Philippine elections: Reflections of an expatriate

Updated:August 17, 2021, 10:37 A.M.

Toronto, Ontario


Oswald Magno

Considering what we’ve been through during the last five and a half years, I share the sentiment of many Filipino voters about replacing the current administration with something new and different.

I use the word “replace” only in a figurative sense since we, the voters, are not actually booting the current administration out. We do not have that privilege under the present Constitution which ordains that the president serve a fixed term and makes him ineligible for re-election.

With the elections less than ten months away, social media is afire with individuals and groups peddling their electoral preferences, enthusiastically endorsing certain personalities based largely on assessments or perceptions of their character and integrity, but short of knowing or fully understanding their preferred candidates’ stand on specific issues.

That’s a haphazard and poorly grounded approach that I do not share. For me, character and integrity alone are not sufficient to ensure good governance, a goal that has often eluded generations of Filipinos since gaining independence. We need more solid or, as accountants would put it, auditable bases for making our electoral choices.

I view the upcoming national elections as a singular opportunity to start the process of transformative renewal or, at the very least, the start of a national conversation on the kind of reforms and policies needed to rid the country of systemic corruption and lift it out of its deplorable condition as the sick man of Asia. 

I personally will not just vote for an opposition party slate with a view to effecting nothing more than a change in administration; rather, I will throw my support and vote for the candidates of a political party that embraces and commits to implementing specific reforms that I consider critical to achieving my vision of a country where:

  • governance is transparent and accountable, 
  • due process and the rule of law are paramount, 
  • voters get to choose between programs of governance or platforms and not between personalities, 
  • voters effectively give their elected representatives a clear and direct mandate in every election,
  • voters give the right to govern to the political party that has the most relevant platform,
  • members of political parties maintain a collective interest in good governance and conduct themselves responsibly or face the risk of collectively losing the right to govern,
  • citizens are empowered, self-reliant and can participate more intimately in democratic processes and in the running of their domestic or regional affairs,
  • the electorate has a high level of political maturity that enables them to make intelligent electoral choices and to weed out corruption
  • strong political parties (including opposition parties) are systemically developed and nurtured,
  • a proving ground for future national leaders exists,
  • police forces are accountable to the communities they serve; and
  • economic prosperity is not impeded by unrealistic and uncompetitive restrictions on foreign investment

Accordingly, I personally will support and vote for the candidates of a political party that espouses and is committed to implementing SPECIFIC reforms, including:

  1. amending the Constitution to replace the current presidential governance structure to a more efficient, collegial, transparent and accountable system of governance – a unicameral parliamentary system;
  2. empowering the eleven or so regions and making them self-reliant by amending the Constitution to establish a federal system, with their political structure organized along the parliamentary system;
  3. amending the Constitution to relax or liberalize the restrictions on foreign ownership and control of businesses in order to attract foreign investment;
  4. amending the Constitution to revoke the power given to the House of Representatives to approve franchises and allowing businesses to organize and operate and organize under a standardized business corporations law;
  5. amending the Constitution to clearly define the apolitical nature of the military, police and armed forces and providing for the sanctioning of conduct, including gestures and salutes, that have the effect of overtly showing loyalty to or alignment with any political party or politician; 
  6. passing a law that enhances the ability of Sandiganbayan and other anti-graft/corruption bodies to subpoena and obtain the financial records, including bank records, of all individuals, corporations and other entities who fall within the ambit of anti-graft and corruption legislation;
  7. stiffening the sanctions imposed on government employees, including all who hold political / elective offices, who fail to comply with the laws relating to the regular submission of SALNs;
  8. immediate passage of a Freedom of Information Act;
  9. immediate passage of an Anti-Dynasty Law;
  10. immediate passage of a law limiting the ability of the President to borrow funds from any source or enter into loan agreements with any lender, clearly defining the conditions under which sovereign loans can be made and placing a limit on the amount that can be borrowed without prior Congressional approval;
  11. passage of a law abolishing the PNP, re-assigning to the extent practical PNP personnel, and enabling local governments (provincial, city and municipal) to organize, fund and manage policing at the community level;
  12. committing to take specific steps, including expanding alliances with traditional allies and making use of available remedies under the UN Charter, to protect our territorial and maritime rights in the West Philippine Sea; 
  13. passage of a law limiting the amount of political contributions that can be made by individuals, corporations and other entities in a defined period and providing sanctions for violations; and
  14. committing to improve the transparency, visibility and fairness of bidding processes, as well as awards, related to any and all procurement by the national government of any products and services.

For me, the installation of a new administration consisting of personalities chosen simply on the basis of their status as oppositionists or perceptions of good character and integrity is a risky enterprise, albeit a welcome development.

From where I stand, we not only need a new administration but a competent one committed to the rule of law and to pursuing and implementing a clearly defined legislative and governance agenda that includes all or at least some of the above.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top