Sunday, March 28th, 2010

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As the official campaign period for the local candidates began last March 26, we can safely assume that the final stretch towards the May 2010 Elections is well underway. Quite visibly, the campaign efforts of political parties and candidates had intensified: motorcades here and there, tarpaulins, and posters of candidates strewn ubiquitously, campaign sorties held almost simultaneously, and house-to-house visits by the candidates themselves.

While the significance of the national elections, i.e., the election of the President, the Vice-President, and the 12 Senators, cannot be over-estimated; for those living outside Metro-Manila, what proves to be more crucial is of course the election of local public officials. For being quite distant from Metro Manila whose concerns are very often only those that abovementioned national officials busy themselves with, communities lying in the periphery of the nation's "center of power" are arguably left to themselves and their political leaders in deciding matters of governance. Though it is not denied that we here in Bikol, for instance, are affected by policies and decisions emanating from Malacañang and the Senate; to a large extent, however, local public policies have a more palpable effect on local communities.

It is because of this that we enjoin better discernment on the part of the electorate regarding their choice of local candidates. Those we elect to the posts of congressman/woman, governor, vice-governor, provincial board members, mayor, vice-mayor, and councilors are those who directly undertake the governance of our communities. They are those who directly govern us politically. At the same, they are the public officials to whom we have direct access and hence, from whom we can directly demand accountability.

Whom to vote for then?

We cannot afford to be naïve in answering this question. While personal virtue remains important, it should not be the sole consideration. We are electing political leaders and not discerning candidates for "saintliness" (but even then, we do not discount our saints to be political leaders and vice-versa). What we wish to convey here is that a candidate's vision and her/his management skills are equally crucial characteristics in our political leaders that require critical examination on our part.

For instance, beyond the platitudes offered and motherhood statements uttered, does a candidate offer a very specific and detailed vision of what it is s/he intends for the betterment of our local communities? Does this vision favor particular sectors only, e.g., business, farmers, to the neglect of others? Does this vision stress heavily on economic development that other areas, e.g., cultural, spiritual, are set aside if not given less priority?

Does a candidate have a track record of being involved in corruption? Does s/he (or his/her family), despite being in power for several terms, have effected integral development among his/her constituents?  Or have they simply enriched themselves further as they sat in office?

Finally and perhaps in view of the celebration of the Tercentenary of the devotion to INA this year, we can also ask: who among the candidates to the Naga City mayoralty, vice-mayoralty, and Sanggunian Panglungsod posts are keen in staging and supporting a parasitic festival like the "Viva Naga, Viva Bicolandia" held last year in order to exploit and prostitute INA's Fiesta once more?