Election Day…Worlds Apart


May 7, 2013: It’s election time. Both here in the Philippines and back home in British Columbia. In both places, people will be heading to the polls next week to decide who they want to lead them for the next few years. Timing is about the only thing these two events have in common. The scale of the undertaking in this country is staggering, and the issues are so totally different. Check out the chart below for a quick comparison.

Filipinos seem to have a love affair with showbiz personalities. Boxing legend Manny Pacquiao, model turned journalist and now senator Loren Legarda, basketball players, TV personalities and numerous actors and actresses continue to win seats around the country. Whether they know anything about governance doesn’t really seem to matter to many voters. It’s like a giant popularity contest.

Political dynasties abound for much the same reason, I suppose. In Olongapo, the Gordons run the show and they are aiming to keep the mayor’s position all in the family. If mayoral candidate Anne Gordon wins, she’ll be the fifth Gordon to hold that post. She even has her own K-pop theme song, “Gordon Style”. Former mayor Dick Gordon is running for the senate and his brother Bong, another former mayor, is running for congress.

Politics run deep in the veins of President Aquino too. He is the son of slain Marcos rival, senator Benigno Aquino Jr., and former president Cory Aquino, who was elected after the Marcos regime fell. Even his grandfather was the Speaker of the House of Representatives at one time. Whether he was elected based on the popularity of his parents or his own abilities is still up for debate, but his current term runs for another three years.

Even harder to comprehend is the continued presence of the Marcos family in Philippines politics. Imelda Marcos and her son Bongbong (Ferdinand Jr.) are both wildly popular. She’s a member of the House of Representatives and he’s a senator. (I wonder how her shoe collection is coming along.)  We’ve even had a few people tell us that life was better for the average Filipino under Marcos than it is today. I’m always surprised by this, but they add that at least then they knew where the corruption rested. Today it’s raging out of control at every level.

Pretty shocking really, and I haven’t even touched on the incidents of violence leading up to these elections (as regional clans off their rivals in the provinces), the pre-election gun and liquor ban which is supposed to help put an end to said violence, instances of vote buying and the militants in the Muslim areas of Mindanao in the south. Very few candidates appear to be discussing the issues that could make people’s lives better, and nobody seems to care. What is this, the wild west?

BC politics look utterly tame by comparison and I know a lot of people who have become increasingly apathetic about the issues and the people who run for public office. While Canadians are very fortunate to enjoy a mature democracy, we shouldn’t take it for granted. I’m sure hundreds of millions of people around the world would love to be in our shoes. Don’t forget to vote!

 

BRITISH COLUMBIA

THE PHILIPPINES

POPULATION

4.4 million

94.85 million

REGISTERED VOTERS

3 million (2009)

52 million (2013)

TYPE OF ELECTION

Provincial General Election

Senate Election
mID-TERM National General Election

Provincial General Election
City & Municipal Elections

ELECTION DAY

May 14, 2013

May 13, 2013

TIME OFF FROM WORK FOR VOTING

Four consecutive hours free from employment during voting hours.

Special National Holiday

VOTER REGISTRATION CLOSES

register on Election Day

October 31, 2012

CAMPAIGN PERIOD BEGINS

April 16, 2013

Senators: February 12, 2013
All Others: March 29, 2013

LIQUOR BAN IN EFFECT

No

Yes, for the five days leading up to Election Day (May 9-13, 2013)

GUN BAN IN EFFECT

No (usual gun laws prevail)

Yes, starting January 13, 2013 and running for six months; enforcement checkpoints; 3,000 people jailed thus far

NUMBER OF POSITIONS UP FOR GRABS

85 members of the Legislative Assembly

18,028 national and local positions:

12 senators (of 24 total)

291 members of the House of Representatives (233 district; 58 from party-list)

80 provincial governors
80 provincial vice governors
766 members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (provincial legislature)

143 city mayors
143 city vice mayors
1,598 members of the Sangguniang Panlungsod (city council)

1,491 municipal mayors
1,491 municipal vice mayors
11,932 members of the Sangguniang Bayan (municipal council)

Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM):
1 regional governor
1 regional vice governor
24 regional assemblymen

THE BIG ISSUES

Health care, economy, education, government spending, and environmental regulation.

Media has very little about party platforms for dealing with issues like jobs, poverty, economy, health care, education or the environment. Maybe the parties don’t have platforms. Most election coverage focuses on accusations of corruption, election violence, concerns over electronic vote counting and calls for an end to political dynasties and celebrity politicians.

VOTER TURNOUT

(2009) 55%

(2010) 74%

VOTE COUNTING

Counted manually

Counted electronically

Sources:  Elections BC, CBC News, Comelec, Philippine Star, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Wikipedia

 

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