by Eric Santillan
The elections are over. The hype, and singing, and dancing, and debates (or lack of it) and poster wars, and the wooing of votes, and the buying of them, are over. We have new officials. Finally. Our problems are solved! Our saviours have arrived!
We’ve had elections in this country since the 1895 municipal elections and the more popular 1897 Tejeros Convention (with 256 voters, 146 of whom voted Emilio Aguinaldo as our first President). And what do we have to show for it? After one hundred years, we realise that it is NOT the voting that counts (pun intended)–except probably during the snap elections of 1986–but what happens after, that really matters. It is one thing to win elections. It is a totally different thing to govern.
By the way, Bonifacio–as Supremo of the Katipunan–lost in the Tejeros elections, and voided the proceedings, amidst allegations that many ballots distributed were already filled out with the name of Aguinaldo. Sounds eerily familiar? We have a legacy of cheating during elections SINCE DAY ONE.
Now that the elections are over, here are some things we can do to help government become better at governing us:
1) Check out the official’s platform of government. He/She must have one. Even the most stupid of officials has a REASON for running. If you voted for him/her just by the strength of his name, and you didn’t know why, shame on you! But you have time to make up for the shame by researching his/her plans.
2) Write down the plan. Yes. Write it down. Post it on Facebook or twitter. Make a poster out of it. Make a billboard. Document it. If you have a recording of the official saying the plan, so much better. Post it on YouTube. Shout it out to the world.
3) Give the official a copy of his/her plan. Yes, because sometimes the officials have a tendency of winging it during their administration, and because they have such short memories, they forget their plan (some people would call these plans ‘promises’). Yes. They forget. Because if they did, why are we in such deep shit? Find a way to communicate this to the official. Add him in a Facebook group (with his plans as the group’s profile pic), make a citizen’s watch group, let him know that you will be watching him. Let him know that you will no longer be stupid like in previous years.
4) Have fair and just accountability audits. We do it in corporations. BIR does it to us. Heck, our parents ask about our grades and why we get barely-passing marks! Why can’t we do it for our officials? We can form a non-political (no political enemies included for example), fair and just audit committee composed of persons with integrity and without any plans to be elected, have them do a bi-annual audit on government. We can even make these people sign a contract: those who will audit cannot run for the next eight years or so since the time of audit. That will help keep the integrity of the process. Then the audit team can present their report and recommendations.
It’s good for the people. It’s good for the official. It’s a good exercise of a maturing democracy. Now, to look for people with maturity and integrity to do the audit…
5) Make the report a public document. There is a reason why we call them ‘public’ officials. For local elections, three years means there will be six audits. If the scores don’t improve, that should give us an indication that it is time to change the official. For national officials, like our Senate, let’s not wait for the last minute to cram for the elections (like we did this year). Periodic and public checks are a deterrent to all kinds of shenanigans (I love that word. It even sounds like a politician!)
So there you have it. The battle for clean and honest elections is won (I could sense some people rolling their eyes). But the war for clean and honest–and efficient and effective governance– is far from over. A lot of energy has been expended in the battle. A lot more energy will be needed for the long haul. But this is our responsibility in a democracy. We cannot be ningas cogon anymore. We have to let government make us better, not get the better of us.
This is our promise.
This is our responsibility.
This is our future.
We are a people who will not be stupid again!