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Politics 101: Clean Politics

Prof Frederick V. Rael has been teaching for almost 20 years in various local colleges and universities in the Philippines.

Juan and Pedro started another conversation about politics in the Philippines because of the upcoming election of 2022...

Pedro - Last time, we talked about dirty politics in our country and we agreed that our country badly needed a drastic change in our political system. Perhaps, it’s about time that we promote clean politics rather than dirty politics.

Juan - That’s a good point, Pedro, but, what do you mean by clean politics? I think we have to philosophize again so that we can come up with the clear criteria of clean politics.

Pedro- Certainly, clean politics is not about deception, too much emphasis on tactical approach during the campaign, and other immoral practices of politicians just to win the election.

Juan -I agree. Clean politics should be based on the genuine/authentic approach of political candidates during the campaign with the intention of winning the hearts and minds of the voters through relevant and achievable platforms.

Pedro-hmmm...That’s a radical shift from the dirty politics that we are used to. If we promote clean politics, we will miss the generosity of politicians and their charming looks during campaigns. Also, the election period will reduce its entertainment value if clean politics would prevail.

Juan-But, I think clean politics is what we really need to cleanse our government of corrupt leaders or public officials.


Socrates said, “I was really too honest a man to be a politician and live.” Indeed, honesty has been an elusive trait among the politicians in the Philippines. We have always fallen into a trap of choosing politicians who are skilled in deceptive practices. They are equipped with tools that would successfully hide their true agenda (mostly money, power, glory, pride) such as through their tantalizing eyes and alluring smiles during campaigns. Time and time again, Filipinos have been fooled by such politicians who can present a sheep-like image in public but turned out to be corrupt when elected.

Juan and Pedro have the right to argue that Filipinos deserve clean politics, not dirty politics. Our kindness and hospitable traits have been abused not only by foreign invaders in the past, sadly, as well as by local politicians in the present. Politicians know very well that Filipinos are too naive and can be easily persuaded by amusing TV ads, trending social media posts, and other rubbish campaign styles. The primary problem of an ordinary Filipino voter is how to detect the real motive of the political candidates. In the Philippines, political candidates either lie or are incompetent enough to handle an elected position. Either way, Filipino voters lose.

Election as a Form of Entertainment

Election in the Philippines is like a movie with a thrilling plot and dramatic ending. Our country has one of the most entertaining and colorful elections in the world. For one thing, candidates come from different walks of life. We have now a former world boxing champion, a former actor, a former policeman, and a widower as presidential aspirants. There are also those who filed their candidacy who claim that they are the messenger of god, basketball players, and lots of showbiz personalities. Is this the true spirit of democracy or we Filipinos are just fond of entertainment even in politics? I say this because we have always supported an election that promotes a campaign with an emphasis on entertainment rather than a campaign of serious platforms. This can be attributed to our extreme fondness for Telenovela and our propensity to worship famous celebrities, K-Pop idols, and trending people on social media.

With the filing of candidacy finally over, Filipinos will witness again the theatrical tactics of political parties and candidates who are targeting local or national positions. Candidates will now officially perform their acrobatic political tactics (candidates switching, substitution, false alliances, abrupt changes in political color, organization hopping, and others). They are now allowed to parade their false accomplishments through social media or TV ads while they entertain the voters with their “rags to riches” stories.

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What is Clean Politics?

In this blog, I would like to share my thoughts on what clean politics is. I admit that I do not possess the exact or realizable formula of clean politics (if there is any) particularly on choosing the right candidates. As a social science teacher, I am certain that clean politics is not about diabolical tactics in the campaign but the presentation of realistic platforms that can help the majority of the population.

Clean politics is not about money and vote-buying but about personal convictions and the future of our country.

Politicians who engage in vote-buying or the use of a huge amount of money during the election period are promoting dirty politics. Giving scholarship grants, offering money, and placing the voters in the politicians’ payroll are clear indicators of dirty politics. Politicians who buy a vote in any form tend to view the election as a business investment, not a public service. Although Filipinos have the difficulty resisting the temptation of rejecting a bribe from politicians, I believe that they will make the right decision given the right information.

Clean politics is about a positive campaign.

