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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

10 Things to Know about Philippine Elections

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The 2022 Presidential Election is fast-approaching. Unlike in the previous Philippine elections, there is a lot at stake for the Filipino people in the next presidential election. It will determine the pace of the country’s economic and political recovery from the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic and the divisive leadership of President Rodrigo Duterte. Hence, knowing more about Philippine elections is as crucial as casting our votes on the election day. Below is a list of 10 things we should know about Philippine elections:  

#1 COMELEC administers and supervises the election

The Commission on Elections generally supervises all election-related matters in the country. One of which is the screening of candidates for elective government positions. While the 1987 Philippine Constitution specifies the qualification for elective government positions, the COMELEC has the responsibility to issue a certificate of candidacy. Only those who have been granted with the said certificate by the COMELECT will be allowed to run for government positions. This is to ensure that the unnecessary participation of individuals – nuisance candidates – whose primary intention is only to mock and disrepute the election process or to create confusions is avoided.

#2 Qualifications for elected officials are less strict

Although the election of government officials is vital to the fulfillment of the collective goal of the Filipino people, the 1987 Constitution itself does not specify strict qualifications that guarantee the competence and good record of elected officials. Unlike in the private sector, it is safe to say that the qualifications for public servants are loose. Individuals may run for any government positions so long as they possess the qualifications and none of disqualifications set under the law and constitution. It should be no surprise then that individuals with records of corruption are still occupying positions in the government.

#3 Casting vote in the election day is not just a right but an obligation of every citizen entitled to vote

Casting a vote on the election day is more than just one of the democratic rights of the eligible Filipino people. Under the Omnibus Code of the Philippines, the electoral participation of the people is treated as an obligation: meaning, the voters are expected to register and, subsequently, exercise their right to determine the next leaders of the country.

#4 Plurality-Rule Electoral System

Unlike under a majority system, all it takes for a candidate running for an executive position in the country to secure a position is to have the plurality of vote in his/her favor. This basically means that to win, a candidate must receive most votes among other candidates. For instance, Pres. Rodrigo Duterte won in the 2016 Presidential election after receiving the highest number of votes despite not gaining more than half of the total votes. In fact, all post-EDSA Philippine Presidents are considered “minority presidents.” According to Choi (2001), the Philippines is the only presidential democracy in the world using a plurality-rule electoral system to select its chief executive.

#5 Provinces and cities with lower standards of living are most likely governed by political dynasties

Election in the Philippines is a war among political clans in the country. Albeit the country has witnessed a couple of politicians ascending to power despite not coming from a popular family, the politics in the country remains an exclusive story of politicians plucked from a political dynasty. History would reveal that the options of Filipinos have always been limited to the same political names both at the national and local levels. According to Mendoza et.al (2012), provinces and cities ruled by political dynasties are characterized by lower standards of living, lower human development, and higher levels of deprivation and inequality.

#6 Filipino lawmakers refuse to legislate against political dynasties despite constitutional injunction

The constitution itself prohibits the existence of political dynasties in the country. This constitutional prohibition, however, has not been fully realized yet because of the legislative inaction. While it has a constitutional force, the provision is not self-executory – which means that the Philippine Congress has the obligation to come up with a law that clearly sets the scope of what constitutes a political dynasty. Many attempts have been made by some Philippine legislators to aid the said constitutional provision, but none of them passed the Congress composed of elected politicians from political dynasties.

#7 Elections are typically marred with political violence

Bloodshed usually describes Philippine elections. Many politicians go to great lengths to secure their victory over their political rivals. Typically, they make use of their resources to gun down the threat to their ascendancy to power. In 2019, the number of polling areas considered as an election hotspot in the country substantially increased. This means that these areas require stricter security measures to ensure the preservation of peace and order while the voters cast their votes. In fact, last 2019 election, the Philippine National Police reported 94 election hotspots where political violence might occur. These election-related violence happen during pre-election period, campaign period, election day, and counting-canvassing-proclamation period.

#8 Perceptions of electoral fraud persist despite having an automated election system

Aside from the brutal killings and physical intimidation, allegations about electoral fraud commonly surface as reports on rampant vote buying and harassment against teachers facilitating the election continue to exist. To put an end to this problem, the country has shifted from a manual voting to an electronic one. Although the counting of votes is now solely up to the electronic machines, skepticism on the legitimacy of election results persists. Many Filipinos distrust the method, thinking that the absence of the ability of the voters to directly monitor the counting makes the process vulnerable to the alteration of votes. In fact, some sectors are proposing a shift to hybrid election system.

#9 Elections are popularity contest

The election results in the country are usually predetermined by personality-based politics. Filipino voters subconsciously put a premium on the popularity and personality of a candidate instead of inquisitively asking the right questions. Hence, the campaign period is usually described by politicians’ attempts to attract the popular support of the voters by providing mere entertainment. This allows some politicians to escape public scrutiny and get elected despite having no clear vision for the country.

#10 Social Media is King

The Philippines has one of the highest numbers of social network users across Southeast Asia, with a social media penetration rate of approximately 67 percent as of January 2020. It is unsurprising that social media platforms have emerged as an important aspect of influencing the result of the elections in the Philippines. With Filipinos heavily subscribing to the information available on social media, politicians seeking for political support have partially shifted to an online electoral campaign. The lack of regulation on social media, however, has made the voters susceptible to deceptions through the peddling of fake news and trolls. Politicians propagate misleading information intended to influence public opinion, glamorize their names or inflict fatal damage on the reputation of their political rivals (i.e., the proliferation of online trolls).

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