the PDAF or “pork barrel” scam. What is ongoing is the questioning in the Philippine Senate of Vice President Jejomar Binay’s alleged undeclared assets and overpriced bids of local government projects.

Even Aquino III isn’t spared. The Zamboanga siege of August and September, a quake that jolted Bohol and Cebu in September, and typhoon Yolanda in November had tested the government’s resolve in handling these man-made and natural disasters. There remains to be the search for an efficient, coordinated disaster risk reduction response not just by under-resourced local government units, but by the national government. Now even millions of pesos of donations raised globally after Yolanda, a report of the Commission on Audit finds, have yet to be disbursed at a time when recovery and reconstruction of affected communities is urgent. While President Aquino is said to be getting still mostly positive remarks from respondents of satisfaction surveys done by Pulse Asia and Social Weather Stations, these recent events had tested the President’s governance approach —and not many were pleased with Aquino.

There’s a forthcoming respite to these never-ending fits of political issues. Just like when Christians anticipate the coming of the Good Lord Jesus Christ on His birthday, December 25, Filipino Catholics are up and about given the forthcoming apostolic and state visit of Pope Francis. It is like people in government will expectedly be behaved in front of this modern-day Pope.

So yes, the search for political maturity continues. While taxpayers and voters are still uncertain if that maturity can come and can start from today’s people in power (whether nationally or locally), what the Napoles issue had done was that Filipinos got angry and watched over a political arena that continues to carry old habits even under a corruption-busting, reformist president. Social media made the people’s watch rapidly quick and interesting.

But as how journalism unearths major issues, a current issue lingers for quite some time and a new event —politically-related or not (like disasters)— will put the pressing issue in the backburner. This is not unless a new earthshaking tale comes along, and the editorial cycle for political journalism continues.

The coming New Year marks the steady acceleration of political preparations for the 2016 national and local elections. These past two years have been among the years that rocked Philippine politics to its core under a democratic system, especially given the pork barrel scam. So like what Christians do in this season of Advent, we keep watch. Nothing’s sure for Philippine political maturity, even under a reformist regime.