Promoting one’s background, credentials, and platforms is a positive campaign. Candidates should repeatedly and sincerely explain to the voters what they can do to make the country better. The emphasis of the campaign should be on the track records (good reputation) and the candidates’ skills to manage the bureaucracy toward a genuine platform. Fiercely attacking the opponents is dirty politics. Taking revenge on another rival political family by threatening to file charges or jailing the opponents after winning the election promotes hatred and vengeance that may be absorbed by the voters. In short, vengeance against another political family as a campaign material is dirty politics.

We have to recognize the fact that politics in the Philippines has always been dominated by rich families. Nobody from the poor has the slightest opportunity to win an election. One requires money or funds from a political organization to win an election. The natural effect is that the government has been managed by the rich and famous but most of the time incompetent or corrupt. Worse, the election has become the arena or stadium for the political clans to take revenge on one another. The rich families have also viewed the election as a popularity contest and a weapon against their political rivals. They tend to protect the interest of their fellow business tycoons, oligarchs, media outfit, or rich political families. Clean politics should be about the plight of the poor and the disadvantaged, not the elite. Clean politics discourages hatred and bullying, but instead, promotes peaceful election and reconciliation among the population.

Clean politics is about authentic, relevant, and achievable platforms of the politicians.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to unmask the true intention of the politician, especially during elections. Candidates are usually generous because they donate large sums of money, go to funerals, and perform many charitable acts. Of course, all of them do this tactic especially the richest candidates. Is this clean politics? Again, the use of money is dirty politics even if it is for charitable purposes. From the point of view of the voters, it would of course be understood as a generous act. But, if one has to be critical about it, it is a form of investment in which politicians expect profit in return. After they win the election, they will get the opportunity to earn from the position by using the funds of the government (taxpayers’ money) for their personal gain.

On the contrary, politicians with genuine motives will run for public office using their own funds and offer their realistic platforms. Clean politics is about selling realistic platforms that would help the poor and the disadvantaged, not protecting a media network or a political family. In other words, we have to analyze whether the platforms are achievable or not. If you think that a promise of a candidate is made from heaven, then, you must doubt the intention of the candidate. In relation, candidates with genuine platforms will never surrender their principles to business tycoons or corrupt organizations for campaign funds.

Clean politics is about knowledge and skills in governance, accomplishments, and good reputation, not a popularity contest.

Filipinos have always voted for the most popular in the presidential position. It is easy for us Filipinos to be persuaded by famous celebrities, glamorous and entertaining TV ads, trending posts, and surveys. As seductive as they may be, they should not be the basis of our decision to vote for a political candidate. We should not be tempted to vote for those who are merely famous in their fields (basketball, showbiz, etc). Always look for their knowledge and skills in governance, dealing with the poor, or analytical skills in solving serious issues like the pandemic. You may ask yourself this question, “How can this candidate handle the health crisis that we are experiencing today?” Public governance requires knowledge and skills in the creation and implementation of laws. The Philippine bureaucracy is too big to be given to a corrupt or incompetent leader. A president has to follow the procedures and protocols in his/her decision-making. Funds are not easily dispensed because of auditing procedures. So anybody who would claim that they can easily help the poor by becoming a president must be delusional.

In connection, surveys are reliable measurements of the opinions of the selected population. Even though surveys are systematically done, the results are not yet the voice of the people or the majority. Surveys merely provide a snapshot analysis of the opinions of selected respondents at a given time, not the sum total number of voters in the country. We also must be careful with social media trending or tweets, which can only be produced by troll armies of a political candidate. Tweets, Facebook posts, and other social media networks are accessible to the Millenials, middle and upper-class families. Trending tweets or Facebook posts may only be indicators of the active participation of a minority sector (celebrities, middle and upper-class families, etc). On the contrary, those who belong to poor families (a large portion of the population) in the Philippines only care for where to get the food they eat, not the trending tweets of celebrities or rich families.

Clean politics is voting based on your conscience.

It is always a good habit before the election to regularly meditate, talk to your inner self, soul searching, or do anything that will increase your self-awareness about your political consciousness. You must be able to tap the “cosmos within” (borrowing from my great professor at Applied Cosmic Anthropology course) to give you clearer perspectives on the right candidate to vote. I’m sure your inner self knows better than those presented by TV ads, Facebook posts, tweets, surveys, and other campaign materials that are created to purposely deceive you rather than provide an accurate picture of the candidates’ motive. Ask yourself, “Are you willing to sell your votes for a sum of money in exchange for the unworthy candidate and for the future of our country?” The only being responsible for that one vote is you, nobody else, so make it count.

© 2021 Frederick V Rael

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