President Rodrigo Duterte's "surprise" announcement last Saturday of his retirement from politics…
Because of relentless mudslinging, name-calling and fearmongering even before the campaign season begins, voters don't really get to be offered a good choice of candidates vying for public office.
Few politicians manage to keep their private life out of politics. Most often, their families, relatives and friends also get involved from campaigning to helping in the delivery of public services.
Under normal circumstances, once a person decides to enter politics, he exposes not only himself but also his family, relatives, friends, associates and even supporters to public scrutiny. Those who were born to political families may have become used to sharing the political limelight, just ignoring the criticisms or living their lives as if no one is watching.
Ideally, politics is public service. It requires personal sacrifices including privacy in some aspects. In reality, it appears that politics has become a family business enterprise or a position of power to protect unlawful activities.
More than a week after the filing of the certificates of candidacy (CoCs) for the upcoming 2022 national and local elections, we now have a glimpse of those courting our votes. In many cases, we are faced with the difficulty of choosing between the bad and the lesser of evils for positions that will surely have an impact on our communities and our future.
This early, four months before the start of the official campaign period for the national elections (president, vice president, senators and party-list), we have already been bombarded with character assassination, name-calling and mudslinging among aspirants and their supporters.
Manila Mayor Francisco "Isko Moreno" Domagoso, who has been rating high in the surveys for preferred presidential candidate, is turning out to be the most vocal critic of Vice President Maria Leonor "Leni" Robredo, the opposition standard-bearer.
Presenting himself as neither an administration nor an opposition bet, Domagoso has questioned Robredo's skills to unify political forces, saying she could not even create harmony within the Liberal Party and criticized her firm stand against the Marcoses.
Robredo had said she has decided to seek the presidency to prevent former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. from winning. Robredo is endorsed by the multisectoral group 1Sambayan, which has declared its stand against President Rodrigo Duterte and his candidates and the Marcoses.
Domagoso, who has earned a reputation as pro-poor owing to his early childhood as a garbage collector in the slums of Tondo, Manila and recently promised to be a healing president, had referred to the supporters of former president Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III as "yellowtards" and, in another occasion, referred to the defeat of the Liberal Party-led candidates for senator in 2019 as "na-inidoro."
"Inidoro" was among the online insults hurled at the Otso Diretso senatorial candidates during the midterm elections under the Liberal, Magdalo and Aksyon Demokratiko parties. Domagoso is seeking the presidency under Aksyon Demokratiko.
Asked to comment on Domagoso's derogatory remarks about the Liberal Party, Robredo said she would rather act gentlemanly by ignoring those because the country is facing many bigger problems that need attention.
On the side of Marcos, the former senator's supporters — others say most of them are online trolls or keyboard warriors — seem to be quite occupied in online polls and interacting in news and social media posts with either "Marcos pa rin" or "BBM" comments.
The election season has barely started with the filing of CoCs, with more surprises coming as the Nov. 15 deadline for substitution of candidates approaches, yet voters are already treated to the ugly negative campaigning among candidates and their supporters.
This early, I have heard about broken friendships because of differences in political leanings, but I also know of families unifying for particular candidates.
Browsing social media comments, I have seen not just a few who said that all candidates are corrupt, immoral, inefficient, human rights violators but, at least, some are sharing their loot with the people.
I have also read comments supportive of the Dutertes and their allies because, they said, it was only under the present administration that they received cash assistance from the government, apparently referring to the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) for the so-called poorest of the poor under the Bayanihan to Heal as One law, in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
Obviously, these people have not realized that the huge debts the Duterte administration has incurred will have to be paid through taxes and other means, which the people will bear later.
As of August this year, the country’s debt reached a new record high of P11.64 trillion, based on data from the Bureau of Treasury. The Duterte administration continued to secure funds to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, billions of pesos of these funds were allegedly used in questionable supply contracts involving Chinese businessmen who have been linked to Duterte.
Recent political developments show that Filipino voters are indeed confronted with the difficult problem of choosing between the bad and the lesser evil, not only in the presidential race but more so in the senatorial down to the local candidates.
Truly, the voters deserve better. But with mudslinging, name-calling, character assassination and all the marks of negative campaigning in Philippine politics, the better candidates are shying away, afraid to give up their privacy to be torn to pieces by paid trolls.
No candidate is perfect for any position. But it would be pleasant if the choice is among the good, better and best candidates.
For as long as voters patronize those who buy votes, engage in negative campaigning and treat politics as a family enterprise, we will always be faced with the same difficult problem. It’s a vicious cycle.