Lighting a candle

May 12, 2009



Philippine Daily Inquirer
May 12, 2009 

“It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness,” a Chinese proverb says. The leaders of various countries, among them US President John F. Kennedy and presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson, have used this proverb to rally their countrymen to bring about change in their nation. Now, this proverb may well be the slogan of two groups that seek to bring about change in Philippine politics.   

One of them is a still nameless group that seeks to convince about 9 million lazy or apathetic citizens to register and vote in 2010. The second is the ChangePolitics Movement that launched the other day a nationwide campaign to get rid of vote-buying, an old scourge of Philippine politics.   

The register-and- vote movement especially targets about 2 million voters who are turning 18 and who, if they can register before the deadline, will be voting for the first time in 2010. This is a potent group because it is composed of young and idealistic people who have obtained some secondary or college education. In a tight presidential race, they will cast the ballots that will decide the election.   

With less than six months to go before the registration period ends on Oct. 31, the group faces a daunting task. It will have to persuade about 60,000 new voters to register every day. How to make these new voters shake off their apathy and head for the registration precincts? For one thing, the group will try to create as much noise as possible so as to get the attention of the new voters. On Wednesday, the campaign will be launched at Barangay Tatalon, Quezon City, with a concert featuring singer-actress Sharon Cuneta and rock bands Parokya ni Edgar and Kamikaze.   

We hope other celebrities will volunteer their services to the group. If boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao could donate his time and make appearances in the launching shows in various parts of the country, he could help change the attitude of the 9 million new voters toward registration and voting.   

The nameless group is headed by Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, Akbayan party-list Rep. Risa Hontiveros, former Bukidnon Rep. Nereus Acosta, Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo, youth leader Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino and writer Alex Lacson. These are all reformist leaders who want to bring about change in their country.   

The group will tour the country on “the RV,” their campaign bus. It will also make use of the Internet via YouTube and Facebook and partner with advocacy groups Y-Vote and First-Time Voters Network. We hope other groups such as student and youth organizations will collaborate with them. They need to cover as wide an area as possible and reach out to as many as possible of the 9 million new voters within the next six months.   

The ChangePolitics Movement also faces a very difficult task: to eliminate vote-buying which has become so common that it is practically accepted as a normal practice in every election. Former Social Welfare Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman said they would encourage development NGOs, micro-enterprise programs, cooperatives and livelihood programs to start helping the “vote-buying vulnerable areas” to decrease vote-buying. Most voters sell their votes because they are poor. If these voters could be helped to increase their income, they would no longer be vulnerable to vote-buying.   

The vulnerable voters could be convinced that they should not sell their votes because it is largely the unqualified, selfish, self-aggrandizing candidates who buy votes to win elections. Vote-buying enables traditional politicians who do not have the interest of the people at heart to win elections and perpetuate themselves in power. This practice cannot continue forever; something has to be done to stop vote-buying, and thank God the ChangePolitics Movement is doing something about it.   

The 2010 elections, coming toward the end of an administration popularly perceived to be the most corrupt and the most murderous in the nation’s history, are very crucial. They will determine whether the nation will move forward or remain stuck in inertia, hopelessness and despair. The two new groups—register and vote and ChangePolitics Movement—are lighting a candle in the darkness of Philippine politics. Let’s do our part and help keep these candles of reform and change burning. 


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