CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/27 July) — If we continue to keep the government of our community on auto-pilot, leaving its affairs to chance or to self-styled caretakers, it will remain wayward and controlled by the latter.
That’s what we have been doing since 1991 when the law made our barangay a full-fledged government, a public corporation, and an economy in its own right. We ceded our right and duty to run it as a direct democracy with a parliamentary form.
As a result, traditional politicians, trapos, who are always happy to fill the vacuum of good governance, rushed in and replaced it with—what else?–bad, corrupt governance which makes a lousy foundation for a Republic!
Bad governance is the price we pay for ceding the governing process to others who purport to be public servants but are in fact exploiters of the public. They’ll call you “Boss” but run things anyway they like, just like badly-motivated household servants without supervision; they’ll eat you out of room and board!
Without transparency, accountability, and effective citizen participation, it’s in the nature of government to go astray. Its officials are human and corruptible—and how! If so inclined or tempted, they’ll take liberties with the power and resources delegated to them.
They’ll turn democracy into an oligarchy, indulge their penchant for dynasty-building, reserve government posts for takeover by relatives and cronies—doing all of this at public expense.
It’s what’s happening at the primary level of government; we allow the barangay officials to behave as if they have unlimited power of attorney and a blank check to do with as they please.
Naturally they take advantage and use the power and the money to turn the impressionable sectors of the community into a fan club for the likes of a Tanda, a Pogi, or a Sexy.
What most people don’t realize is that the big bosses in the capitals can’t get anywhere without the local trapos. It’s the latter who manipulate the votes of our community to elect the high officials on all levels. That’s why we have actors, even a stuntman, swashbuckling coup plotters, and other unsuitable characters in Congress.
And that’s why sensible people should participate in the governing process of their community,
to share their perspectives, and influence neighbors to be rational in their selection criteria, especially those who prove too malleable and readily manipulated by big trapos who command the loyalty of local officials.
It is they who make it possible for trapo-endorsed and funded candidates, regardless of background or competence, to win the community’s votes.
Along with the votes of other communities, such trapo-supported candidates capture high office on all levels, from municipal to national, with the help of barangay officials who become their richly paid ward leaders
That’s the upper echelons of government get stuffed with plunderers and assorted lords: drug lord, crime lord, warlord.
It wouldn’t be so bad if Filipinos know how to deal with incompetents and moral dropouts. And thanks to our inefficient and neglectful bureaucracy—particularly the department of the interior and local government (DILG) and the commission on elections (COMELEC), the electorate is never briefed on the processes of Direct Democracy, Parliamentary Government (of the grassroots), and the citizen’s power of Initiative and Recall.
Kept in the dark, the citizenry is readily circumvented by undesirable, unfit, and moneyed officials who stay in power year after year, winning election after election, alternating in office with dynasty members or cronies. They make it possible for a Tanda, a Pogi, a Sexy, and many more to ascend the bureaucracy and commit plunder!
We need our constituency to be attentive, engaged, and informed. Reuben Canoy, lawyer and durable broadcaster–probably Mindanao’s longest on-air commentator—and former mayor of Cagayan de Oro, succinctly defines our need of an informed people in his daily commentaries: Ang lungsod nga nasayud maoy makahatag kusog sa atong demokrasya; ang lungsod nga mapasagaron maoy makapukan sa atong kagawasan! (An informed citizenry gives strength to our democracy; but a neglectful one can bring down our freedoms and liberty itself!)
This has been his mantra since the 1950s when he and his brother Henry founded Radio Mindanao Network in Cagayan de Oro. It has resounded in Mindanao and the Visayas ever since then, such that in most places, if you recite the first part, people readily intone the rest of it.
[MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific; secretary-general, Southeast Asia Publishers Association; director, Development Academy of Philippines; vice chair, Local Government Academy; member, Cory Aquino Govt’s Peace Panel; and awardee, PPI-UNICEF most outstanding columnist. Today he is President and Nation Convenor, Gising Barangay Movement Inc firstname.lastname@example.org)]