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The tragedy of Philippine politics

By the time this column goes to print, our Filipino voters have already cast their votes for president, vice-president, senators and other elected positions in government.

The adrenaline that made the campaign exhilarating is now replaced by tension, and uncertainty as the nation awaits the official proclamation of the winners.

Unfortunately, elections are never win-win affairs. There are in fact more losers than winners. So after the dust has settled, a few will celebrate and our media will focus almost exclusively on the victors. A great majority of candidates will silently lick their wounds.

At the end of a punishing campaign period, you begin to ask yourself, was it worth it? The weeks before the elections are demanding to the candidates and everyone in the campaign team. This is true physically, financially and emotionally.

For national candidates, crisscrossing the nation from north to south, east to west will challenge even the most physically fit candidate. Add to this the oppressive summer heat that we are currently experiencing.

For most candidates, the campaign would have also affected them financially. Running a national campaign is no joke.

It requires vast amount of resources in order to send your message to the electorate. And it is also emotionally draining. Aspirants need to endure brutal attacks against their persons and worse, their families.

You go around the country and present your plans to uplift the condition of the Filipinos and your opponents fabricate lies after lies against you.

As a candidate you face unprecedented scrutiny. I guess this is important especially for those seeking the highest office of the land. But to be scrutinized down to your most insignificant imperfection makes you really wonder if you made the right choice to run for office.

In most cases, issues raised against candidates are exaggerations, even downright fabrications. Real issues like poverty, political reforms, peace, and the economy are set aside, and instead scandals and controversies are designed to bring candidates down.

Another stress that candidates have to endure is the betrayal of allies and friends. Of course, veterans of politics will tell you that there are no permanent friends or enemies in the political world.

“Et tu Brute?” is an appropriate truism during these times. Loyalty in politics is negotiable.

Do not get me wrong. I think there are still loyal friends and allies out there. I have many devoted friends who continue to be my friends come hell or high water. In business or politics, I value the loyalty of a friend or an employee.

But politics, especially during electoral campaigns, somehow brings out the best and the worst among people. In my years in politics, I have met some of the most devoted allies but I also came across political mercenaries who shift allegiances as often as the sun rises and sets.

This, to me, is the tragedy of Philippine politics.

Politics is supposed to provide an opportunity for everyone to serve the country. But the way it is practiced now, there is really a big disincentive for people willing to serve.

Are you willing to go through all of that to be able to occupy a position in government?

For the vanquished candidates, the important thing to do is to move on. Do not dwell on pain and disappointment.

Conceding is a difficult thing to do for some especially if they think they have been cheated. But the national interest is bigger than any individual interest.

In my case, when it became clear that the results would not favourable to us, I gathered my team together and discussed the situation, and I immediately called for a press conference to congratulate the eventual winner and wish the country good luck.

By lunchtime the following day, I was meeting with my Vista Land officers to discuss my return to the sphere I love the most: business.

It is important for losing candidates to move on. You can recoup the finances you spent. You can recuperate your aching body. You can make new allies. It’s not the end of the world.

But looking at the bigger picture, we need to reflect on how we can make our politics less venomous. Is it possible to have less backstabbing and more collaboration? Is it possible to have less personal attacks and more thoughtful debates of important issues?

(For comments/ feedback email to: mbv.secretariat@gmail or visit www.Mannyvillar.com.ph.)