#juanvote Blog Action Day: Understanding State-People Relationship

By RJ BARRETE

I believe that social contract between the state and its people is absolute. Nevertheless, two key players may unconsciously commit failures in fulfilling their responsibility. When the people of this country vote for their chosen leaders (who shall provide the basic social services, craft legislation, and lead the country) it automatically gives them the inherent responsibility to fulfill their job as public servants. Before they decide to run for office they must have considered (1) willingness to serve the country; (2) unquestionable track-record in public service; and (genuine plan for this country to move forward).

This article is not about who’s better than the other; neither criticisms anchored to overshadow other candidates with bias comments and testimonials. Let’s talk about responsibility and accountability, and even how failure of both stakeholders should be resolved at the end of the day. Significantly, people say, we deserve the kind of leaders we have right now; but ideal rebuttals would insist that we deserve better (best).

‘Leaders’

Generally, we have been electing leaders whom we think would best serve the interest of the majority. We based our votes on our personal criteria and reference, may it be on their advocacy, legislative performance, and even charismatic appeal. Granting that these criteria are relevant and correct (because personal reference would always dictate that one is right).

Qualifications for Senator are found under Section 3, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution, to wit:

“No person shall be a Senator unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines and, on the day of the election, is at least thirty-five years of age, able to read and write, a registered voter, and a resident of the Philippines for not less than two years immediately preceding the day of the election.”

For the lower house of Congress, candidates must meet the requirements found under Section 6, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution, which states:

“No person shall be a Member of the House of Representatives unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines and, on the day of the election, is at least twenty-five years of age, able to read and write, and, except the party-list representatives, a registered voter in the district in which he shall be elected, and a resident thereof for a period of not less than one year immediately preceding the day of the election.”

As provided above, the Constitution allows any natural-born citizen to run for public office with appropriate age and years of residency. The Constitution did not limit anyone from running because he/she is a ‘Personal Assistant’ nor a Lawyer. However, when do we subject ourselves to giving respect for our people and country? Not because one permits, thus abuse of chances must prevail. Conceding that the state allows anyone to run for legislative post without imposing a qualification on legislative background, it is never automatic that one must have the ‘right’ to have the seat. Simple logic follows, if you are a Marketing graduate, you will never apply as Pharmacist because that is not your field of specialization unless you will get a degree on Pharmacy and work on it.

Now the underlying assumption if we expect candidates to have background in public service and legislation is that we are belittling the capacity of an individual to serve the people and prove his worth that he/she indeed deserves that position. However, this could be rebutted by presenting how candidates ‘prepare’ and ‘showcase’ their worth as public servants. Debates and forums are avenues to create a leverage over other candidates. This is a competition at its face value, the people serve as the adjudicators on whose issues are more relevant and those who are pure epal.

The Electorate

The state provides its people the right of suffrage, indeed a constitutional right. Many have said that we don’t have to blame the people in the golden seats, but instead ourselves. I have various scenarios on this and let me enumerate those:

(1) A voter votes based on his ‘personal criteria’ and that solely interdependent sub-criteria exists.

(2) A voter may have voted a candidate because of illegal electoral engagement (vote buying, cheating, etc.)

  • This is a two-way responsibility between the electorate and the candidates. In times like elections, where politicians are extremely craving for victory, they intend to abuse the voters by targeting their weakness points ( monetary value) and others. A candidate with human dignity and integrity will never practice such act; this only proves the kind of leader he/she is. On the other hand, the electorate must also learn to refuse. It is high-time to redefine election. Value on ones vote is far more important than a peso bill for a short period of time.

(3) People who did not register

  • It is in fact an obligation as citizens to register and vote and participate in the country’s elections.  However, this is not mandatory, choice is still at hand. Neither the state did not impose sanctions for failure of registering. Do they still have the right to participate in socio-political discussions. Yes, these people are citizens of this country, the freedom to participate in political affairs is granted in the Constitution. Government service exempts no one. Thus, citizen participation is never barred by the state.

How do we resolve failures?

It is important to know the value of every right, responsibility and accountability that the state has given us. One must know the limitations and it takes responsible prerogative in every action we make. It is commendable to accept our failures as citizens of this country regardless of societal disposition. We are all one in this battle.

“Being free from corruption requires vigilance – that we know the extent of our local officials’ political power and that we stand in their path if they try to rob us in any way.” Jules Maaten

Follow me on Twitter: @rjamesbarrete

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