Life in these Islands, Part 3

Thoughts on U. S. Elections

(For a different perspective on the U. S. elections, please read “Time to pause, ponder and pray” in my other blog.)

Since I happened to be in California during the 2008 presidential elections last Tuesday, I couldn’t help but compare elections and campaigns in the States and in the Philippines. Evelyn and I quietly dropped our ballots in the mailbox a week before the actual election day.

  • Unlike the Philippines, American landscape and streets were not littered with the candidates’ ugly posters, banners, and handbills.
  • On election night, even before the polling places in the Mountain States, West Coast, Alaska and Hawaii closed, the whole nation already knew who the next president will be, and most of the U. S. senatorial races were already decided. Compare this with the 2007 Philippine elections: the final senatorial results were not known until 14 days after election day, while the presidential winner was not officially declared until two months after!
  • I never heard of anyone killed during the two-year presidential campaign here, while every election in the Philippines result in scores killed and hundreds injured in election-related violence. Even in elections for the lowest public office of “barangay captains” (village chiefs), violence is commonplace.
  • While elections in the States could sometimes be ugly and focus on personalities, the discussions mostly focus on the issues, and most of the electorate vote based on their conscience and on issues. In the Philippines, most of the electorate do not have an inkling on what the issues are, and the result is that movie and basketball celebrities and popular newscasters are almost always sure bets. I won’t be surprised if Manny Pacquiao (boxer) or Willie Revillame (noontime show host) ran for senator or president in 2010!

The chairman of the Philippines’ Commission on Elections, itself riddled with corruption, is envious of the American electoral system and process, noting how smoothly the voting and counting proceeded. Jose Melo also observed, “On the behavior of the candidates, they talked about issues and not personalities. Maybe we should be like that.”

Filipinos should take the cue from Melo to strive to emulate the civility, decency and order in which America conducts itself during elections. What is sad is that many Filipinos, after they read this post, would accuse me of being unfair and of “colonial mentality,” instead of asking themselves, “Since we have this problem, what do we do about it? What can we learn from the experience of other nations?”

About Nollie

Associate Pastor of Trinity United Reformed Church in Walnut Creek, CA. Assigned as missionary to the Philippines. Lives just outside Metro Manila with wife and daughter. Three older boys live and work in CA.