WORM’S-EYE VIEW: Lessons from the elections

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 14 June) – The mid-term elections underscored yet again the effects of traditional politics, of money, and the abuse of the pork barrel on the electorate. Plainest effect of course was the triumph of corruption, shamelessness, greed, and impunity. And we take offense at being mistaken for the Gates of Hell?

Perhaps we should ask novelist National Artist Frankie Sionil Jose to write about our colorful political setting as the Gates of Heaven for coup plotters, Marcos stragglers, pork barrel, drunk siblings in the Senate, B-Grade actors, playboys, dynasties on all levels, and Lords of all kinds!

Traditional politics: In Mindanao, dynasticism from the Guingonas to the Dutertes and the Ampatuans is alive and well. Their message to us the sovereign people: “Everyone must recognize our family’s special claim to leadership. We have superior rights over everyone, for we are God’s gift to the people.”

How is it that in our supposedly fair and equal society we let them get away with it?

Money: How much did Manny Pacquiao invest in his own campaign, his wife’s, and his protégés? He has shown how easy it is to corrupt people—people as poor as he was only a few years ago; people as ill-informed and educationally-deficient as he is.

He has proved adept at using his money to make people swallow their pride and exchange their sovereignty for a pittance, insulting them. He has learned to manipulate people by raising their expectations about what he and his money will do for them.

Did people vote for him and his wife or for his money?

Practically everywhere, vote-buying, rampant as ever, trashed our democracy. Too many candidates, shameless and brazen, patronizing and contemptuous of honesty or integrity, mindless about damage to personal or public morality, oblivious to dishonor and indignity to self, resorted to vote-buying—and won! Is dishonesty a proper foundation for democracy? Or am I wrong?

Pork: Freely abusing and wasting the people’s money in order to manipulate and corrupt their district—the very community in which they reside—wily incumbents (traditional politicians all) once more showed how brazen man’s conscience can be. Billions worth of pork barrel projects served the selfish agenda of a few hundred politicians, using same to importune the unsuspecting, the naïve, and the impressionable into re-electing them.

And so we face once more the depressing prospect of being represented by less-than-honorable men and women whom we perforce have to address as “Honorable this” and “Honorable that.”

In more civilized societies, they are what people might refer to as BASTOS! WALANG HIYA! Or WALANG DELICADEZA!

If we are to improve the breed of the next generation of politicians, we have got to do better in our choices.

EPAL. This is a relatively new term coined in Tagalog provinces which refers to someone who seeks (and derives) glory, honor, or credit for an undeserved performance. It is an idiom flowing from the word papel or nagpapapel—inverted as “epal” (as in yosi for “sigarilyo” or erap for “pare.”) Epal means “posing only” or “fraudulently appearing to be.”

To describe someone as epal is to say he is trying to appear to be what he isn’t or to act as if he’s better than what he really is. It also refers to claiming credit for achievement that one has no right to claim—as in saying “This road (or building) was built as a gift of Congressman A.” Or a senator may put up a vanity billboard saying thank you to himself: “Thank you, Senator B, for our overpass or bridge.”

(As if the money came from their own pocket!) Epal. Shameless, pretentious, corrupt.

There are laws prohibiting such gratuitous acts and ego trips but their enforcement depends on the policy or acquiescence of the very officials that are prohibited from doing them.

So we’re in a Catch-22 position. Such effrontery ought to be firmly dealt with, and mercilessly.

It not only harms the self-respect of the community, it projects a terrible image of our character as a people. It lets the offending officials get away with deception. It allows them to benefit from false, unfounded claims of creditable performance. Impunity!

(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 valdehuesa@gmail.com.)