To those who say Filipinos are stupid


SAN FRANCISCO — Perhaps the stupidest reaction to the last Philippine elections came from people who concluded that, based on the outcome, Filipinos are really stupid.

Someone even came up with a faux Time magazine cover making that argument. In an ironic twist, a few who embrace the stupidity claim believed the spoof was for real.

Then there’s the Philippine Star columnist who argued that, “In the present system no matter how hard we try, the numbers are against an intelligent vote. … It is inevitable that the huge majority of unintelligent voting will always overwhelm a small intelligent vote. So it is not about making clueless voters more intelligent to achieve better elections alone. It is also about restructuring our politics and governance so that the selection of leaders does not depend on money and popularity.”

Carmen Pedrosa’s statements about “restructuring our politics” and the need to neutralize the role played by “money and popularity” in elections certainly make sense.

That’s not just a problem in the Philippines. You can hear that complaint in most electoral democracies, even in older, presumably more established, ones like the United States where the fight to reform the way elections are financed has been raging for decades.

But in a country that very recently had a disastrous encounter with dictatorship, what she said can easily be twisted around by forces with a much narrower view of elections and who probably don’t even believe in democracy.

You can almost hear some of these forces declaring: “Well, clearly, the people are stupid and unintelligent. So it’s time for those of us who are not stupid and unintelligent to take charge.”

Yes, some of the big winners aren’t exactly paragons of democratic governance.

As an Associated Press report said, “From Imelda Marcos to Manny Pacquiao, familiar names of political clans and celebrities dominated the ballots in the Philippines’ congressional and local elections Monday, making them a contest of popularity first and reform second.”

It would have been great to see Risa Hontiveros and Teddy Casiño on the list of winners and to have them inject more progressive ideas and discussions into the Senate. (It would also be fascinating given that they belong to rival segments of Philippine progressive politics. But that’s another story.)

But the results aren’t as “unintelligent” as some would think.

As columnist Rina Jimenez-David pointed out, the number of women in the Senate just doubled – a big deal in a political culture notorious for narrowminded machismo.

The top-notcher Grace Poe has quickly come across as intelligent, thoughtful and eloquent. She clearly has no delusions about why she won. She knows it’s because of her ties to a revered cultural icon and was quick to acknowledge the hard work ahead to really earn the people’s trust and respect.

Meanwhile, Nancy Binay has quickly emerged as the most ridiculed political newcomer in the history of Philippine politics. Some of the criticisms and fears may be justified. But many of the attacks have been so over-the-top and unfair.

There’s an important point in the elections that I haven’t heard much about. And it has to do with those whom the supposedly “unintelligent” masses rejected.

There’s the son of the one-time guardian of fascist rule in the country, the veteran trapo now also known for a new literary genre we could probably call ‘extremely creative memoir writing.’ (“I was ambushed. … No, that was a hoax. … Just kidding, I was really ambushed.”)

His son will not be joining the Senate because enough people apparently were not impressed with Jackie Enrile’s ‘I didn’t kill anyone and I really wanted to be a missionary’ narrative.

And Filipinos won’t have to read or hear about Senator Migz “This-time-I-didn’t-cheat’ Zubiri. That’s apparently because enough people didn’t buy into the former non-senator’s ‘Believe me, I didn’t know my votes were stolen” tale.

Then there are the other signs of cracks, even small ones, in the elite political machine on the local level. Why can’t we celebrate the victory of Leni Robredo who just won a congressional seat in Camarines Sur by beating the powerful Villafuerte clan?

But the biggest win is this: Filipinos yet again were able to engage in this crazy exercise. For there was a time when elections were a far more dangerous political activity in the Philippines.

This year marks the 35th anniversary of one of the dirtiest elections in Philippine history.

The year was 1978. The dictator Ferdinand Marcos was in power and thought that he should prove to the world that the people really love him. So he called for elections for a new legislature.

Big mistake.

A broad opposition coalition, led by the likes of Ninoy Aquino and Nene Pimentel, took him on. They waged a spirited, courageous campaign, winning the support of Filipinos who had grown tired of the regime.

The dictator hit back by cheating his way to victory. The cheating was so massive and so brazen it stunned even Marcos’s key ally, the United States.

Journalist Raymond Bonner recalls in “Waltzing With a Dictator” how the US Embassy in Manila reported how the Marcoses used flying voters and “printed and marked one million fake ballots for use in the process as necessary” to assure an “overwhelming” victory.

But cheating wasn’t enough.

After the elections, Marcos went after those who defied him by throwing his opponents in prison.

There’s a famous editorial cartoon by the legendary Herblock that brilliantly summed up Marcos’s twisted view of elections. It shows Marcos standing next to one of his generals. They’re both angry as they watch a military van hauling off protesters.

“Ingrates!” Marcos roars. “You let them vote and the next thing they want their ballots counted.”

Filipinos have come a long way since those dark days. And it’s time for an important reminder.

Democracy is a journey, and it’s often messy, unpredictable, at times exhilarating.  And the destination isn’t paradise.

