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No inaugurals after elections

Manny Valdehuesa .

ISN’T it curious that after the barangay elections, no community holds an induction party or a celebration to mark the assumption to office of its elected officials?

It has been like that since anyone can recall.

Except for the self-congratulatory feasting and gathering that winning candidates treat themselves and their supporters and followers to, there is no jubilation throughout the community.

Yet, not only is it a Filipino habit to mark any benchmark event—like a birthday or even winning in the cockpit—with a celebration, it’s a cultural trait, like our fondness for fiestas.

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One sees this in the practice of holding a bash to mark the induction of an organization’s officers. Rotary Clubs, Jaycees, Kiwanis, or Lions Clubs do it, feasting and ballroom dancing as they welcome a new set of officers and wish them well. Same with church-related groups like Knights of Columbus or civic circles like Knights of Rizal or the Order of the Eagles.

In most societies, elaborate inaugurals mark the coming into office of the organization’s newly elected leaders. So it should be perfectly natural in ours to celebrate or hail the conclusion of a democratic exercise like an election.

A post-election celebration shouldn’t be deemed a frivolous matter. It’s only proper since the event impacts greatly on both the governance of the community and the wellbeing of its individual members.

Like a commencement program at graduation, a post-election inaugural celebration can serve both as an affirmative act to mark yet a successful democratic exercise and as an expression of hope for the success of the new administration.

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Moreover, it would enable the diverse sectors of the community to get together and get reacquainted with one another as peers or equal members of the constituency.

The occasion would refresh the community about the common grounds or values that hold it together and that make it endure and prosper.

It would erase or mitigate whatever animosity or bad blood the electoral contest may have engendered. And it will encourage everyone to view the victors less as triumphant gladiators and more as anointed members of the community in whom the people’s hope and vision of development and progress are entrusted.

Thus, let there be inaugurals in the barangay. Let the Barangay Assembly, which constitutes and comprises the entire citizenry, be reinvigorated by the in-gathering of the diverse sectors in the neighborhoods.

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And let the affair be an occasion for everyone to reaffirm his commitment to democracy and fair play as he acknowledges and accepts the results of the election, at the same time expressing his hope that the chosen leaders will render good and faithful service.

Such a manifestation of unity and solidarity rising above any partisan divide will encourage the community to stand as one again after what may have been a divisive election period.

Then even as the new officials acknowledge their debt of service in exchange for the community’s faith in them, everyone rejoices that orderly government lives on.

With people power reaffirmed, sense of community enhanced, democracy flourishes and freedom is refreshed. Ultimately, it is the triumph of citizen sovereignty, the will of the people made manifest.

 

(Manny Valdehuesa Jr. is a former Unesco regional director for Asia-Pacific; secretary-general, Southeast Asia Publishers Association; director, development academy of Philippines; member, Philippine Mission to the UN;  vice chair, Local Government Academy; member, government peace panel during the administration of Corazon Aquino; awardee, PPI-Unicef outstanding columnist. An author of books on governance, he is chairman/convenor of Gising Barangay Movement Inc.. E-mail: valdehuesa@gmail.com)

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