It is inevitable for any independent candidate to rise up in the rankings of an electoral system that is undeniably controlled by party politics. Although it is understandable for them to take advantage of this feat to further widen their network, it still defeats the purpose of why they ran as independent in the first place.
A political party offers a wide variety of perks especially to those who wish to have quick influence over people. In most cases, political parties have already established three things: a base community to establish their presence on the ground, a well-handled online community that contributes to their presence online (a great factor especially in times when people are more virtually present now more than ever) and their records of media exposure. The distribution of their most significant releases, much less the very awareness campaigns that they launch on a daily basis, is already handled and systematically reproduced through all platforms, and those are things that independent candidates might be doing now in the early stages (if not in premature levels).
Of course it is also a norm in the country to support candidates through their own pockets, which is why we see most flyers, banners, and other publicity paraphernalia labeled as “donated by, friends of n candidate.” The most relevant example for this would be President Duterte, which enabled him to take advantage of his charisma to reach out to people who appreciate stark, vulgar, and straight-to-the-point punchlines that the president himself is incredibly skilled at. This allowed him to be, like deceased Senator Benigno Simeon Aquino Sr. and deceased President Ferdinand Marcos Sr., to establish his reputation as a populist idol, thriving on the adoration of his fanatics.
However, we have come to realize that community sponsorships might only be the best scenario to develop quid pro quo schemes, especially pertaining to the case of President Duterte. As to how we see him now, the president is straightforward whenever he shamelessly admits via media and the public that he has this willingness to return the favor to certain businessmen and major figures of the politico-corporate scheme that supported him during his presidential campaign (and course wreaking havoc to the lives of those who’ve done the opposite), and therefore this places the entire party politics into question as well as the independent candidates that chooses to be under the flag of said parties.
As far as we are concerned, the genuine reputation of independent candidates could be tarnished if they choose to do under-the-table discussions with parties they are currently aligned with.
And by far, this is not only a possibility. This is a means to unearthing the reality of their tendency to do so.
What sets independent candidates apart from all the other electoral candidates is their choice to be independent, and that takes a lot of guts given that we live in a society that mercilessly judges each other on a daily basis. The best feature an independent candidate has is its genuine representation that is bereft of any interest from a political party, that all of their agenda once they take oath of office would derive solely from the people whom they wish to represent.
And to involve themselves with political parties would leave them doing nothing out of the ordinary; that at the end of the day, even independent candidates are pretty much the same as the ones we see on the news.
Of course it is unfair to impose this ideal to a system that literally thrives on systematic interconnectivity, but the very purpose of one being an independent candidate is to realize that there is still someone who is actually human out there, that there is still someone in the grand political scheme of things that is actually concerned about making a difference.
And of course it is unfair to judge the internal decisiveness and the actual intent of those who wish to run independently.
But perhaps this is their expression of recognizing the profiles of the people who will most probably vote them into office.
Perhaps Filipino voters simply do not have that foresight, nor are we capable of employing high-level scrutiny towards our electoral options.
Perhaps it is easier for the Filipinos to recognize them based on the strong reputation of a singular party, instead of us taking the time to actually read about the candidates.
This may perhaps be the greatest weakness every Filipino voter has that weakens the maneuverability of an independent candidate to act freely on their own – this electoral illiteracy or the lack of voter’s literacy, so to speak.
And of course we cannot blame people to be ignorant of the cause of their ignorance, because there is a system that is so keenly interested on keeping everyone dull enough to make premature decisions, and smart enough to act on basic sociological functions (like voting).
Whatever the case, the quality of an independent candidate is further being put into question, especially if they find themselves engaging with what they view as a tactical alliance, but is actually a desperate attempt to cling to someone with an undeniable influence over the public.
This leads us to conclude that the Philippine elections has very limiting restraints to all participants – both voters and candidates, alike. Perhaps the only way we could possibly win in such an absurdly rigged system is to go even deeper and master the art of dispositions, to take advantage of every bit of opportunity presented and win by any means necessary.
But compared to that herculean effort, it is relatively easier to conclude that the elections is nothing more but the prime of reformism, and how changing the system from the inside would never work.
Because for one thing, those on the inside will never allow us to win. Not in a million years.
Photo by Mikhail Nilov, Pexels