Prints and Traces

Today’s View : Barangay Elections – A Microcosm of Patronage Politics

Oct. 22, 2013

By DON J. PAGUSARA

Pista na sad!   [Yes, it’s fiesta time once again!]

Election time — whether it’s for electing national officials or choosing managers for local government units such as barangays councils — is always a cause for cheerful activities, just one degree lower in atmospheric temperature than the real barrio fiesta celebration.

Molihok dayon ang bolibol sa mga gagmayng politiko sa mga purok ug mga balangay.  Ug dungan sa pagkutayg mga banderitas ug pagplastar og mga poster, magsugod sab dayon og pasunding sa ilang dagkong ngislit ug mahigal-ong timbaya ug hinakpanay sa kamot. Ug pakgangon imong malinawong takna sa rekoredo pinaagi sa loudspeaker nga labihang kusoga ang bolyom, naga-sangyawg  pangalan sa kandidato dinuyogag mga  ‘jingle’ nga maoy labing makalilingawng bahin sa pistahanong aktibiti!!   

[Soon mini-politicians in the barrios and little villages start to feel their hair whorls itching.  And synchronous with the display of flaglets and posters soon start to exhibit their widest grins and chummy greetings and handclasps. And your peaceful hour is disturbed by “rekoredos” done thru the blasts of a loudspeaker broadcasting the name of candidates strained along the lyrics  of “jingles’ which is the most interesting component in the fiesta-like activities!] 

Their ra-ra supporters are no less engaging.  They begin their campaign activities with early-morning street-to-street walks and house-to house visits at sundown until late hours in the night.

Mao lang gihapon ni sukad pa sa unang eleksiyon nga napatik sa akong panumdoman may sayesenta na ka tuig ang milabay.  Dili nako malimtan kadtong  jingle nga kanunayng  gitokar  niadtong Presidential election sa 1949 diin maoy nagsinungagay sila si Elpidio Quirino ug Jose P. Laurel.  Ingon ani kadtong jingle nga giubanan og dakong larawan ni Quirino nga nagsakayg  orinola nga de layag.  Karikatyur kadto sa urinolang gipalit kono  ni Quirino og P10,000..! 

[It’s all the same as in my earliest recollection of Philippine elections – – some 60 years past. There was a political jingle that has since stuck in my memory in that 1949 presidential elections wherein Elpidio Quirino and Jose P. Laurel were the clashing contenders.   The jingle was highlighted by a billboard that caricatured Quirino sailing on a “urinal as sailboat”, the urinal supposedly costing P10,000.  And the jingle went this way –

Pagkamatay gayod ni Roxas              After the death of Manuel Roxas

naukadyang ang panikas!               graft and corruption was rampant!

Naglayag si Quirino                    Quirino was sailing pretty

sa urinolang mahal kaayo!     on a urinal,  very costly!

Si Avelino ang mihunghong              And Avelino it was who whispered

 sa motto sa ilang panlimbong —      the motto that was the dictum         

“Unsa man diay kapuslanan       of their thievery in office –

 sa gahom nilang gihuptan”!            “What are we in power for”! ]

Nothing has changed!  And nothing will ever change the nature and quality of this country’s electoral processes, for as long as “patronage politics” remains the fundamental principle of our political system.

The festive atmosphere is of course a masquerade.    Behind the merriment and the hullabaloo are the clandestine vote-buying and other shady deals that transpire in the dark between patrons and candidates.  The patrons are usually figures from a political party or a political dynasty.   And there are more happenings between the candidates and followers, and so on and so forth. Oh, sometimes, between the contending bets themselves!

The core premise is self-interest. What matters most are the returns that the elections shower the candidates during and long after the elections, especially the winners.  In the case of top elective positions, the stakes are unimaginably high.  Here, a candidate does not just embark on an enterprise that exacts tremendous expense without the promise of satisfactory returns.  And here the numbers are far beyond the six digits.  Millions begets billions, and more!

The scandalous Pork Barrel is just one of such targeted returns.  Self-interest is such a vicious commitment that contemplates its own plans and devices.  No matter what purported nobility of intentions is mouthed by a vicious politico, his is a wardrobe of all sorts of masks and trickery that soon  shows in his official actuations and practices.   But, short of whistleblowers, these returns are hidden in the politico’s personal bank accounts.  Maayo ra bag anhi ra sa Pilipinas, adto pa gyud sa mga bangko abrud!  [Good if these are just kept in the Philippines, but no!  they are in foreign bank accounts abroad!]

But even granting that the politico is garbed with the most honest of intentions, he cannot escape the “padrino system”.  Since this is the modus operandi, he cannot avoid the music and soon he dances to the alluring rhythm of the system.

Look at President Noynoy Aquino!  We granted him the benefit of the doubt upon his ascendancy to office — that he is “made of a firmer stock”   Aha! The Pork  Barrel system, for all we knew, was his fountainhead of strength!  And he did try to hide it!   But the magical wand of — Fairy or Witch? — Janet Napoles  wand[ered] uncontrollably to the Office of the President!

Or, to say it another way — The whistleblowers of the state-of-the- art scam of Janet Napoles  scam[pered]  inadvertently to Malacanang Palace!  Hahaha!

One might ask, “Is it self-interest that dictates Noynoy to adamantly cling to the illogic of the Presidential Pork Barrel?  Unsa pa man diay?  Maybe he was just lured into its wondrous benefits by the manipulative genius of a certain financial Butch[er] ?  Then he cannot claim innocence.  Or he cannot just say, “He can defend it wherever it is questioned!”

BUT. . .how sure are we that the Noynoy as a presidential bet of the LP was a timid and innocent politician and did not already contemplate on the Presidential Pork Barrel (called DAP) as a mechanism whereby he would be able to entrench himself in office?  Didn’t he already learn about it from his Mother Cory who was also presumed naive and honest, but who used the pork barrel [which she baptized as CDF] just the same to her political advantage?

Ay naku!  Elections Philippine Style is a veritable mardi gras that ushers the politicos to the gates of political paradise!

NOW. . . in these barangay elections, we have mga politikong gagmay (mini-politicos), some of them very young, who are trained in the whys and wherefores of the electoral padrino system.  Some of them are launching their political careers here in the barangay level as first step towards higher levels.  And by the time they are tossed to the next rung of their political ambitions, they shall have learned the art of politics in conformance with their respective self-interest [or selfish interests].  And before they knew it, they have become the likes of Enrile, or Erap, or Revilla, or Jinggoy, or Nograles!  And maybe a certain Davawenya shall become another Janet Napoles!

Yes. . .yes, we need to present an alternative electoral system that is fair, just, clean and honest — one in keeping with the demands of the times.  One that does not entail great expense.  And most of all, one that can elicit the participation of the best stock of the Filipino gems in vision and leadership.   By the next issue.

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