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Elections are important to our people

LAST November, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez came out with a proposed list of senatorial candidates that included presidential spokesman Harry Roque and Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson. It was rather early for any talk on elections, but the speaker’s list drew considerable interest and attention.

Last week, another list of possible senatorial candidates hit the front pages. This one was the result of a survey reportedly conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS). It included Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, the President’s daughter, along with established names like Senators Grace Poe, Cynthia Villar, Nancy Binay, Juan Eduardo Angara Jr., and Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, and former Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Pia Cayetano, and Lito Lapid.

An SWS official said it had not released any such survey findings but people are so interested in elections that these preliminary lists of candidates draw much attention and discussion. Although the elections are yet to be held in May, 2019, we can expect more of such election news in the coming months as prospective candidates begin their exploratory bids for popular support.

The fact is elections are highly valued by the Filipino people. On one level, elections are what distinguish a democracy like ours from governments led by hereditary rulers or run by non-elected party leaders. On another level, elections are seen by many people as a festive affair, to be enjoyed much like the many other celebrations on the calendar.

For these reasons, we would advise – unsolicited though it may be – against considering cancelling scheduled elections as part of some officials’ plan to set up a new federal form of government. There is even one proposed scenario where current officials would stay in their posts for at least another ten years, while problems are sorted out during the transition period.

This report has been quickly denied by administration officials, calling it “fake news” being spread by opposition quarters. Administration officials have reiterated they are not interested in staying in office one moment longer than their elected terms. But then, they have also been known to change their minds.

Let us have a new Constitution if we must. Let us have a new federal form of government if that will blunt the separatist movement in the South. Let us grant more powers and more resources to regional governments if our leaders think this will solve the unequal development of various parts of the country.

But surely this can all be accomplished without resorting to revolutionary or authoritarian means, such as the one used by one administration in the past in the name of national security and national development.

The last time regular elections were dispensed with, the people – after some time – took to the streets and ousted the overstaying and unelected government.