Still mostly unremarked are certain changes this election season that hopefully indicate a growing wisdom among the electorate.

Yes, Virginia, we’re referring to the same electorate that’s been disparaged by pop analysts and gloomy academics for years for voting for imbeciles and other clueless types, and for putting in office crooks and ne’er- do-wells on no other basis than the way they smile, sing, dance, tell bawdy jokes, or throw money its way.

Not only is that same electorate thumbing down celebrities. It’s also making distinctions between celebrities who have something to say and/or who’ve actually done something, and those who don’t and haven’t. What’s more, it’s become far more aware of the party-list elections than in 2004–and seems determined to return to Congress those who’ve looked after the welfare of the marginalized, and to elect to the lower house those other parties that would most probably do the same thing.

Although not as scientific as the surveys of reputable survey groups, television and radio “man- on- the- street” interviews almost uniformly yield statements to the effect that actors should stick to acting, for example.

On occasion, the same interviews produce relatively sophisticated insights, like some interviewees’ observation that being an actor doesn’t necessarily mean that one would be an incompetent lawmaker or administrator, and that the voter should examine individual candidates’ potentials instead of generalizing about any one group.

The results of the most recent surveys on the senatorial campaign in fact echo what seems to be a developing mass sentiment towards celebrities. Cesar Montano and Richard Gomez are nowhere within the first 12 possible winners in the senatorial elections, for example.

Gomez’ and Montano’s trailing even such newcomers as Sonia Roco–who’s incidentally gaining ground despite a shoe-string campaign budget and a campaign style her detractors describe as “too cerebral”– is a marked departure from past elections when having one’s name in lights on theater marquees was almost sure guarantee of making it to the elective post of one’s choice.

Then there’s the near-universal dismay over boxer Manny Pacquiao’s running for Congress. The dismay’s not limited to Pacquiao’s middle-class idolaters. It has spread to his plebeian constituencies, all of whom worship the very ground he walks on, and who imagine themselves conquering the world and making millions too–but many of whom are unlikely to put him in Congress.

At the same time, the results of the surveys on the party-list groups reveal a capacity to sift truth from lies, as well as for courage under (literal) fire. The three most preferred party-list groups among voters are not by coincidence also the most maligned by the Arroyo regime: Bayan Muna, Gabriela, and Anakpawis.

They’re also the three party- list groups the military has been aggressively campaigning against through seminars, press releases, and the plain intimidation and assassination not only of their members, but also of their supporters. Apparently these tactics haven’t worked among an electorate that despite the odds has become a bit wiser than in 2004–and which this election season is likely to send to Congress nine representatives from the militant groups.

Assuming, however, that the elections are clean and honest.

The signs hardly suggest that they will indeed be, and that there will be no repetition of the fraud that even a former Commissioner of the Commission on Elections says happened in 2004. On the contrary.

There’s the burning of the old Comelec office–which, however, is only the most recent of indications contrary to clean and credible elections. Comelec Chair Benjamin Abalos has declared that no vital documents were destroyed in that fire. But it appears that what he considers “vital” is different from the way that word is normally understood. Destroyed were evidence in charges of wrongdoing against past and present Comelec officials as well as vote-rigging complaints, and the verification reports by Comelec field offices on the registration of party-list groups.

If these documents are not vital, what would be, since the destruction of these documents, (1) makes, as one lawyer put it, both charges of wrongdoing against Comelec officials and charges of vote-rigging and other anomalies “moot,” and in addition (2) paves the way for the recognition of any and all party-list groups that in furtherance of the will of its Malacanang bosses, the Comelec could simply declare legitimate come voting time?

The burning of the Comelec building, if not deliberate, could hardly have been as thoroughly in favor of both the Arroyo regime and the Comelec itself if it had been. But that’s only one of a long line of recent events that among others includes Defense Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane’s pledge that the AFP will be “flexible” in the discharge of its election duties this year; the copying of ballot serial numbers by a group that somehow gained access to a restricted area of the National Printing Office where ballots are printed; the fielding of troops in metro Manila slums and in “critical” areas of the countryside; etc., etc.

The signs of growing electorate wisdom are thus in patent disconnect with the signs of a continuing determination to frustrate its will. And it’s likely that as voter wisdom grows, the more will the electoral system–at the top of which the Comelec and its bosses sits like a Jurassic throwback to martial law days–continue not only to stagnate. It will also regress and deteriorate in furtherance, not of the popular will, but of that of a power-mad handful.

(Business Mirror)

Prof. Luis V. Teodoro is a former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, where he used to teach journalism. He writes political commentary for BusinessWorld.

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