Transforming the ‘masa’ vote
Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle criticized corrupt politicians in his keynote address at the 51st International Eucharistic Congress held in Cebu, adding that tax money should go to social services instead of their personal use. How materialism had skewed the moral values of the people was the Cardinal’s underlying theme. In less than 90 days, on May 9, some 50 million voters will again cast their ballots to elect a president and other national officials.
It will take, however, more than a denunciation of corrupt politicians and a call to shun them at the polls. What we need is a conversion of voters’ mindset from monetary to moral value. Unless voters are transformed into an informed citizenry, we will continue to see a revolving door of elected politicians who will continue to raid the public coffers. Consider this: Despite President Aquino’s avowed “straight path” claim, the Philippines dropped 10 notches in the 2015 Transparency International’s Corruption Index.
The reality of our election process is the tyranny of the “masa” majority. It is actually the “masa” who determine the outcome of elections in this country of 100 million people. It’s a shame and a waste the masa itself doesn’t know how to use its own potent force as a factor to reckon with and improve its lot. It’s the politicians who recognize this force and manipulate it to their benefit. That’s why those political TV ads pander to the masses. The message is never on a higher plane but deliberately crafted to relate to the low- end target audience. Promoting “nog nog,” “pandak,” foul street language, and “kampeon ng masa” is the spiel that has resonance with a wide segment of the poor. How low can it get? One TV ad even had a candidate in a “Star Wars” costume that makes you wonder what it has to do with public service.
The poor cannot be totally blamed if many sell their votes for instant, albeit short-term relief. This is the “instant noodle” mentality that serves as palliative in a country where less than 10 percent control about 90 percent of the wealth.
With big business contributing huge sums to the campaign funds of major candidates, the chance for change is next to nil. The contractualization of our workers has been going on for years. Except for former ambassador Roy Seneres, no one among the four other presidential candidates has made it a campaign platform to end the illegal and exploitative practice by big companies. This is why our workers flee to foreign lands to seek a better future for their families. Then the pols hail them as “modern-day heroes.” Our overseas foreign workers prop up the economy with billions in hard currency remittances. If they would only use this as a weapon to effect change and not be satisfied with government concession of tax free unopened “balikbayan” boxes!
To the extent of being a pessimist, we will probably see another six years of government misrule. There are probably other skeptics like me who don’t see any of the presidential candidates worth voting for despite their promise of change and our deliverance from poverty, unemployment and runaway crime. Somehow, the economy will continue to grow as it did six percent in the last quarter. But will economic growth filter down to include the poor?
How does society change the quality of voters so they can wisely choose the country’s leaders? A good start is when students enter high school, a curriculum should inculcate in them the importance of knowing the qualification of candidates. Media, particularly the broadcast and electronic sector which has immense influence on viewers, should be harnessed in voter reeducation. Sadly, broadcast media is more focused on showbiz as the networks battle for high Nielsen ratings. This is the reality because TV air time is big business driven by profits.
Consider the millions of pesos spent on TV ads by politicians and its effect and influence on voters particularly the C and D audience. Since the government uses People’s TV4 for its propaganda purposes, it cannot be relied on to promote an informed voter education. Private sector media has a civic duty to educate voters. Perhaps a dedicated time slot can be allotted for voter education to promote an intelligent vote. It need not be on television’s profitable prime time. But if given a public service time slot, the tapes of these programs can be downloaded and replayed for high school students and soon-to-be voters reaching the age of 18.
In the United Kingdom, the publicly funded British Broadcasting Corp. is used for educational purposes. The BBC broadcast fare is focused on the arts, culture, history, quality fictional films and public discourse of major election issues. BBC can even criticize government policy affecting the citizenry.
The government announced that the Intercontinental Broadcasting Company’s Channel 13 has been placed on the auction block. The government-owned and-controlled corporation which is the steward of IBC-13 can channel the P1.3 billion proceeds from the sale to finance a real public service People’s TV4. It is the people’s tax money, after all.