Your health and elections
By Penelope A. Domogo, MD
May kinalaman ba ang elections sa ating health and health care services? Meron, of course. Malaki. Our health and especially our health services are affected by the decisions that our political leaders make. And what factors influence decisions? Let us take ourselves, for example. How do we decide? What factors influence our decisions? For those who voted last May 13, what factors made you write the name of the candidate in your ballot? Popularity? The program of the candidate? His/her stand on issues like graft and corruption? the personality of the candidate? your kinship? your friendship? Money? Some of the above or all of the above? Or I don’t care, ini mini may ni mo. For the 12 senatorial seats that were at stake, I think many people guessed some of the twelve. How does a voter in far-away Pangweo know of Joan Nalliw unless she or somebody went there to campaign for her?
I remember a time when this game of elections was between two major parties – the Nacionalista Party and Liberal Party. My Dad was, in his younger days, a campaign manager-of-sorts in our small town so I was introduced to politics then. Platforms were high in the rules of the campaign. Candidates talked of programs and platforms. Fast forward to 2019. There seems to be no difference between political parties. Thus a lot of local candidates run independent. And what do you think influenced the voters this last game of elections? Platforms? Your guess is as good as mine. I am utterly disgusted. So much money has gone around – vote buying and vote-selling. Vote-buying is the most common election fraud, according to the Psychographic Study on Voting behavior of the Filipino Electorate conducted by the Institute of Political and Electoral Reform in 1995 then updated in 2003. The findings hold true till today. What I know of Mountain Province, though, is that we are not of the same mold as the rest of the Philippines. And I have said it with pride in the past – we are peaceful, generally, and we don’t buy or sell votes. That was then. Apparently, we have been mainstreamed, just like our food preferences and love for showbiz.
This study is a good read for voters like me and politicians. According to that comparative study, there were changes in the factors that determine voter’s preferences. In the 1995 study (www.ombudsman.gov.ph Chapter 1: Restudying the Filipino Voter Today), the most important factor for voters is “popularity” then (2) “endorsement of traditional network (family, relatives, church)” and (3)“characteristics that can be of benefit to the voter”. #4 factor was the party program. In the 2003 study, number 1 factor was the “characteristic that can be of benefit to the voter”! Nowhere was “party program” found. You can say the same is true for the last 2019 elections. The researchers in this study say “Changes in the outlook of the voters regarding elections seems to indicate hopelessness. The voters becoming cynical about Philippine politics, thus the most important factor in choosing candidates are those from whom they will benefit most… The voters’ first consideration in choosing are benefits from the candidates. This …. is manifested in the voters’ acceptance of money being offered to them during election…. because they think that it is only during elections that they can directly benefit from the candidates. This implies that voters have a limited appreciation of governance and policies that affect them, such that good governance is not a major factor to consider in their decision-making.”
On the other hand, “The key informants felt that the intelligent voters’ basis for selecting a candidate is their platform and program of government…. because it is based on the consultations and identification of problems of the community that should be addressed. “
Yup, many voters got immediate benefits from the candidates by way of selling their votes, or have been favored in contracts/projects, in employment, whether as job order, casual or permanent. That’s for their individual benefit in the short or long-term. But what about the rest of the community? If you as the voter received P1,000 or P1,500 this election, then perhaps you were able to buy a half sack of rice to feed your family for a month. Or that P1000 could have bought some sanitary napkins to be thrown away as it is bad energy (I heard this.) But what about the rest of the three years? And what about the rest of your life? What we do today has a bearing of what happens in the future. Whatever we plant today is what we will reap in the future. That’s the law of the harvest and law of gestation.
There are allegations of massive vote buying and vote-selling these recent elections. I think this will be verified in the performance of the winners. Because if the winning candidate spent so much this election and plans to run again after three years then that person will have to recoup his/her expenses while in office. Three years is a short time and we know that the salary of government officials is not enough to bankroll an election campaign that buys votes. So where will the extra money come from? Your guess is as good as mine. Although one will get loyalty votes from people they have appointed to office (or endorsed for appointment), these will have to be augmented by much money to finance the next election. We all know that infrastructure projects are popular projects because these will give the best returns. So do we expect good infrastructure in the next three years? Calling on the volunteers for anti-corruption. And do we expect more budget for health services? Enough budget for preventive health services? What does a politician benefit if his administration finances a massive educational drive on healthy lifestyle promotion? By the way, congratulations to candidates who did not buy votes! Your votes are real and you are truly honorable, win or lose.
These politicians who have been voted into office will be at the helm of governance of our communities for the next three years. Whatever policies, ordinances and programs they will initiate or continue will impact on our health and health services. Take heart, however, because, even if they are at the helm, we, the people, still have a voice in this governance. We have our IPMR representatives, and councilors and board members who should be looking at ordinances and policies that will promote our wonderful indigenous traditions, benefit the majority and long-term. Let’s dialogue with them, reflect on the situation of our communities and get our acts together to promote good governance and strive for peace, health, harmony and happiness in our local communities. Healthy happy communities will make a healthy happy nation.**
“But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave.” Matthew 20:26b-27