Vote wisely

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So who’s Wisely anyway? That’s a running joke in the Philippines during election season. In May, the voting Filipino public will seat new Senators and Congressmen/women (which includes party list representatives) in the national election, and Governors, Mayors, and Councilors in the local polls.

For our kababayans here in Melbourne who still keep Filipino citizenship or carry dual citizenship, this is another opportunity to exercise a fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution, to participate in the affairs of the Philippines, and to have a say in who will steer the Philippine oars to progress. Living so far away and contributing a minority of the votes, how can these vote make a difference?

First of all, those of us who are eligible to vote can make a difference by not being indifferent. Suffrage or the right to vote is not only a right, but also a responsibility. So even while we will not be directly affected by the results of the election, we, too have to be discerning in choosing candidates who will best embody our hopes and dreams for the Philippines. Together with other Filipino voters in the Philippines and around the world, we will have the power to elect officials who we will be proud to represent us, and who will not be buffoons in the Senate Hall whose only main contribution is a legislation to name a street after their ancestors.

As Filipino citizens and bonafide voters, our responsibility is not to be swayed by flashy advertisements, candidates’ enhanced looks, empty promises, and by flowery pronouncements which mask underperformance.  The Internet has opened a floodgate of information for us to really study our candidates—their background and platform included. Which of these candidates advance the cause of the Philippines, and regard the Philippine Diaspora communities as partners in re-building the nation? Discernment is key.

Perhaps it would be helpful if among our groups we can encourage the sharing of election or campaign materials and discussion of candidates’ platforms. Watch debates offered through Filipino cable channels for better appreciation of candidates’ vision and capabilities. Through informal forums and simple messages exchange through social networking sites, maybe we can be critical and analytical of the materials circulating, and consequently formulate informed opinions about the candidates. Together, we can raise our level of political citizenship, and do our bit in ensuring that the Philippines will move forward.

Recently, Fitch Ratings gave the Philippines investment grade status. Simply put, it means that the Philippines has earned investors’ confidence on the economy. Internationally, the Philippines is gaining a reputation that it is the next country to watch. We want to sustain this momentum and see how the economic numbers can actually translate to gains for the poor, still the majority in the society’s economic and social strata.

Wisely, of course, is not a person as the joke implies. It is the manner by which decisions should be made for the Philippines—voting and keeping vigilance in the aftermath of the elections among them.

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