Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Season's greetings

by Karl Satinitigan
Sanggunian President

On a bus ride here in sunny Cebu, I would hear a young couple comment on every candidate whose poster we'd pass by. This would go on until the lady concluded: “Ngano mag-elections pa man ta uy nga sila-sila ra ma'y mandaug (Why bother with the elections when it's always the same people winning anyway).”

It's almost always true, especially for Cebu. But that's not what's so disappointing. What's more sad is the fact that a lot of us would really rather not bother with the elections.

Ever since I was born in 1987, we’ve been blessed with a venue called the elections. And elections in this country is a season in itself. Maybe in other countries too, but in the Philippines, there are interesting indicators that tell you this season's here:

1. You will notice a spike in ad spending—from Mr. Kiko’s noodles to some green leafy vegetable to some congressman flaunting his biofuel bill outside the campaign period. Add to that a mountain of print ads turned into wallpapers or tree ornaments. Make that “ugly and illegal tree ornaments.”

2. You will notice that your public market is under construction, including your access road, your footbridge, your waiting shed. Make that “finally under construction.” I remember thinking that I should not be so jaded and so posit that there’s a causal relationship between the two. Besides, maybe I was not just as observant as before.

3. You will notice people dying. I mean, people die all the time but I do not think dying for political reasons is remotely acceptable. I read how election-related violence this year was not as much as before (so far) but so what? An improved statistic does not raise the dead mayoralty candidate shot within Cebu Capitol premises or discount the possibility of having to jump off a car in the middle of Pasig City traffic.

4. Yes, a lot more are dying in Iraq or of AIDS but in my own country I call home, people are dying. Again, maybe positing a causal relationship is premature since all these are still under investigation. But come on: people are dying. No, people are dead. For so many reasons that include a thirst for power.

Worse, all these are not new, far older than us and they persist, and like the lady who notes how the same people keep on winning, we note how the same problems keep on coming back. We never learn to learn. Elections remain dirty, short-term and deadly violent. Elections remain as seasons all to themselves.

Maybe we can change that. Just maybe.

I remember telling myself how I should not look at Christmas as a season of love but as a reminder that it’s always, even after Christmas, the season of love. Maybe that’s too mushy an analogy but hey, I don’t think this election be a mere season in itself too.

It ought to be a reminder of a democracy we’re all counting on day by day. In fact, it is a reminder:

1. that anything illegal, those tree ornaments included, should not be tolerated;

2. that doing projects, lampposts included, is not a means to buy votes;

3. that people need not be dead to make sure who he believes in wins; and

4. that for every Serbisyo Eusebio I see in this city where I temporarily reside that I be humiliated of the fact that I allowed someone to label as his what is all ours.

This election too is ours and maybe we can start by admitting how nasty and gruesome it is. Then maybe we can all build on and figure out together a way to make this democracy work. Then maybe the conversations I hear while riding buses won’t be too much of a downer.

One on One: Harvey Keh

by Katherine Marie M. Cadeliña

Read about the thoughts of the man behind the controversial e-mail titled "What will make me leave the Philippines: An open letter to every Filipino."
Harvey Keh is the Director for Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship at the Ateneo School of Government (ASG). He is also the Executive Director of AHON Foundation, an organization that helps promote literacy by building public elementary school libraries.
Harvey was also chosen as one of the 20 Young Leaders of Asia by the Asia Society, an organization based in New York that aims to strengthen relationships and deepen understanding among the peoples of Asia and the United States of America. He was also the founder and former Director of Pathways.

What is the importance of the 2007 elections?
I believe that this coming May elections is important for several reasons. First, this is our opportunity to select the kind of leaders that we need for our country right now. An election is always very critical in a democratic country since this is one of the few times where the rich and the poor are actually equal. Regardless of their social status, they just have one vote each. Second, this coming elections can also serve as a referendum to whether or not we approve of the Arroyo administration. We have seen this in last year's US Midterm elections wherein the people voted against most of the Republicans since they did not agree with President Bush's actions in Iraq. Third, this election is very important since this will set the tone on whether or not we will do a charter change. If we elect more pro-administration senators then we can be sure that Malacañang will definitely push for Cha-Cha. Finally, this elections is important since this will set the tone for the Presidential elections of 2010, if the likes of Villar and Legarda do well then we can expect them to make a push for the Presidency by 2010.

Can we count on the May elections to be credible?
Yes, there is always hope that the elections will be credible as long as each and every Filipino remains vigilant and does his own share in ensuring the credibility and honesty of the elections.

What qualities are you looking for in a candidate?
I think a candidate should first be God-fearing and should always put the interest of the people over his or her own interests. Moreover, I sincerely believe that a good leader should be able to lead by example. Many of our current batch of public sector leaders only know how to speak well but they do not put actions to the words that they speak. Finally, a good leader is one who is able share his vision to every Filipino. His vision must be able to inspire Filipinos to work together to achieve our goals as a people.

What is the status of the citizen effort / volunteer groups?
There are currently many citizen efforts or volunteer groups that are being run right now and most of them are working under VforCE or the Volunteers for Clean Elections. VforCE is currently raising one million volunteers all over the Philippines who are working to ensure honest and clean elections.

How can each of us contribute to that effort?
Volunteer and share your time with VforCE. We need all the help that we can get. Remember the saying that the only way for evil to prevail is for good men and women to do nothing.

What role can students play in the upcoming elections?
I think the first role of Ateneo students in the coming elections is to exercise their right to vote. After voting, volunteer for election-monitoring work or the quick count. If you don't have the time to volunteer then maybe you can share your resources to the existing efforts that are being done such as the Bantay Bilang that is being hosted by Ateneo. After the elections, I think Ateneans should continue to work towards nation building by joining organizations such as ANI, Hope or Gawad Kalinga. We can’t just let our government leaders work to make our nation great again. We all need to work together if we want to achieve a better and brighter future for our nation.