Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Notes on the 2007 Elections (Part One)

1. I had a big laugh over the story on how politicians in Legazpi City had long faces after they went for broke on election day. With votes being sold for as high as PHP 1,100 for a straight slate vote, some politicians spent millions just for vote-buying. I went around Legazpi City, and it was noticeable how happy the people were with their crisp peso bills stapled in denominations of PHP 600 and PHP 1,100. They packed up Gaisano mall to the roof, and I've never seen Mcdonald's with that much business before. In contrast, the candidates with their broke wallets await the canvassing results, their tempers flaring as allegations of cheating delay their proclamation. The candidates would continue to spend hundreds and thousands of pesos everyday until they get proclaimed. You would think they're crazy burning all that money.

But of course, we all know that after the election fever is gone, the winners proclaimed, and the voters have spent the last two-hundred peso bill, it would be the politicians turn to laugh. The division of spoils, as it were, would commence for contracts and projects with favored contractors and "twenty-percenters". The situation in Legazpi City is probably the same in many parts of the country, with the elections becoming an industry, and election day being the day for the voters' big pay-out. In between elections, the elected politicians fill up their bank accounts with commissions and ghost projects and save enough for the next pay out. No wonder this country is one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

2. On the Pampanga elections, I'm beginning to see the election of the Catholic priest on leave, Among Ed Panlilio, as Pampanga governor in a different light. His election to the office seems to be a rejection of the established political elite in the province whose base of power rests on illegal gambling and illegal sand quarrying. But if you look at the figures, Among Panlilio's votes is just a little higher than one third of the total votes cast, and the two other candidates are less than 10,000 votes away from his winning margin in a province with about a million votes. If the two candidates unite --they used to be allies by the way -- Among's going to have the mandate only of the minority. This means that once Among commences his fight against illegal gambling and corruption in sand-quarrying in the province, Among's army of supporters are going to be out-numbered two-to-one. In order to succeed, Among has to develop some allies among the local and national leaders. But the problem is almost everyone in the local political arena in Pampanga has been compromised by illegal gambling and corruption. Thus, Among's best bet for help is with the national leaders. But would Among be open to an alliance with the GMA gang who are likewise compromised? Would Among be open to be an ally of morally compromised leaders at all?
Such would be the dilemna of a governor who happens to be a Catholic priest on leave -- shades of Faust and Mephistopheles.

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