By Adrian Emmanuelle Uy, Bachelor of Business and Commerce student, The University of Western Sydney
Culture is the main driving factor that influences our voting behavior.
Believe it or not, the Philippines – a showbiz-loving country – nearly elected an action movie star without prior public service experience and higher educational attainment to the highest political office in 2004. Perhaps we should thank ex-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for allegedly rigging the presidential elections and saving us from a potentially catastrophic event in Philippine politics.
Kidding aside, the whole landscape of Philippine politics has been bizarre ever since (or maybe even before) the people revolted against a dictator in 1983, and then subsequently installed the politically inexperienced widow of the dictator’s assassinated political rival.
By no means I am an apologist but it is downright obvious that the sympathy of the people for the death of a “hero” is what changed the course of the country’s future.
Up until now, the country suffers from a weak rule of law. For instance, we hear of a senator allegedly protecting drug lords and coddling dealers inside the New Bilibid Prison in exchange for a hefty stipend. Now, inmates are having the best time of their lives behind bars with their upscale prison cells, unlimited supply of alcoholic beverages and prostitutes as if their sentence is just another vacation in paradise. If only we entrusted public office to sane and morally intact leaders, we would have had less entertaining politics.
Naturally, people vote with their impulses and own biases. People have varying values and attitudes that affect their feeling toward a candidate. Many people vote for someone who closely resembles their own traits, but there are also many of those who trade their votes for cash.
Vote buying remains prevalent. This unscrupulous practice changes the rules as to how to actually win an election. Money is an undeniable necessity in order to at least have a shot at an elusive electoral victory.
Meanwhile, actors, actresses and other popular figures love the campaign period, as this is the time they are really raking it in. And of course, they skilfully allure the gullible showbiz-loving voters.
While there are no exact figures to show how many uninformed voters there actually are, they are visibly many. Aside from the daily dose of entertainment and manipulation they get during this dreaded campaign period, poorer communities are usually exploited by candidates who have the means to give out freebies or should we say bribes that come in food, gadgets (yes, they give out phones now!), garments or money.
Corruption and deception start from the electoral campaign itself, and our lenient, sympathetic and fun-loving culture has led to this reprehensible status quo.