DISCERNMENT AND VIGILANCE IN THE EXERCISE OF SUFFRAGE
By: Ernesto T. Solidum
Amidst widespread anomalies and violence in the country a Voters Power Movement (VPM) was formally launched in Aklan held at the Rotary Club of Kalibo Livelihood and Training Center, Andagao, Kalibo, Aklan. Dubbed as “The Three Musketeers” are retired government employees, former RTC Judge Virgilio Paman, and former RTC Judge Niovady M. Marin and retiredAgricultural Training Institute Director Ambrosio R. Villorente.
In a press con, Atty. Marin underscored the need to choose and vote wisely in the forthcoming May 9 elections since the kind of government and how they govern us for the next 3 or 6 years will greatly affect us. During the campaign, candidates court voters with promises of prosperity and higher living standards. But after winning the election, nothing has changed in the lives of the people except those who were voted into power. Elected officials are seen with SUV’s, live in condos and own beach houses. One wonders where this money came from since legitimate salary of elected officials is not enough to procure such luxury and lifestyle.
Virtually, the rise and fall of our country depends to a large extent on elected officials who are tasked through taxpayers’ money to improve our economy, maintain peace and order, deliver socio-economic services and secure the right climate for investments. Aklan was a member of the group of 20 poorest provinces 20 years ago yet today it is a billionaire province, being least dependent on Internal Revenue Allotment. Thank to our chosen leaders, averred the retired Judge. But the economic growth is not inclusive especially to the poor people.
The rationale to have VPM is to improve the quality of voting and suffrage said Atty. Paman. Our Constitution states that sovereighty resides in the people and authority emanates from them. Our democratic right is expressed through the ballot once in every 3 or 6 years. After this, our elected officials govern our present and future way of life. Since many of them have expended millions for campaign expenses (the law limits it to P3.00 per registered voter for Governor, Vice Governor, SP Members, Mayor, Vice Mayor and SB Members, while P5.00 for President, Senators and Congressman), the tendency is to regain their excessive expenses through illegal means is highly probable.
Dr. Villorente cited the vision and mission of VPM as an enlightened electorate choosing wisely their public officials who can effect progress, development and prosperity in Aklan. The mission is to empower the voters in the proper exercise of suffrage affecting their rights, responsibilities and benefits.
The relevant questions and reminders are: Know who are your candidates, what they are capable of and how they intend to lead us. Are those who seek our votes have unquestioned integrity? Have they been alleged to be involved in corruption or unscrupulous practices? And if so, how have they responded to those allegations? Have they established a proven track record of performance and credibility in their previous positions? Have they presented a clear economic platform that will support inclusive growth so that the poor and the marginalized are able to improve their standard of living?
VPM plans to hold first assembly forum in Libacao next April followed by students in private and public schools. Since March is loaded with final exams and Holy Week, observance of major events will be held in April, said Dr. Villorente.
During the open forum, the Convenors believe that Aklan voters have acceptable level of political maturity. This is because of high percentage of literacy and voter participation in previous elections. However, among politicians, this is belied by a confirmed report that the recent political peace covenant initiated by Comelec and Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) is only good on paper and media mileage. Aklan Bishop Corazon Talaoc is dismayed by the sudden turn of events. Before the ink dried up, candidates traded barbs, accusations and insults between and among each others. What a strange unity walk for peace that was!
Perhaps it is pertinent to note that politicians who pretend to care for the people to perpetuate themselves in power are said to be machiavelian since their altruism stems from selfish motives. Hence, voters must be very discerning and vigilant in their exercise of suffrage.
VPM launching was attended by several members of the tri-media and NVC MasCom students. Aware of this noble campaign, many pledged to serve as volunteers for Voters’ Power Movement (VPM). Like the PPCRV, it is non political, non sectarian, non racial and gender neutral. The organization is yet to be accredited by Comelec. It is temporarily holding its office at the 2nd Floor, Sampaton Bldg., Cor. Roxas Avenue-Mabini St., Poblacion, Kalibo, Aklan.
Any person with good standing in his community who wishes to join as volunteer the VPM is welcomed./MP