CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 10 July) – Political reality among the trapo class of leaders in our society is ugly, shameless, and dominated by greed. (Mis)leaders really.
It’s bad enough that power is concentrated at the top of each rung—whether at primary level (barangay), intermediate level (municipal, city, province), or national.
It is worse that the experience of high responsibility, or of wielding power over people, resources, and community, induces no sense of nobility in our power-holders.
They acquire no refinement or sophistication, no sense of what the French call noblesse oblige which roughly means that noble people are expected to behave nobly. This ethical code is also reflected in the Japanese practice of resigning from office, or even committing hara kiri, when caught in an unseemly act.
To the French and the Japanese, and generally among cultured civilizations, high office confers a nobility of spirit, a majesty of stature, and respectable behavior in a person of such responsibility.
It is similar to the concept of delicadeza or sense of propriety, which impels a person to act with refinement and grace amidst adversity, to be generous and honorable under testy situations.
In our society, however, attaining high office confers with very few exceptions no such gracious conduct. Even in the intimacy of one’s community, close to one’s relatives and peers, public responsibility fosters no such respectability. Quite the contrary, they even abuse or misuse public trust.
It used to be that even local officials commanded respect, were addressed as “Don,” and comported themselves accordingly. Today, greed, political or financial, is not even disguised. And political life is controlled or monopolized by an arrogant few—the few who happen to get into positions earlier and grow attached to their privileges.
So fixated to power and privilege are our trapo officials that, contrary to all that is fair and decent, they won’t let go of their privileged positions or step down unless forced by circumstances—like being challenged successfully and defeated.
Once defeated, instead of accepting it in a sporting spirit, or taking it as a normal outcome of competition, the defeat is taken as personal humiliation, one that has to be avenged if possible, even to the extent of assassinating the victor!
Trapo losers do not take kindly to defeat. They take it badly, so badly that they will be in denial, self-deluded, and pathetic as they wallow in an illusion that they were not really defeated but cheated.
To accept defeat gracefully is not in their nature.
Such is the case in the defeat during the last elections of Vicente Y. Emano, erstwhile mayor of Cagayan de Oro, a trapo par excellence, who although a college drop-out managed to master the Machiavellian art of power politics.
Previously, he had been governor of the province,re-elected over and over till he could no longer run. Then characteristically, he shifted to Cagayan de Oro where he held the squatters and the rabble—and the City Council itself—spellbound with theatrics and patronage.
In no time, he got to control politics and the Chinoy-dominated economy, especially the masons, which enabled him to be re-elected over and over again till the law no longer allowed it.
Not content with his consecutive election wins, he ran for vice mayor, won, and sat out his term without ever presiding over the City Council (his primary duty) except once to bang the gavel during its opening session.
But his obvious lack of ability or competence to preside over a legislative body was trumped by his total control of the city councilors—who took turns justifying his dereliction of duty, all the while savoring the chance of presiding in his place.
No one took issue with his truancy, which proved beyond doubt how totally sycophantic the councilors were; some were lawyers, even one law dean and a doctor, but all stooges! So he was able to serve out his term as vice mayor—drawing full salary, allowances, other emoluments, and benefits—without ever participating in the council’s agenda or official business in chambers.
Such is the shameless nature of trapos!
And they cannot be away from the seat of power or the limelight for long. So the former mayor, now vice mayor, ran again for mayor in 2010 and won again. But his performance, as did his aging porcine demeanor, slackened and failed him.
So badly did he fumble his duties that he didn’t even listen or react when signals prior to Typhoon Sendong grew urgent—leaving the city totally unprepared for disaster.
Naturally, everyone was caught flat-footed when Sendong came rampaging, smashing scores of homes and hundreds of lives as it raged down Cagayan River, with more missing and unaccounted till today.
Hizzoner Vicente Y. Emano, it turned out, didn’t even bother to organize, as required by law, a disaster reduction and relief team during all the years he had been mayor and vice mayor. He left the city totally unprepared for disaster! He wasn’t even around when Sendong struck—some reports placing him at the time in a shady joint holding court at a gambling table. But as is typical in trapo politics, he was held to account for his spectacular negligence and irresponsible stewardship!
Fortunately, as he so richly deserved, an even greater personal disaster struck him during the 2012 elections: the bitter taste of defeat, losing to Oscar Moreno whom he had been treating patronizingly.
Then predictably, the defeat soured him and brought out his worst. Not long after he lost he took to the air regularly through paid broadcasts in several radio stations where to this day he spouts venom and resentment at his political nemesis, shamelessly sour-graping, inveighing against anything the new mayor does—like an immature dowager deprived of his toys!
For extra effect, members of the City Council, which includes his own daughter and son-in-law, serve as his chorus in the background, by turns praising him profusely, then damning the new mayor with petty criticism.
Nothing is so unbecoming in politics than a loser barking outside city hall, along with his sycophants, bemoaning his defeat. In fact, they demean no one but themselves.
And guess what, seeing how futile are their current sabotage activities, they have just launched a signature campaign to trigger a recall that Emano figures just might do the trick and restore the bad loser to the throne! Abangan!
[Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific; secretary-general, Southeast Asian Publishers Association; director, Development Academy of Philippines; vice chair, Local Government Academy; member, Cory Government’s Peace Panel, and PPI-UNICEF awardee for outstanding columnist. firstname.lastname@example.org]