ON knowledge and education, for anyone to run for senator, the Constitution requires only ability to read and write and, if the number of years is associated with wisdom, the age of at least 35.
Framers of the fundamental law assumed that most voters are discerning enough to choose qualified lawmakers for the Senate: supposedly cream of the crop, the brightest men and women of probity, who love their country, have abandoned selfish interest for public good, and will defend the Constitution to the death.
But voters usually don’t choose the best. With requirements for voters even less than qualifications for candidates -- where the illiterate can vote and in many parts of the country the election can be bought, coerced or stolen - what else can we expect?
Even without the ills that plague elections, the playing field is not level. Popularity, specifically name recognition, provides the edge, at times even derailing party machinery, thus making senators of movie-TV stars, boxing champions and, now, perhaps even bloggers.
Mocha Uson’s star has risen not because she is college-educated, but because she is widely known as blogger and stage entertainer. Her lusty and full-throated rooting for then candidate Rodrigo Duterte drew to her blog thousands of followers. Which didn’t go unnoticed by President Duterte who gratefully hired her in the government. House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez announced in Cebu last Nov. 17 that his candidates for senator would include Uson.
Uson’s followers cheered the news. Administration political tacticians said “why not?” with her “marketability” in mind. Aside from her internet audience, Uson has seized public curiosity because of the controversies she manages to fall or wade into: mostly embarrassing but all attention-getting.
Those who raise eyebrows and ask “why?” see further decline in the quality of senators. But the argument for another Recto or Tañada on the Senate floor has long lost its steam; it no longer excites voters. Few who have shown the promise of a sterling career in the Senate soon flounder, to nobody’s surprise, in the morass of politics.
Name of the game
To win the game, popularity is crucial: not even hero-popular, just recognition-popular. If one’s name is known by voters across the land, that will do, never mind if he is a scoundrel of a Cabinet secretary or a wimp of a legislative leader.
Times produce great men and women, we are told. Present developments, which draw a troubling sketch of what’s to come, might set off crises that could bring us the senators of the caliber optimists pine for.
A sad state for vote-rich, replete-with-talent Cebu whose current presence on the national podium is little or almost none: legislative-executive liaison Secretary Ade Sitoy and presidential asst. for the Visayas, Asec Michael Dino. Both will concede they’re no senatorial timber yet.
Apparently Cebu’s bench is not deep, not even enough to keep at least one Cebuano senator every term of Congress. Factors for winning are not likely to change in the next decade or so. That should concern us, especially if the new crop might include Aguirre, Roque and, yes, Mocha Uson.