Manny Valdehuesa .
EVERY vote is cast in the precinct of a barangay. Perhaps because it is cast in the lowly barangay, people may think that it is just a small, insignificant matter; that therefore one need not be serious about it.
This is perverted thinking, of course. An attitude that undermines democratic governance. It results in low voter counts, weakening the mandate of whoever wins the election and setting the stage for corruption.
Citizens with low regard for the ballot play into the hands of traditional politicians who take advantage of their attitude. Such voters easily fall victim to predatory trapos who either buy their votes or pay them not to vote so the rival candidate will lose.
In fact, even one vote can make a difference. Letting others know whom you favor can influence people who look up to you to vote for your candidate. They in turn may persuade others to do the same, and so forth, creating a domino effect that can multiply your one vote many times.
One vote can also break a tie—and produce a winner, who then proceeds to assume office and wield the powers that go with it.
It is the vote that bestows authority to the winner, empowering and enabling him to make decisions that impact the wellbeing of everyone. The vote also makes possible all sorts of undertakings—financial, social, cultural, political—in the community.
It is the vote that determines whether there shall be a good quality of life for everyone: efficient services, adequate facilities/amenities, decent infrastructure, and all sorts of beneficial activities in the community.
In other words, on the vote in the barangay hinges whatever good or bad events befall society after the elections, triggering all sorts of happenings, local or nationwide.
A vote also has the effect of ennobling a plain citizen, elevating him or her to a status of privilege and power—enabling him to undertake all manner of initiatives and extraordinary things or acts that he would not be capable of doing as a plain citizen.
Even a dirt-poor barangay straggler who gets lucky enough to win an election will suddenly acquire a privileged status—chairman or even kagawad—in the eyes of businessmen, bankers, and traders with goods and services they might wish to offer or peddle to the community.
One should note that a barangay officials can avail of bank loans to finance programs or projects with the community’s money as collateral. The barangay’s recurring income—its internal revenue allotment and various other sources—can collateralize obligations or purchases.
There may be a school building, a playground, a recycling facility, a dispensary, or even a perimeter fence to construct. There may be an attractive barangay property or feature that the government may want to sell, privatize, or otherwise dispose of for any reason. All these present opportunities for sales, contracts, and other business prospects.
In other words, a vote is an empowering instrument which can be used for good or bad ends, or usher one’s community to corruption or incompetence. Not only can it ennoble a plain citizen, it can also corrupt him if he lacks conviction and commitment to good governance.
A misguided, misinformed, or corrupted vote will enthrone unworthy public servants. It will set the stage for the commission of plunder or graft and corruption, or the establishment of a power-greedy political dynasty.
Misguided votes are the enablers of big-time grafters and plunderers. A citizen should therefore exercise good, wise judgment when he or she votes. Otherwise it will cause the rise of badly motivated officials—abusive, arbitrary, manipulative. One must be wary of candidates who invest in vote-buying or cheating.
A corrupt or illegitimate vote establishes a corrupt or illegitimate government. It trashes our society’s values and denigrates our culture. And it kills the spirit of statesmanship in politics. Instead of promoting integrity and honesty as the pillars of good governance, it encourages hypocrisy and corruption.
It demeans the noble calling of public service and cheapens the value of a career in politics, undermining it and weakening society’s faith in government.
Voters should be careful and be alert to foil corrupt politics, neutralizing the perpetrators. Doing so is the mark of an empowered citizen. Empowered citizens are what our society and political system badly need; citizens who practice and uphold the ideals of liberty, democracy, and People Power.
Be careful whom you vote for therefore! And strive to prevent corrupt votes from being cast in your barangay.
Let us never tire of promoting good governance in our own community. That’s the way to uphold and advance the political ideals of our nation and the foundation of our republic.
(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; awardee, PPI-Unicef outstanding columnist. He is chairman/convenor of the Gising Barangay Movement Inc.. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)