LET not the Filipino people commit a â€œfallacy of electoralismâ€ and confuse the holding of elections with establishing a democratic regime; still, elections are the bedrock of our democracy and long-term genuine reforms must be pursued. Political scientist Clarita Carlos made the twin arguments in a public forum this morning presenting a synopsis of a new book on electoral reforms.
â€œIf we do not reform our electoral processes,â€ said Carlos, â€œwe would seriously compromise the power of the vote.â€ She said the â€œdeficitâ€ in voters’ education must be addressed, along with other issues including the need to modernize the electoral system, instituting harsher penalties for violations of election laws, and reforming the Commission on Elections.
Carlos’s book — â€œElectoral Reforms in the Philippines: Issues and Challengesâ€ — was co-written with colleagues from the Center for Asia Pacific Studies. The book lists down a set of proposals that, according to Carlos, will make the electoral process truly vital to democracy.
Carlos noted an â€œincreasing vigilance among civil societyâ€ in monitoring the conduct of the May elections. â€œWe can only hope that this will be a better-run and fairer elections,â€ she said.
â€œThe political ads are already coming out of our ears,â€ noted Carlos, â€œbut they do not educate us.â€ A serious voters’ education program must be pursued, she said, and integrated in the school curriculum. She called for specific legislation that will mandate the Department of Education to address the matter.
Electoral reform advocates have long lamented the lack of voters’ education in the country. Recently, the Comelec made attempts to begin filling the gap, with online efforts such as the poll body’s blog, and a separate blog for voters’ education. For those with internet access, these blogs are a means to access information about the electoral system, in general, as well as, specifically, the coming mid-term polls.
Carlos’s book makes these other recommendations:
- On political ads: Adopt a similar â€œelectioneering communicationsâ€ ban as in the United States so that no broadcast of either advocacy or outright seeking voting support will be allowed 30 days before any election of whatever kind. This will also obviate a situation where the massive election propaganda of well financed candidates drown the puny efforts of candidates less so endowed.
- On term limits: Except for the presidency which is limited to a term of six years, we propose no term limits for the other elected positions at all levels. The basis for this proposal is the whole philosophy underpinning democracy itself. Our Constitution enshrines our fundamental right to vote and our right to be voted upon. In many cases, multiple term officials grow into the job and become experts and are better able to perform their functions because of the accumulated experience borne out of continuing work. This, of course, assumes that the voting electorate is mature and discerning and can, therefore, vote out an incumbent who has been proven to be corrupt, inept, and incompetent.
- On pre-election surveys: Our proposal is to create a regulatory body tasked with the specific job of overseeing broadcast of pre-election survey results as well as its dissemination by media. Alternatively, the various poll organizations can also self-regulate as it is in their collective interest to be viewed as undertaking a legitimate function of “feeling the pulse” of the electorate prior to the elections. In addition, we also propose the ban on broadcast of pre-election survey results 30 days before election day.
“Electoral Reforms in the Philippines: Issues and Challenges” was published with help from the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.