“If a person is a borderline moron, why should his vote equal the vote of a college graduate?”
-Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago
We all know Sen. Miriam to be the toughest chic in the senate and let’s face it, she’s among the very few who actually makes sense when she opens her mouth. One of her latest ideas sparked a very active online debate amongst netizens when she said that only tax payers should be allowed to vote. There are those who agree while some think it’s a very elitist move.
The Filipino people are mostly composed of the urban poor. By urban poor I mean people who only eat adequate times a day, mostly just two, people who are living in slum areas and with little to no education at all. In her speech at the Far Eastern University’s Central Student Organization series back in 2012, Sen. Miriam emphasized the importance of being an educated voter. “But in our country, the masses tend to vote for the people whom they most often see either in movies or on TV. They apply only a visual test to candidates. If the candidate often plays the role of champion of the poor, then the uneducated poor will vote him to office for this reason only. Thus, they are voting for actors. Accordingly, when some of these TV and film personalities win in the elections, they continue their acting in the legislature.” She said in her speech.
We can all attest to the kind of education we have here in the Philippines and sometimes, I cannot help but think that the government is doing so little about our severe educational problems intentionally to keep us all stupid and ignorant during the elections. I agree with what the senator said because if you’re uneducated, then you definitely don’t know any better than to vote for the handsome actor or even get involved in vote buying just so you can feed your family. The fact that so many Filipinos do that is appalling because they do not know its long term implications towards the future of this nation and their children.
Under Article IV, Sec 1 of the Philippine Constitution: Suffrage may be exercised by all citizens of the Philippines not otherwise disqualified by law, who are at least eighteen years of age, and who shall have resided in the Philippines for at least one year, and in the place wherein they propose to vote, for at least six months immediately preceding the election. No literacy, property, or other substantive requirement shall be imposed on the exercise of suffrage. Now, Sen. Miriam says this is not applicable in the 21st century and therefore should be amended. She proposes to change the charter so only tax payers can vote since the non-tax payers belongs to the poorest of poor, they are most likely to accept money from politicians. “Kasi kung hindisiya nagbabayad ng tax, mahirap na mahirap siya. Maski sino na lang, basta bigyan siya ng pera, kahit bigyan mo ng konti, that is patronage politics. The taxpayers are being ruled by the choice of the non-taxpayers.” The senator said.
While many people claim that this idea has a lot of loopholes, (for example, if only income-tax payers are allowed to vote, what about those who pay the Value-Added Tax, which is everyone?) One cannot say that it doesn’t make sense because it does. As a tax payer, of course, you will care about where your hard earned contribution is going to or if it falls to the hands of righteous people. So with that, you will care to analyze and scrutinize each candidate and vote for the best ones, not just those with the most fans or with the most outrageous campaign. You will think for yourself and your country because you know exactly what is at stake.
However, since there’s the VAT-tax payer’s problem, the only solution we can do to stop ignorant votes from running the country is to fix our educational system. Let’s do what other European countries do and put everything we have on education. Pay our teachers well, build more schools and teach more useful lessons instead of filling students’ head with useless information. Let’s add a bit of political awareness to the curriculum too so we can produce more intelligent voters who actually care about their country. I am not aiming to belittle the urban poor and the uneducated, I’m just merely stating the fact that most of us don’t really know who they’re voting for and what’s worse is they compose the majority.
This idea by Sen. Miriam might just save us another decade of idleness, massive inflation and socioeconomic problems if it’s implemented correctly. If we stop denying the fact that the Philippine population is mostly composed of people who couldn’t care less about the names they write on their ballots as long as they get money from it; and actually do something about that problem instead, we might have a chance of experiencing a better Philippines in this lifetime.