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FLOWERING OF THOUGHT: Surveys and endorsements

By: Jason A. Baguia April 03,2019 - 06:43 AM


A nationwide survey can tell you who are the leading candidates for elective government positions such as senator or congressman.

Survey results also indicate how aware voters are of a person’s candidacy, and to a certain degree reflect the effectiveness of positive or negative campaigning on a candidate’s election bid.

Survey results likewise give voters clues about which candidates have deep pockets. If they perform very well, their campaigns must be extensive, therefore well-oiled.

Surveys give candidates additional exposure. Better-performing candidates in a senatorial survey inevitably receive free publicity each time the survey is reported.

But survey results per se do not encourage voter discernment. They, instead, are the product of deliberations of whatever quality in which respondents have engaged.

Since a candidate’s survey ratings say nothing about his or her worthiness for public office, survey results should be viewed and used critically by the electorate.

One should not vote for a candidate because he or she has fared very well or write a candidate off who fared badly survey-wise. In any voter’s selection process, a candidate’s survey performance should not be a consideration.

Read more than just one report of the latest survey results. The report is likely only a summary that enumerates the top performers. You have a wider field of candidates than that which makes it into the upper rungs of surveys. Look for full survey results in the official website of the polling firm. Better yet, visit the website or social media accounts of the Commission on Elections to see a full list of candidates.

Check the background of the senatorial candidates. Evaluate each according to sound criteria. At the very least, the ones you choose should have the education and experience to be highly functional at:

1. crafting and amending laws

2. preparing the national budget

3. overseeing the implementation of laws, and

4. rendering judgments in impeachment trials, in grants of amnesty, of presidential appointees, of declarations of martial law, and of international treaties.

Is anyone in a senatorial survey’s top 12 who should not be there? If they are incumbent or former senators, what do their records say?

Have they attended Senate sessions? How many times were they present? How many times were they absent? The information should be available on the Senate website. Questions of attendance should be fielded in senatorial debates and in journalistic interviews of candidates.

Have they actively participated in debates on the Senate floor and in the public square? A senator is not elected for membership in that parodied committee on silence.

How many bills and resolutions have they authored? Have they written significant laws? How did they vote on bills? Which Senate committees do they lead or sit in as members? A senator’s performance should not be judged on mere number of bills and resolutions crafted but on the quality and impact of the legislation. Similarly, a voter should find out not only reelectionists’ committee memberships but what the senators’ contributions were to the achievements of Senate committees.

How well have they checked other branches of the government and upheld the Constitution? What was the senator’s position on state-sponsored human rights violations, police brutality, the removal of the Supreme Court leader via quo warranto, the extension of martial law in Mindanao, charter change, and the peace process? Senators are not elected to acquiesce to Malacañang, be its apologists or be tight-lipped amid sad situations normalized by presidential imprimatur.

What is their position on the pork barrel? Do they receive any under whatever name, for instance, insertions into the national budget? Senators should follow the examples of their colleagues who have returned to the national coffers the millions of pesos in people’s money that were — wrongly in the people’s and Supreme Court’s judgment — allocated to them for spending on pet infrastructure projects. Spending public money wisely is the task of agencies in the executive department, not of legislators.

Check the background of fresh candidates for the Senate. What about their experience strengthens their candidacies? Endorsements? Are they merely allies of the current dispensation? The country will not benefit from senators who will effectively reduce their august halls to presidential rubber stamps.

Endorsements may affect how people vote but an endorsement’s soundness should depend not on the position the endorser holds or on his popularity but on moral justification for the endorsement. The nation’s future is far too important to be left to the appeal of anyone who can take the stage and grasp and raise a candidate’s hand.

Two endorsements by civic or political organizations have drawn the media spotlight. I mention them because they are principled, that is, grounded on transparent, politically relevant, and noble criteria.

The Makabayan coalition, a group of left-leaning organizations have endorsed candidates for the Senate on the basis of common goals: cessation of the tax reform law, security of sovereignty over West Philippine territories, advancement of human rights, and the resumption of peace negotiations.

Meanwhile, the People’s Choice Movement, a group of Catholic and Protestant lay leaders have endorsed 10 of the 62 certified candidates for the Senate. The group rated the candidates using four criteria: character and honor, competence and abilities, faithfulness to public service, and faithfulness to God, Constitution, and the law.

Adapt these organizations’ criteria or make your own as you determine who benefits from your vote. Whatever you do, do not let survey results dictate your choices.


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TAGS: CDN Digital opinion, Cebu columnists, columnist Jason Baguia, Flowering of Thought

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