Saturday, June 19, 2010
THE PARABLE OF THE YOUNG TRAPO: The Final Sermon
He was awakened by the thud of crowd in front of his sturdy manor. They bellowed for words aren’t clear to him for the moment. As they continued to screech for more, the presence of them continued to stir mixed feelings upon him. Just days ago, he was elated to know that he won in the first ever automated elections. He was in utopia. Then several days after that, here they are bellowing at the top of their lungs…shouting of words he barely can’t understand. Are they mad at him? As far as he can remember everybody was good to him, all smiling and doing beso-beso. When finally he cleared his mind, he routed his eyes on the crowd in front of him. A weary woman, in her worn-out malong, carrying a small child on her arm and making a plea as if he has fathered her child; a middle-aged man with a slightly thwarted face shouting as if he had owed him something; and a bigger group of people asking for more!
He was in a state of confusion. Gradually though, the words are beginning to make sense, but he refused still to understand. He merely uttered to himself, “Who are these people? What are they doing here?” He suddenly did not remember anything or anyone. He tried to recollect thoughts but can’t recover anything. He tried hard. Hard enough to put into perspective why a wide group of people would gather in front of his mansion uninvited. His victory party was long over, he thought. He was lured back by a voice. They are asking for what you have promised, remember? He tried hard again to remember and refused once more. But their words are now clearer, more lucid and unavoidable: Konsehal! Asan na ‘yong ipinangako mong kapital para sa itatayo kong negosyo? Nasaan na po ang tulong na sinabi niyo noong eleksyon, ibinoto pa naman namin kayo dahil doon! With these all clear to him, still he hesitated to go down and face them. So unlikely of the past weeks when he was so willing and in all smiles shaking their hands. In his perplexity, he sought refuge from the concrete walls of his folks’ mansion and felt somehow secured. But instincts tell him, this won’t be the last. The words that lasted on his mind: IT’S PAY BACK TIME!
Allow me to share this short story about the aftermath of the recently concluded elections on a young politician who crafted his way to his post thru groceries and unconcrete promises to his constituents. This is fictional. And I sincerely hope that you do not in anyway find yourself in this short story, either as the “he” who suddenly turned deaf or the “crowd” that continues to cry out. Unfortunately however, this may be happening in the very near future if it is still not happening today somewhere out there…Isabela City perhaps?
What is the moral of the story then? The narrative has a great deal to do with the Biblical proposition: WE REAP WHAT WE SOW. In politics, when a candidate’s platform is rooted on money politics and personal interest, his eventual assumption to power signifies only two things: PERPETUATION OF POWER AND CORRUPTION. He has no choice really, sink or swim he needs to sustain the whims and caprices of his constituents. Empty promises and commitments ranging from “pangbinyag” to “pampalibing” are common practices which are deeply etched in our political culture. Political solicitation is from womb to tomb. Hence, for every handshake and “beso-beso” during barangay sorties, a deal is sealed. Literally, a politico so committed with traditional politics could never meet the demands of his evil practices without dipping his fingers in public coffers. Whatever it takes he has to give in to their demands at any cost if he wants political survival. What else could we expect from this vulture? Indeed power corrupts absolutely. In the long run, the dutiful taxpayers of this nation are at the losing end having to shoulder the burden of incessantly filling the monetary buckets of government.
In my article, “New Breed on the Block: Young trapos in local politics?” I warned the voters, mainly constituents of my beloved hometown, to examine carefully young candidates running for public office. I was appalled of the fact that trapos nowadays are not anymore imaged after some old and beer-bellied politicos but even amongst the good built yuppies. In fact, although I knew that my past post had lame targets, I never imagined that the said article would create a big fiasco over the net. The people on the other end did everything to argue with me except answer the very basic issue of the exposition I did. As I see it, the reason why this fiasco over the net got big is because they failed to be objective. Their plan of attack was simple: shy away from the issue then attack the writer. God! I just can’t imagine how much time they have devoted in seeing through me. They tried to explain why this writer writes the things he writes and why he writes the way he does. In fact, in defense of his brother, Roland Rodriguez had given me a needle-like lecture on sociology, trying it hard to explain why I was critical about his brother, Councilor-elect Mr. Abner Rodriguez. He discussed in that response all the sociological characteristics of the Filipinos, i.e., crab mentality, amor proprio, etc, trying to point out that I was unFilipino. But then again, we do not need all these terms to explain my political leanings and criticisms. We do not need so. And we do not have to. They merely should answer the question I laid down. That’s being objective. I would not attempt to be a self-proclaimed sociologist like him. You see, some people envision public office as something that will boost their egos, fame and influence on society. They often think highly of themselves so much so that they can never accept any kind of criticism. Not even an objective one. They instantly take umbrage and unleash the critics with senseless bickering and below-the-belt innuendos. Now why is this happening? I would like to believe that this has something to do with the wrong motivation and lack of understanding of what public office truly means. It seems that even at this point they could not harmonize the basics of free speech in relation to “public figure, public interest and governmental powers”. Clearly, they have a limited view of the entire democratic framework. In the scheme of things, there is nothing they can do about it. That’s how democracy works. This kind of elitist mentality, wrong motivation and all are the very causes of malfunctions under the present political system. I must say however that, in my opinion, being “not objective” is NOT a collective character of all Filipinos. I am in no better position to say that. Maybe the other man can for he devoted all his discourse in educating me as if I am reading a sociology handout in college. Nope, it’s not a Filipino like thing. It’s basically human’s way to escape things when everything else fails.
