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The Tides of March

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John F. Kennedy once said, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” Making the point that increasing prosperity benefits everyone.

Ignoring for the moment that my ‘boat’ has a number of leaks, it’s also true that some boats are more ‘equal’ than others and get a much bigger ‘lift.’

Thankfully, we were spared the worst effects of the economic crisis, due, in no small part, to the stodgy conservatism of our banks.

Yet our country’s positive economic performance in the past few years has not trickled down. At least, not sufficiently to assuage many other serious governance concerns.

Thus, the appeal of the coming elections is primarily its promise of reform and change. What change do we seek?

There is certainly a need for transparency and good governance, a popular call for greater delicadeza and integrity.

In our day-to-day lives, but more so in government, our actions are sometimes dictated by realpolitik. But while acting for the sake of expediency may be practical, it is not DOING THE RIGHT THING.

Mixing metaphors, it may be kosher, but it isn’t cricket. What would YOU do? In government, legalistic evasion wears thin and engenders further distrust. Without a broad consensus of reasonable confidence, if not approval and goodwill, then any calls for unity are bound to fail.

What about a candidate’s will to power? Shouldn’t we rather choose leaders who aren’t too obviously drooling over the prospect of holding high public office? Again, while that may be true, Julius Caesar was killed at the senate for his ambition.

There’s a lesson here about turning down the top post too many times. Your rivals and even some of your erstwhile allies may get nervous about what you really have in mind, and get YOU before you have a chance to get THEM.

That being said, with a strong presidency, there are very real concerns about what a focused and determined President can do. Are you comfortable with the idea of a presidential strongman, a caudillo who controls the military?

It has also been said that we elect our representatives, not just for their service, but also, more importantly, for their judgment.

Even if given several candidates endowed with intelligence, competence, and good judgment, the critical question is for whose ultimate benefit these sterling traits are applied?

A smart, charismatic politico could readily rob the poor masses to further enrich select cliques of powerful cronies.

Hopefully, they will then leave those in the middle well enough alone. Would this be ‘okay’ to you?

You may think you’re fairly well off and that a privileged few accumulating more wealth through their connections isn’t a major concern.

Yet political favoritism isn’t only about money, it’s also about power. Not just amassing wealth by a few, but the encouragement of those who would exercise raw power with no conscience and scarce any compunction. Quis custodiet ipsos custodies?

For example, when a teacher catches a bully in the schoolyard then asks the victim to back off, something is terribly wrong.

In any case, the current administration’s tide is going out and we are hoping that the incoming tide brings more than just more of the same (new or old) political flotsam and jetsam.

We have a choice to exercise. Regardless of what our personal choices may be, the question is can we exercise that choice freely? Fortunately, the upcoming automated elections auger well.

There have been many voices raised over various aspects of ‘computerized’ elections. This is really a Good Thing (©Dvorak). With many eyes watching, it will be very difficult to sneak past an underhanded trick or two. Let’s just quickly cover two points.

A computerized system is consistent in an all-or-nothing sort of way. That is, if there is any error (or cheating) then it should affect all results in the same way.

For example, if there were any errors in Meralco’s computation of your electric bill, then this would affect all subscribers; hence the general rebates. It is easy to overlook piecemeal errors, while an error that affects all results would be far more obvious and easier to spot.

The second critical point is the transmission of results. The notorious dagdag-bawas cheating scheme depends on the complications of aggregating paper results from the precinct-level up.

The new automated system will simultaneously transmit precinct-level results (30 copies within 15 minutes) directly to various recipients, including the COMELEC, election watchdogs PPCRV and NAMFREL, and the major political parties.

Effectively, each recipient can then do its own ‘quick count’ and publish this on the Web in near real-time. Dagdag-bawas is dead in the water.

COMELEC, election watchdogs, and various independent groups, including techies, are carefully scrutinizing procedures. The rest is up to us. Vote wisely!

Print ed: 03/10


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