Dear First-time Voter,
Hi, there! It’s me again. And, as I promised in my first letter, here’s a quick lesson on recognizing the tell-tale signs of a traditional politician or trapo in the Philippines.
- He sees the government as a family business wherein almost all his relatives are employed – initially, for “indoctrination” and, subsequently, for training for a higher position. We call these families “political dynasties”. They thrive in power.
- He latches on to his position for the love of money. A few years into “public service”, and he’s already acquired mansions, haciendas, resorts and high-rise buildings. He has a fleet of expensive vehicles. He is surrounded by a horde of loyal maids, security personnel, personal assistants, chauffeurs, consultants and legal advisers. He has multiple bank accounts, both local and foreign, under his own name, an alias or a dummy.
- He treats votes as a merchandise and us, voters, as retailers. He resorts to shameless and irreverent vote-buying to secure his most-coveted political seat.
- He thinks that he is above the law. It could be as simple as violating traffic rules or as labyrinthian as circumventing the laws of the land to protect his personal interests.
- His office’s payroll includes names of his relatives, friends, golf/shooting/travel buddies, or even of people who are long dead.
- He awards multi-million project contracts or meaty public positions to his campaign donors. This act of repaying utang na loob is part of what we call “patronage politics”.
- He files a candidacy even if he very well knows that he is not intellectually qualified for the position. He’s simply banking on his celebrity status as an actor, a singer, a dancer or an athlete. (Or an athlete’s wife, an athlete’s brother, an athlete’s trainer, and so on and on and on.) Watch here Karen Davila’s interview with Alma Moreno, a senatorial candidate, to know what I mean.
- He considers his jurisdiction his personal wall. Tarpaulins, paintings, billboards and even graffiti of his face (or in some cases, his initials or an image of his mustache) fill the streets. And, as if the sight of all that face of a single person is not enough, it’s also stuck on all his turf’s government vehicles, all the licenses and IDs that emanate from his office, all the post lamps, all the government buildings and other infrastructure projects, all the tents found in wakes, and even all the tiles on the sidewalk. So a certain town, city or province may, at some point, appear to be his personal domain after all these “branding efforts”. I’m sure, the term epal is not new to you.
- He latches on to power like a drowning man desperately holding on to a piece of log for dear life. When he is, for instance, done with his allowed number of terms as a mayor, he runs as congressman. When he’s done with being a congressman, he runs for senator. And this goes on until he reaches the pinnacle of power, the presidential position. Wondering what happens to the other positions he vacated? Refer to #1.
- He has no loyalty to his political party. Admittedly, we have a flawed political system. Our multi-party system allows for a establishment of a party or a coalition of parties at someone’s whim. So, like a butterfly, he easily flits from one party to another. He belongs to the group of politicians we call “balimbing”.
- He will do everything and use any and all available machineries at his disposal to make sure that he bags his re-election bid. He may resort to black propaganda, widespread cheating or electoral sabotage, or if all those fail to do the trick, a phone call to an influential election officer, Hello Garci-style.
- He is all too willing to compromise his principle (if you can call it that) just to guarantee a slim chance of gaining electoral victory. He could, for instance, conveniently forget that, in the past, he had been attacking colleagues for their roles in Martial Law only to coalesce with the dictator’s son later on because of what? Of the latter’s tight hold of the North? I bet, he is the kind Groucho Marx refers to in his quote, “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them…..well, I have others.”
- He is a perennial liar – someone who could go as far as rewriting history to protect his interests. He may either write a memoir that’s basically based on fantasy or embellish his academic credentials to make him appear superior than most. What’s so alarming about this kind of people is their ability to lie so convincingly because they themselves are already convinced that their lies are the truth. What is it they say? “A lie told often enough becomes the truth.”
These remaining three may not be characteristics of a traditional politician, but are nonetheless, the kinds you should also be wary of.
- He banks on people’s sympathy over his loss of a loved one to secure a position. Dubbed as necropolitics, it is when someone (normally, a political novice) tries to enter the political arena by constantly mentioning the name of the deceased and the latter’s accomplishments as if they are his own.
- He is a master at finger-pointing, fault-finding and excuse-making. He shuns accountability and command responsibility like a plague. He always finds someone to blame for all his mistakes, shortcomings and bad calls. Everything that goes awry is always somebody else’s fault – the past administrators, the old contractors, the cabinet members, the impoverished, the weather, etc.
- He is a (self-confessed) criminal and human rights violator. He is a tough guy who says things like, “If you are doing an illegal activity in my city, you are a legitimate target of assassination.” and “If I am the president, I will let you swallow those bullets even if it means death.” and “I will order your execution in 24 hours.” He fights crimes with crimes, and the appalling thing is that people cheer for him. Are we really that hopeless and desperate?!!!
Now that you have the basic knowledge of the kinds of politicians you should evade at all costs, I’m sure you are itching to tell me, “But you’re not leaving me with much of a choice here. In fact, I think, you have just killed all my options!”
You know what? While writing this, that’s what I realized, too!
Oh, by the way, welcome to my world. This is the real world.
Still wishing you lots of luck,
Lorelei B. Aquino (Mom On A Mission)