CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 23 Oct) – A zombie is a person who seems to have no mind or no will of his own. In horror films, a zombie is a creature that its controller or master can manipulate at will, like a mummy.
Philippine politics is overrun with zombies at the grassroots. Today they run rampant in the 42,028 barangays of our archipelago. They march to the beat of patronage and pork-barrel handlers. They are unshakable supporters of trapo candidates, paid and fattened by public largesse over the years. And they’re primed to repeat the violations of elections past knowing they will get away with it.
From group-campaigning to suborning illegal voters, they defy Section 38 of the Omnibus Election Code, which bans partisan and extravagant campaigns. Their gimmicks are within hearing or visual distance of local COMELEC offices, but none are checked or stopped, let alone penalized or exorcised from the neighborhoods.
And so the grassroots, the masses, are all on the road to perdition all the way till way beyond Election Day. At the behest of moneyed candidates and traditional politicos, these election zombies will go on dictating who will win at the polls, voting as instructed or as paid.
In droves, their families will be herded to vote in the barangay precincts. In defiance of the law, they will board buses, trucks, jeepneys, or boats to be ferried. Without self-consciousness or pangs of conscience, they will accept what cash, favors, or pabaon will be handed to them and gratefully exchange it with the season’s currency—their votes.
Surrendering their autonomy, trading their judgment, or giving up their freedom does not take a toll on their sense of honor or self-respect. Zombies turn elections into a farce.
All in Pursuit of Politics and Personal Gain
What’s really bad is that it is all done in loyalty to corrupt leaders, local and national. But no one in the community takes offense or lifts a finger to protest the corruption. No one is scandalized by politicos without a conscience, let alone bar them from behaving offensively—waging corrupt campaigns, tainting votes, belittling a citizen’s role.
How long can we allow this rot in our society to fester before it explodes like a malignant boil to contaminate us all? How long can we entrust our community to its poorly educated voters and to its conscienceless candidates and patrons?
We are still reeling from the shame and the loathing induced by the pork barrel scandals, and we are about to add disgust over this corrupt, farcical community election.
We have got to arrest this transmogrification of the democratic process into nothing more than an occasion for manipulating and exploiting politics for personal gain!
Perhaps Decency is Too Much to Expect?
If we don’t stop turning the election season into intramural games between and among trapos and zombies, what hope is there for people empowerment and democracy? Or perhaps it’s just too much to expect from a society of nominal Christians and nominal Muslims with nominal sovereignty!
Sovereignty is the inherent power we possess by virtue of our humanity and citizenship. But it is power we misuse, abuse, or waste at the urging of unscrupulous leaders. Our society clearly needs to grow up. Our educational system—the main driver of cultural development—clearly needs to shape up. And our political system clearly needs to be re-engineered.
It is scandalous to a civilized mind that our elections serve up an anomalous array of presumptuous, pretentious, dysfunctional politicos. Propelled mainly by money, dynasty, or vanity, they inflict themselves on society, unilaterally, and we let them get away with it.
Making a Mockery of Our System
We are making a mockery of democracy and nationhood and liberty. We are turning into a society of zombies—unthinking, manipulated citizens. We are letting selfish interests and the aggrandizing attitude define our political life. We let wrong values trump statesmanship and social justice. We abandon sense of community or concern for the common good—the virtues that impel individuals to rise above family or personal interests.
In allowing dysfunctional citizens and corrupt leaders to dominate our community, we cannot
expect clean elections or a level playing field for Filipino society as a whole. The ruling clique will always see to it that elections are skewed in their favor. They will always view election dominance and public office to be their birthright. They will always look upon privilege and impunity to be theirs to enjoy and wallow in.
And it would never occur to them that this is unbecoming, unfair, or unjust. Never would it strike them that their mindset perpetuates injustice, of which they are the major cause. And so goes the road to perdition for Filipino society and history.
The patronage and oligarchic politics that trapos employ to mesmerize the grassroots has become so pervasive that it is eviscerating decency and morality in otherwise honorable people. So compelling is it that it robs the poor and poorly educated of volition and autonomy. And so they are blithely exploited by unscrupulous trapos with no social conscience.
What does one do about citizens who are reduced to virtual automatons, without strength or will to resist, too poor, too powerless, and too politically immature? What keeps them spellbound must be confronted. But this is a task for the barangay’s pace-setters and role models to tackle. Otherwise, what hope is there?
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Manny Valdehuesa writes from Cagayan de Oro and is the president and national convenor of Gising Barangay Movement Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)