THE WORM’S-EYE VIEW: Politics before Marcos, Enrile, Martial Law

THE WORM’S-EYE VIEW: Politics before Marcos, Enrile, Martial Law

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 29 May) – Long before Marcos and Enrile lowered Martial Law like a hangman’s knot upon our society for a decade and a half, democracy and politics were respectable words, not tired shibboleths that many make it seem today. Sure, there were already traditional politicos then – trapos! – but their presence had not yet reached epidemic scale as is the case today.

In fact, politics then was quite fun for the idealist, the cause-oriented activist of the left or right, for all sorts of advocacies, even for social climbers. It provided excitement to conversation in neighborhoods, barber shops, beer gardens, private compounds, campuses, and civic circles. In Cagayan de Oro, people would wander off to the plaza on evenings for their post-prandial servings of political discussion, or simply to listen to exchanges among or between self-styled pundits, newshounds, or plain gossip-mongers.

The Plaza, Plazans

Often there would be impromptu debates between townspeople and officials. Even the mayor would drop in occasionally to check the latest scuttlebutt, or hold an informal consultation. It was a good way of feeling the public pulse, or in controversial times to check where the wind was blowing on the issues. Such nightly pastime gave rise to the emergence of “The Plazans” – a generic term referring to habitues of public parks (plazas) and which today is the name adopted by an informal fraternity of former park wanderers in the city. Plazans.

Campaign rallies then were well-organized, informative, better-attended, and quite orderly even without police presence – meaning, it was more civilized. And the media were even-handed, less strident, sober and circumspect, and more conscious of their sensitive role as purveyors of social values, culture, or development trends. Less commercialized then, the media played a civilizing role alongside the schools and churches. And listening to the speeches of candidates was informative, quite educational. Even in Manila, attending rallies, listening to sessions of Congress or even of the city council was a treat, like attending a seminar.

To be nominated: An Honor

If you wanted to run for office in those days, you didn’t just declare your candidacy or throw your hat into the ring unilaterally. Moneyed or poor, famous or whatever, there were rules to observe and expectations to live up to or to honor. For example, you had to be nominated by a party, or endorsed/recommended by a group of leading citizens. Running for office wasn’t just a personal decision. To be a credible candidate, you had to be endorsed by a fairly respectable group.

In the process of being nominated, there was little or no honor in being self-sponsored or family endorsed. It wasn’t the protocol. It would have been viewed as buying yourself a trophy or a diploma, an unseemly act of vanity that would have been derided by the educated.

CONgress: the opposite of PROgress?

Today, practically all candidates are self-proclaimed and, worse, self-financed. As a symptom of how civilization or manners have regressed, family members even feud against each other and engage in unseemly rivalry. They turn politics into a public brawl and reduce election campaigns into a mudslinging event. In the process, they roil the community with irrelevant issues and topics and family scandals.

Worse, everybody covets the Pork Barrel. At P70 million per congressman and P200 million per senator, every political family salivates at either office. But this calls for a special column.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Manny Valdehuesa is the president and national convenor of Gising Barangay Movement Inc. He can be reached at