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Jun 10th
Home Columns Reinventing the Philippines "Reinventing" Filipino Suffrage
"Reinventing" Filipino Suffrage PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - Reinventing the Philippines
Friday, 13 April 2007 21:09

            Since it is election time in the Philippines. let us discuss the Filipino suffrage. Let us compare its history and practice to those of several countries. Perhaps we may be able to come up with a proposed template on how Overseas Filipinos, especially Filipino Americans, may be able to "reinvent" suffrage in the homeland. Perhaps we may be able to do changes for the better for the May 2010 (2-0-1-0) elections.

            Here is my initial contribution--based on a manuscript that I began writing in 1998 (19-9-8). The manuscript is still not complete and, ergo, not published.

            Part I of this series of articles about the Filipino Suffrage is taken from the manuscript called, "UNDERSTANDING THE FILIPINO MIND (Comparing the Filipino Character, Society and Way of Thinking with those of the Japanese and the Americans)."

QUOTES from "Understanding the Filipino Mind . . ."

American Legacy

The Japanese and the Filipinos share an American legacy. The Americans, for instance, introduced suffrage to the Filipinos and, after World War II, to the Japanese.

In 1907 the American civil government conducted the first election for a Philippine Assembly, the first freely-elected legislature in Asia. Soon elections were held to elect local officials. The members of the Filipino intelligentsia soon embraced wholeheartedly the electoral process. For instance Isabelo de los Reyes, who was addressed "Don Belong," was elected as a councilor of the Tondo district in the City of Manila in 1910. Don Belong was the founder of the labor movement, a cofounder of the Philippine Independent Church and considered father of Philippine folklore. He ran for the Philippine Senate in 1922 in his native Ilocos Region and won.

According to TIME magazine (Aug. 4, 1997, issue), "The United States prides itself on being a model of participatory democracy. But according to a new study, America lags behind much of the world when it comes to casting ballots. An average of just 44.1% of the voting-age population has turned out for national legislative elections in the 1990s, putting the United States in 139th place among 163 countries surveyed by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IIDEA).

"The top-ranked nation? Malta, with a turnout of 96.2%. Here's how some other democracies stack up:

Spain 77.6%
Britain 75.4%
Canada 63.9%
France 61.3%
Japan 56.6%."

The Philippines was not mentioned in the report of the IIDEA. Based on how Filipinos fell in love with suffrage after the Americans introduced it in the Islands at the turn of the 20th century, the Philippines should be ranked higher than Malta. For it is said that if there were 10,000 voters in a Philippine town, 10,500 electors would cast their ballots on Election Day. Filipinos joke about their electoral process, which former Philippine Vice President Salvador H. Laurel described in 1980 as a procedure that involved the "widespread use of guns, goons and gold." Filipinos, as students of American participatory democracy, are doing better than their teachers are. Election days in the Philippines are official holidays and the entire country turns on a festive mood. Elections are like big fiestas in the country. Japan on the other hand has copied the American system with just the use of gold (money) to finance television political ads, buy sleek campaign materials, support volunteers and pay professional campaign staff.

What's the percentage of the Filipino electors turning out to cast ballots in legislative elections? In a column in July 1997 Maximo V. Soliven, the dean of Filipino columnists, mentioned electoral statistics. Soliven wrote: "The province of Ilocos Norte (the home province of the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos) had 280,386 registered voters in 1995, in 1,394 precincts. Of this total, 222,735 actually voted." This translates to a turnout of almost 79.44%.

Soliven continued to cite the voting statistic on the congressional district where Marcos's widow, Imelda, won her seat to the House of Representatives. "Imelda's Leyte district had 175,619 registered voters in 875 precincts. Some 133,987 actually voted in that 1995 contest." This amounted to a turnout of 76.29%.

The Filipino dean of columnists then discussed the voting turnout in San Juan, Rizal, which is the hometown of the (then) incumbent Philippine Vice President, (now deposed President) Joseph Estrada, who Filipinos described as a million times worse in speaking in English than former American Vice President Dan Quayle. Soliven said, "In San Juan's 466 precincts, with 82,393 registered voters, only 51,054 cast their ballots, which showed the metropolitan citizens could be apathetic."

This resulted to a low turnout of only 61.96%. But even then, this is much higher than America's average of 44.1% and even of Japan's turnout of 56.6%. The Philippine turnout rate will even be higher if one takes the median of the three localities cited by Soliven. The median turnout is 72.56%, which will rank behind Britain and Spain and higher by almost 10 percentage points than France and Canada. And Filipinos say that politicians in the Philippines have the nasty habit of paying off their opponent's supporters not to cast their ballots.


            I am inviting you all to join me in doing more research about the proposed topic that I tentatively dub "'Reinventing the Filipino Suffrage." Perhaps all of us may be coauthors of this study. We need to devise a fundamental step in defining how the Overseas Filipinos, especially Filipino Americans, may be able to "reinvent" elections in the Philippines, so that by 2010 the best, the brightest, the proven-honest candidates may be able to win public offices with the support and the resources of the Overseas-Filipino communities. This may be the only way to effect positive electoral reforms in the homeland. # # #

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 January 2009 23:09

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