Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Generational Crossroads: the 2016 Philippine Presidential Elections

If recent polling is to be believed, there are currently an alarming amount of Filipino voters who are ready to choose Vice President Jejomar Binay as president. Of course, there is still a long way to go and anything can happen in the meantime before the May 2016 election (according to a May 30-June 5 Pulse Asia survey, Senator Grace Poe is out in front of the presidential polling over Binay by 8% points). Contributing to the well of uncertainty about the election outcome is that there are any number of factors, some predictable, some unpredictable, that will help determine what transpires.

Whatever those factors may be, there is one thing that is disturbing and almost unbelievable. That Jejomar Binay, even with the damning portrait of graft and corruption being drawn about him, has emerged as a leading national figure for the presidency in 2016. It is as though the authoritarian Marcos regime, the Estrada presidency which ran afoul of the people’s trust, and the frayed legitimacy of the Macapagal-Arroyo administration never happened.

Filipinos can become too preoccupied with forgiving and forgetting the past. Throughout much of the journey through their postwar national history, Filipinos have consistently had to pick up the moral, ethical, and financial bills left behind by crooked politicians and the monopolistic economic elite. Rather than do their utmost in raising their consciousness against the injustice and exploitation of their persons and property, it seems that Filipinos have churned out forgiveness and forgetting faster than their transgressors could commit their sins, the very magnitude of which were sometimes far worse than petty criminality.

The electorate’s latest self-proclaimed knight in shining armor is riding to the rescue not of the voters, but of his own self-interest and family. Jejomar Binay’s name has appeared at or near the top of early polling despite the litany of corruption charges that have been leveled against him. In response, the current vice-president has credited the allegations to the machinations of his political opponents.

There will be a battle over moral and generational discourses surrounding the 2016 presidential election. By the end of the election it is hoped—without compunction—that the prevailing discourses will begin to right the dominant wrongs in Philippine history and society and secure a brighter future for Filipinos. Grace Poe and Mar Roxas promise to hold up the moral discourse, the discourse that has been wholly owned and distorted by those like Jejomar Binay who are interested more in proving power and revitalizing and extending their rule than protecting human rights and social equality.

Binay’s allegedly illicit living has turned him into a contemporary symbol of graft and corruption. A summary judgment of the vice-president’s activities as the mayor of Makati would corroborate this, thereby assuring his place in the pantheon of traditional Philippine politicians and their massive rejection of morals and ethics in society. Binay’s name has been circled and marked as an established member of that part of the older generation of Filipinos who are liable for things and attitudes in the Philippines that are irreverently abusive, morally exempt, economically dysfunctional, and dishearteningly hypocritical.

With Grace Poe and Mar Roxas, one cannot escape the impression that they are as representative of a younger, more virtuous Filipino generation as Binay is of the older. The dreams and desires of this younger generation are being acted out with sharp observing eyes and ears, as well as with more assertive words, in the face of an old school generation that will not surrender its power and privileges easily. But you can be sure that this oncoming generation with its growing disenchantment with political and financial chicanery—and its skillful utilization of social media—will pride itself on nurturing and achieving the moral imperative to improve the lives of millions of Filipinos.

In too many elections in the past, Filipinos have made the wrong decision. With the 2016 presidential election, they are now at a dramatic crossroads between taking the new high road and sticking with the old low road. One road will plausibly lead to a more enlightened, dynamic, and egalitarian society. The other is unsympathetic to that progressive route what with the contrived words and actions it has in store for its advocates. I am very optimistic that Filipino voters, buttressed by the moral strength and vigor of the younger generation, will make the right and lasting choice this time around.


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