IT IS, I think, barely indisputable that the three provinces of Samar are what they are today—a pitiful region crowded with a huge number of poor and powerless people—because we Samareños have allowed politics to be debased and prostituted to the very horrible low level that it is now. The way politics have been practiced for some decades now have been most destructive of us a people—like it is in other parts of the country. Indeed, there is no denying to the accusation that politics is the biggest bane in our life and the most pernicious obstacle to achieving the integral development of our people. In concept, politics is the art of good governance and exemplary public service. Our Constitution describes public office as a public trust intended for the good of civil society. Sadly, however, stark reality breeds the opposite. It is like the mythological ogre that feeds on the lives of people to keep it alive and healthy. With the exception of quite a few, our politicians look at “public service” as a means of enrichment and a source of influence and power for self-enlargement.
It may be difficult to acknowledge, but we have created a monster out of our political system where the operative norms of conduct of public officials are no longer founded on the lofty principles of self-sacrificing service but on base power and greed. We have a number of men and women currently holding high political positions in government who are, by any logic, undeserving but regularly get voted into office. Philanderers, thieves, drugs lords, and name-it, swarm our long list of politicians who may even be poorly educated. Yet we entrust our lives and limbs in their hands and we call them “honorable”.
Our misfortune begins during a caucus or a party convention where a “tigsering” is initially fielded as a party candidate. Early on a candidate seeking support from the “kingmakers” adopts the traditional method of political horsetrading. “Win-ability”, which is the ability to promise patronage to financial supporters and the capability to buy the “loyalty” of party-mates, is a foremost consideration. Personal integrity, ideology, administrative efficiency and platform seldom matter, if at all. Disappointed candidates at the caucus level conveniently switch party affiliations—some even establish their own parties. There is no problem at all for an office-aspirant to be sworn into one party after another, no real stigma being attached to “balimbing” or “turn-coatism”. Our bad luck even goes awry during the campaign period, which turns the political stage into a mad circus kon diin an kwarta iginsasaburak liberally. Candidate will do whatever their audience bids them to do—in contrast to their deafness to the same people’s cries for attention once they are in office. They will dance, clown, and sing—anything to sell themselves. They do dirty tricks, black propaganda, and mudslinging to weaken and even destroy the opposition. Not so uncommon is violence that is resorted to in favor of office seekers and their supporters. It’s a bedlam of sorts.
We, like guilty bystanders, just watch all these go by. But we cannot go on like this forever. We have been suffering so much because of social disasters created by some of our politicians. Kunta manginlabut na an ngatanan. Dida pa la hiton caucus magmatyag na unta an publiko. We cannot leave politics solely to our politicians. Why don’t we suggest good candidates to political parties? A candidate who will sincerely work for the legislation of Samar Island Natural Park (SINP) will be a good one. Someone who is efficient and who is pro-environment, pro-poor and pro-family will be tops. Anybody who is otherwise should be trashed deeply into the dustbin of oblivion. This time let’s all be political. And be dead serious about it.
(Samar Times, February 2004)