Did he or did he not engage in traditional politics to win a seat in the local council by giving out noodles and cans of sardines? Firstly, let me clear that the name of this public official never came from me. It was his supporters who flaunted his name. So they must, I understand, defend him at all costs even if it means coming out of the real issue. I can’t think of a better explanation for their behavior but this: How on earth can you find the right words to defend something or someone you know is wrong? The answer is simple again: Go out of the box and shy away from the issue. Their first strike: Our supposed familial ties. On my part, that should have never been brought forwarded. It was and should never have been an issue. They did not realize that by bringing that familial thing, they created a scenario that convicted their ‘public official’ more. Their message was clear: I should stop writing about my observations in our recently concluded elections, especially that regarding our local elections in Isabela City, because we are family after all. This was to me, the lamest mean to escape the situation because in the end, their defense ended as a plea. NAGMAMAKAAWA PARA TIGILAN NA PARA NA LANG SA DAHILAN NA MAGKAPAMILYA. It would have been different if they have told me to cease writing because I am wrong and not because we are simply related by blood. My respect would have been easily bought, este, gained in that way. Kidding aside, I must stress that the saying that “blood is thicker than water” finds no application in politics and governance. For if it does, you, as a public official, exposes a kind of governance that encourages corruption and palakasan. I also remember the brother saying to me that his brother will never succumb to corruption if elected as city councilor because from his very words, “they have always lived a luxurious life because of his family’s hardwork.” The term “luxurious” struck me in a different light. On my part, he should have at least used the term “comfortable” or even “contented” which to me are more innocuous terms in light of the discussion. The word scared me, really! Luxuries should always give in to public office and service. Otherwise, it’s dooms day. Public service, in its honest sense, can never live up with the luxurious life he has. Reality however bits us hard, wounding us deep. Luxury and public service are congruent terms in a corrupt political setting. Anyway, let us give him credit for his truthfulness. I hope they were as truthful when confronted with the sardines and groceries issue, lol. Just a thought! Now you may say, "C'mon, give this guy a break and let him prove his worth in the council." Yes, I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt but on one condition: NO MORE BEATING AROUND THE BUSH AND SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT! Did you or did you not? I can read your mind and I agree. It certainly takes a great deal to admit one’s shortcoming. But that honesty does not make you less of a man. We all have our shortcomings. In fact, history has unfolded several times that reviving a besmirched reputation starts from honesty. It must not end here though. What matters is what we do after a fault. Remember, a bad beginning emulates a worse middle and figures a worst ending. It’s a vicious cycle that only we can stop.
To end this exposition, I would emphasize again that this phenomenon of young trapos joining politics is far more dangerous because they are more likely to stay in power for the longest time by merely replacing the old players in the system. I’m a hopeless idealist alright, but something tells me that my ideals would in a way reflect the common sentiment of the silent minority that change must come from the outside. But what happens if those who are tasked to instill noble reforms in the old system are merely heirs of the traditional system-operators? Here I would like to suggest that the system is not the problem. The system was meant to serve as a medium to bridge the chasm, forge consensus between the people on one hand, and government on the other. But our government officials, the operators in the system manipulated it to suit their personal agendas. Again, similar to a philosophical assumption, when the starting point is flawed everything is bound to be wrongheaded. It is best then, that we should not expect too much from the incoming young “Honorables” whose mandate to rule stems from the evil practices of trapo politics. This is not an omen but a warning to our fellowmen to choose the people they want to run the system. It’s also a challenge, a brave challenge to run counter the present political maladies in the country.
Reference: To Build Upon A Rock: Excerpts from Public Discourses 1967 to 1987 by Salvador H. Laurel (1987)