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  • fk

    Filipinos are one of the filthiest, most corrupt, and unprincipled people on this planet, almost everyone can be bought for a price (except for the 10% few)… I just don’t understand why they keep on wearing those t-shirts with their national flag on it and with the print on “Proud to be Pinoy” (By the way, the Philippines archipelago looks like a dog standing on its hind legs, another design on their proud shirt hahaha…) and
    they keep on assuring everyone that someday their God forsaken country will rise and be a Great Nation once again… Excuse me, but if my memory serves me right, I don’t recall the Philippine ever becoming a great nation all through out history even just for once. Or maybe, I’ve just missed so many of my history classes that I overlooked on this one… But for those 10% exceptionally good few, which is around 10 million Filipinos, We salute you… : )

  • OrchidInWilderness

    It takes at least a college education to get an interview to serve hamburger in fast food joints or a janitorial job but we don’t apply a minimum standard of educational background for a job that is meant to improve and protect the standard of living of the people. Taking a crash course in lawmaking would not elevate someone’s knowledge overnight, you would still need proper theoretical background on top of brain smarts and honesty.

    Look at we have in the elected seats; senators Sotto, Estrada, Lapid, Revilla, Trillanes, Honasan, Binay, Ejecrcito, and Lolo Enrile. A bunch of celebrities and their offsprings, failed mercenaries, and a perpetual balimbing/co-architect of martial law. We also have families of Imelda, Imee, BongBong who still have vast sums of money of the people, plunderer Estrada, druggie Singson, rapist, murderer, and members of political dynasties.

    Their major accomplishments ever since taking office were having increased their personal and familes’ wealth or net worth while their own constituents standard of living have never improved. Look at Trillanes and Honasan, they are now multi-millionaires like the rest of these senators.

    Lolo Enrile, would definitely welcome Binay and EJercito as these senators are the typical senators a well-educated and experienced but corrupt senator like Enrile could easily manipulate due to their lack educational background or experience.

    People who voted for these useless politicians are the stupid ones. And soon they would complain that their life is difficult, that it is difficult to find a job, that the government is corrupt,… and so much more complaints.

  • Oliver82

    I dont think so. Maybe the author but not me.

  • manong123

    I couldn’t agree more with PalawanDude. A taxi driver told me before the elections that he’s going to vote for a relative of the actor Fernando Poe because he was his favorite actor. Filipinos must really like to suffer because they only want to vote into office those who’ll surely pave the way far deeper into hell on earth. Didn’t a bishop once said Christ wanted all of us to suffer, or something like that? I guess all the good ones really are gone for good. All we have are has-been politicians and former actors and actresses trying to recapture their lost center spot in the limelight. No wonder all they do is try to ferociously grab that brightest spot in the political arena, so they don’t even notice the deep and vast darkness that surrounds their people, whose voices have been muffled or ignored by their politicians’ utter selfishness and insatiable greed for more power and more wealth. No wonder many people here are (blissfully?) unaware that theirs is not a life fit for a human being. May hell sooner or later come to all those who bring hell into their fellow humans lives.

  • ruiznelli

    Cory running for president because of ‘courage, talaga?? Nope! It was
    motivated by her Dead husband’s botched Political ambition and by
    Cardinal Sin. The thing here is, kahit na courageous si Cory, Hindi
    parin siya ‘qualified, period. Pakisabi nga gaano naging kaganda yung
    12 hours brownouts, Sangkaterbang Kudeta, at Pagtaas ng presyo ng bilihin nung panahon niya?? We have a ‘facked up Constitition because of
    her. Our country is run by Oligarchs and Trapos. With her being the
    President, she started a line of Trapos in her family. What makes her
    any better then?

  • puza65


  • napali808

    Unfortunate; 13 million or so idiots voted for Nancy. Now.. what will she do in the senate. Do nothing and make tons of money. She is laughing and these ignoramus will still be poorer than a mouse. There is one thing Binay and Ejercito could do is open the Gates of Hell.

    • Denzel Boksingero

      I don’t think voting for Nancy Binay is idiotic. Give her and those who voted for her the benefit of the doubt. For one thing, Nancy Binay passed the UP entrance test for a quota course in Economics. Pagkakaalam ko di ka naman basta pumapasa sa UPCAT kung bobo ka. At di ka naman makakagraduate sa UP pag bobo ka talaga. 20 years as OJT ni nanay at tatay niya as political assistant. That’s the greatest experience in the reality of politics and governance that you can get if you’re not an elected public official. Si Jejomar Binay graduate ng UP College of Law iyan.

      Kung sa utak lang seguro, mukhang mas matalino si Nancy Binay sa iyo.

  • WoBushi

    Those who say that Filipino voters are stupid are stupid themselves. How can those so-called smart people act like real smart homo sapiens when they find time dealing with the so-called stupid people? Won’t you think there’s a disconnect somewhere? “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.”

  • Hellomr

    Yes it was justified like what happened in manila where a convicted plunderer won .
    If you are applying for work you need for sure an NBI clearance and if they found you have bad record then you will have difficulty finding a suitable jobs for you. In Philippines if you are applying for mayor or running for mayor in your town it doesn’t need NBI clearance at all. Kung ikaw ay isang mandarabong or mamatay Tao ok parin dahil siguro marami naman diyan matalinong mga botante.

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