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Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

Archive for May 12th, 2013

Voting as a heroic act Comments Off on Voting as a heroic act

Posted on May 12, 2013 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated May 12, 2013 – 12:00am

Illustration by REY RIVERA

By tomorrow, a great number of people in this country will be casting their votes for the people who will be ruling over our lives. This is momentous. I am quite happy that people take the act of voting quite seriously. Compared to many countries, we have a pretty high percentage of people who exercise their right to vote.

I have a somewhat interesting attitude towards my right to vote. On one hand, I look at it as a sacred right not only enshrined in our constitution, but also something which we all won back when we fought for our right to have our votes counted in 1986. I feel it as an act of heroism and love for country. That election led to the collapse of a dictatorial era. We won our democratic rights back, even if we seemed to be adrift for quite a while. But since the last presidential election, we now seem to be moving forward slowly and surely in many ways.

My other view of my vote is similar to my view of lotto. It is quite simple. If you don’t participate, you don’t get any chance to win at all. And like people who buy lotto tickets, I always consider the possibility that my individual vote could be the one that will make a difference, the one that can make the candidate I have chosen actually win!

I do not really care if my view can be considered a rational one or not in terms of significantly affecting the outcome of an election. I am a hopeless believer in individual initiative and action. All I know is that individual action is quite important and without it, nothing really gets done. That’s why I do it.

A seemingly small act like voting can cause a ripple that contributes to a tsunami that changes everything. I remember the early days of martial law when so few would show up to express their indignation over military rule during rallies. You could hardly call them “mass actions” then since there was just a tiny sprinkling of people who would show up. But those few people eventually became multitudes and they shook things up. Those heroic few who defied the government planted the seeds of what became People Power. What would People Power be if everyone waited for everyone to show up first? Or what would it be if no one came?

It takes courage to show up. Many times it is an act of conscience. And sometimes it is important not just to show up, but to show up fiercely believing in what you believe in. Especially when it comes to voting, I want to freely choose my candidates without any pressure from anyone. It is a free individual act I am exercising as a free citizen.

That is why I find quite repulsive and distasteful the way religious groups encourage bloc voting. I look at this practice as no different from what warlords and their ward leaders do when they practically command their followers to set aside individual choices and vote how they want them to vote. It is disrespectful of a person’s conscience and ability to discern for himself what he deems good or bad for the country.

Furthermore, I feel religious leaders do damage to their church and faithful since they are obviously using their influence and reputations to become power-brokers playing for political concessions and advantage in a very temporal world. How can I not be distrustful of them when they choose some people perceived to be corrupt, murdering thieves over those who are conscientious and principled?

Iam a supporter of the President. But as much as I support P-Noy, I am not even responding to his call to vote straight Liberal. I will only choose a few from the Liberal Party. I will not fill up the whole ballot. I will not vote for anyone from UNA.

One may look at the world in a mathematical kind of way and measure chances statistically, predict outcomes and be proven right in the end. The surveys done before past elections have been quite accurate. The final outcome of this election may very well mirror the surveys.

But I still believe that the world can only be predictable to a certain degree. When people gaze at 2016 and look at Binay as the sure “next president,” I remember not too long ago that practically everyone was so sure Villar had sealed the deal with his early running ads which he started two years before elections. He had good people who did their homework and set the groundwork for his presidential run. Villar had billions in his war chest, too. And yet just nine months before elections, everything changed when P-Noy decided to go for the top post.

I write this while I am in Cebu to do my share in a Rock The Vote concert. It is both a musical and political event that encourages young people to show up at the polls and vote. It is also part of Bam Aquino’s campaign to reach out to the youth. This is the third concert I will do for Rock The Vote in three days. It is exhausting but exhilarating.

Every time I stand on a stage and look at the crowd I am performing for, I feel that more than just entertaining them with my songs, I am also mirroring to them a politics of involvement and initiative. They must somehow be inspired and exercise the power they possess not just as the largest segment of the population, but also as individuals who care for the future. Quite literally, they should already be thinking of tomorrow now.

There’s a lot of talk also that vote buying is happening in a lot of places as I write this. This is something I cannot fathom much less tolerate. Some people believe that for economic reasons, the poor are forgiven if they exchange their votes for money. I hold the contrary view that many times, the challenging economic situation has been an overused excuse for simply behaving badly. While it is true that I have never been poor enough to consider selling my vote, I think one has to take a moral stand and stop condoning this practice. When we tolerate the use of poverty as entitlement or license for this, we will forever be stuck in the politics that perpetuates this. This simply will not do if we really want changes to happen.

Throughout my adult life, I have seen mostly the politics of gloom and pessimism playing out. I sense that now it is already a different time. While many problems still plague us, there is a sense of real optimism. Pessimism is so yesterday.

Tomorrow, when we all go to the polls, let us vote as if the future of the country depended solely on each one of us. Look at it as a sacred, well-thought-out, deliberate act of patriotism. It has to be no less. Much depends on it. This only means we vote for candidates who will uphold the interest of the whole country.

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