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Why I Won't Vote in Today's Elections

The 2019 Philippine mid-term elections will be the first time I could be able to vote as a registered voter. Unfortunately, I will desist from casting the ballot, and the reasons why will be much different from what you think.

President Rodrigo Duterte raises the hands of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) senatorial candidates during a campaign rally at the Bacolod City Government Center Football Field in Negros Occidental on April 11, 2019 (Source: Philippine Presidential Communications Office).

It's that time of the year again, where in around 60 million registered Filipino voters will go to the voting precincts, and vote for their preferred candidates for seats in the Senate, the House of Representatives, and also local government positions such as Mayors, Vice Mayors, and Councillors. 2019 is the third year of Rodrigo Duterte's term after he was elected in 2016, promising to curb the rampant criminality, corruption, and prevalence of drugs. Filipinos still retain a great amount of trust in him despite all the controversies he, his allies, and even some of his family members were embroiled in as showed by the latest polls from the Social Weather Survey, wherein Duterte enjoyed a satisfaction rating of around 79 percent during the first quarter of the year. With this, the battle between the candidates from the Administration (those in the Hugpong ng Pagbabago and PDP-Laban coalition) and the candidates from Otso Diretso (Liberal Party slate) and other senatorial bets from the Opposition are getting deeper, and more heated. This battle takes on many different fronts, from senatorial debates hosted by the Philippines' biggest television networks, to social media posts, and candidates from both sides devised different kinds of strategies, and gimmicks to capture the attention, as well as the hearts and minds, of the voting public. This election will also be the first time that members of the Gen Z population, those born in the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, will be able to demonstrate their power in making their voice heard in perhaps one of the most divisive, and debated elections in history. Everything is up for grabs in this election, which at first doesn't seem to show importance at first glance. Everyone, from former Senators, lawyers, civil society leaders, and re-electionists to sons and daughters of former politicians, and even a doctor famous on social media named Dr. Willie Ong is testing their luck to gain the privilege to be among the members of one of the most powerful bodies in the Philippine government. Every Filipino is also picking their bets on this elections, citing their various reasons from candidates' credentials, and past accomplishments to the perceived charm, and kindness a senatorial candidate possesses. Nonetheless, the 2019 midterm elections is the talk of the town. Despite my constant activity when it comes to politics, and also the power that new and young voters are now willing to wield, on May 13, I will choose not to vote in today's elections, no matter how historical its importance could be.

I am aware that my decision contains a certain amount of pessimism, and I am aware of how dangerous this kind of thinking is, should it reach the minds of millions, or even just hundreds of thousands of people. But my reasons for not voting is quite different from what is usually heard from people who did, or will do the same thing I do. Yes, I lost faith. But I lost faith not in the people, but in the system. During the campaigning period of Senatorial bets, many candidates caught my attention not for their flashy wealth or status, but rather for their surface integrity and humility. This time I saw a different class of candidates: Those, especially in the Opposition slate, who choose not to display their opulence, or connections through ads, and other forms of publicity, but rather decide to take a low-profile and let their platforms and personality do the talk, and this strategy is working. According to many campus mock polls conducted in universities in the Philippines, most, if not all, of the Otso Diretso senatorial bets, as well as other candidates from the Opposition parties and coalitions had entered the so-called "Magic 12," while only a few members of the HNP, and PDP-Laban candidates had managed to reach the "Magic 12," showing only how massively different the electoral patterns of millennials, and the Gen Z are from the Baby Boomers, and the Gen X. In other words, young Filipino voters are becoming smarter in choosing their candidates. This should be a cause for celebration, right? Yes. A good reason to be optimistic? Maybe not.

What I fear is not that these "good" candidates would win the elections. After all, politics is all dirty, and you have no choice but to vote the bad versus the badder, the evil versus the more evil. I saw good candidates from both the Opposition, as well as the Administration. It's not the players that I despise, but the game. I fear the system could end up betraying these good people, or derailing them and their promises, or worse, turning them into highbrow, snobbish aristocrats that would seem a far cry from the populist, humble people they showed during campaigning. The Senate's immense powers and duties are a double-edge sword. While it could allow for Senators to create a massive amount of change, it also makes the body less democratic, and more of a plutocratic aristocracy dominated by former politicians, and relatives of former politicians. It would be almost impossible for a common man with no riches or connections to become a member of a Senate. Even among the members of the Otso Diretso, and other Opposition candidates, many of its candidates were either relatives of former government officials, and former politicians, associates of former officials and politicians, or former/incumbent officials, and politicians themselves. If you don't have the money or the influence, becoming a Senator, no matter how good your platforms are, will be just a dream.

I believe that the Philippines is using a wrong, complicated, and rushed system wherein power is situated in just one entity, and wherein the common people do not have the ability to be able to hold public positions without fame, wealth, and connections in the name, and this elitist system is becoming more exacerbated with calls from many Filipinos to include college degrees to be a requirement for holding public office. If only a better suited and well-performing system was in place, I would be more than willing to participate in civic life through voting, and not just ranting on social media, or writing articles. Unfortunately, the system is rotten, and this system will only limit even the candidates we think we need from pursuing the changes and reforms they promised. Unfortunately, even those in the Opposition are opposed to making changes in the system, even if such reforms would ultimately serve them much better in the long run than the Administration, whose candidates are more keen to introducing such changes. But until our rotten aristocracy remains in place, it deserves none of my support.  

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