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‘None of the Above’

by Erik Espina

I AM glad the Namfrel (National Movement for Free Elections) has supported the “None of the Above” option for when they believe none of the candidates is deserving of the people’s vote. This was part of the watchdog’s inputs for electoral reform. Decades and several columns ago, I forwarded the proposal to include said provision in the ballot as one of several items which may be introduced as a positive and pro-active measure without having need of debating and legislating an Anti-Dynasty Law.

The latter goes against the very ethos of open and participatory democracy, where anyone, everyone, regardless of academic, economic, social standing, may aspire for public office. Honest, orderly, peaceful elections, is precisely the anti-dynasty check and balance by the sovereign people versus errant names.

My proposal for a “None of the Above,” is a fire-exit provision for “people empowerment,” applied at the local level where the politics are highly personal, expensive, at times, violent. Admittedly, certain local areas are artificially held captive by intervening politics of guns, goons, and gold. Meaning a political aristocracy of warlords, gambling and drug protectors, buying reelection into office. There is also the phenomenon of the despotic “lesser evil” voted by a constituency politically strangled by the poverty of better choices and new faces. The lesser evil formula is still evil elected into office. In a situational conundrum as these, the “None of the Above” provision is a necessary formula for moderating power versus corrupt and venal candidates constantly running and winning. My suggestion is to pilot-test the proposal for local positions e.g. governor, mayor, barangay chairman, and in identified areas. Lessons learned will fine-tune what will be “best practices” in future elections. The concept of “people empowerment” is not novel. The 1987 Constitution perceives of a “people’s initiative” to directly amend the basic law of the land. There is recognition of “people’s organization.” The “recall” where sitting local officials may be petitioned in a revalida for loss of confidence before the arena of his constituency.