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Bottom up

The recently held presidential elections where the upstart pink party was thoroughly trounced when the election results suddenly came out have left many wondering what it would take for a legitimate opposition party to beat the currently entrenched political dynasties that are ruling over the country.

If we assume that no advanced form of electronic electoral manipulation took place, the smashing results of the elections would clearly demonstrate that a volunteer-driven campaign, no matter how inspiring and crowd-drawing, is no match against the awesome machinery and seemingly unlimited resources of those who are determined to do anything acceptable to the Filipino people, to ensure that they will be in power for a long time.

With the rules not likely to change and the “cheating” tactics that are technically illegal but already accepted by the electorate due to constant lack of enforcement by the nation’s poll officials and law enforcers, it has become pretty clear that whoever intends to lead the opposition has to play by the twisted “rules” that currently define Philippine politics.

Based on our experience, we have seen that winning an election in this country all boils down to the vote buying system that has been established by trapos and dynasties. Anyone who runs for office will have to either participate in it or find ways on how it can be reformed or transformed by regular Filipinos if their government, especially the Comelec, PNP, DILG, and the House of Representatives who benefit all from it, continue to do nothing about it.

When it comes to reforming or dismantling the vote buying machine, it is already obvious by now that we cannot attack it from the head because of the power those people wield. So, for any upstart party or group that wants to give it a shot, the lynchpin to target if any changes can be forced upon the system would be the barangay officials.

We don’t think about them so much, but if you come to think of it, the barangay captains and kagawads are among the most vital cogs in either a well-oiled political machinery or any half-decent local government. These people who are supposed to be apolitical public servants during the elections, are the brokers who are responsible for identifying and delivering the voters to the vote buyers. Elections are won and lost by their valuable information and network that is most likely for sale to the highest bidder.

We have seen how trying to change the system from the top failed miserably. While the pink campaign was a good try, it was a failure because idealism rarely trumps the harsh reality of our world. Those who thought it would be possible to win an election in this country without resorting to massive and wholesale vote buying got a very rude awakening.

I don’t know if that movement that was started is still willing to give this thing called Philippine elections another go, but if they are, the strategy and tactics will have to change if they are going to stand a chance against the trapo machine.

At this point, there are two choices. The first is to fight fire with fire, meaning whoever is planning to support the opposition will need to save up all their funds to buy all the votes they can purchase to ensure a victory.

The other choice is to put out the fire by working to institute changes at the barangay level.

Imagine what would happen to the political machinery that trapos depend on if “their” barangay network were somehow dismantled. If principled and morally upright people from all over the country could successfully kick out the current crop of corruptible barangay leaders, it could possibly render the vote buying juggernaut toothless in one fell swoop, make elections in this country fairer and more inclusive. If done right, a successful barangay overhaul could even take down several political dynasties.

Another advantage of trying to change the system from the bottom up would be that we might actually feel those changes in our lives. Because we live there, we should feel the effects of better barangay leadership. Services can be delivered better, facilities can be repaired, rules can be enforced. When it’s not yet election time, good brgy officials can ensure that trash is picked up regularly, sidewalks decluttered, illegal parking addressed. And when elections come and they can’t be bought as easily, we might even have a chance of having fairer elections.

It’s a big step, but unless we are willing to take that step, we won’t be going anywhere. A few months ago, many Filipinos had never attended a political rally or voted. If the opposition is serious about fighting for this country, it may be time to organize those who have the same principles and morals into a proper party or organization and find those who have the time and the inclination to take our barangays back so we can take the country back, one barangay at a time, posthaste.*

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