THIS IRRATIONAL SEASON
by Gang Badoy, Rock Ed Radio
(An essay written in May 2009 — regarding May 2010. First published in UNO Magazine.)
A year from now the Philippine Presidential elections will be held. Filipinos will, once again, be caught in the vise grip of the few who are vying for positions of power. The campaign materials, as usual, will range from slick to tawdry- mostly in-between. Money will be the ace. Money will buy air time, media space, and ads out your ears and in-your-face.
By default, I hate election year. It is when I am most cynical. I doubt every candidate’s intentions. I will say, “He’s running to make sure that his family’s construction company will bag all the bids for roads and bridges.” I know many will run to protect or double their assets. Then it will hit me that they are not stealing from the coffers anymore. The thievery is more systematic now. It is a lot more organized, with less paper trails. So I sit down again on the bench with my colleagues and friends and we’ll watch the circus pass by. Gone are the days of cash in a suitcase. Drop-offs are now located in Powerpoint presentations and Excel files. Neat.
This irrational season is also the time when everyone who does good becomes suspect. Campaigns that have real heart will be questioned when financed by a ‘someone vying.’ How sad that those will immediately meet flack and splat flat on brick walls that say, “No, we don’t believe you. You’re doing this for a power agenda.” Then the public demands for explanations and none will come. Or some will come- then we say “Wow, they’re true!” And we got what we hoped for– that sincerity is not dead in the metropolis.
The coming year will be peppered with creative ways to make the candidates more pleasing than they really are. Spin doctors, ad agencies, ‘affiliates of ad agencies,’ PR firms ‘affiliated with all these affiliations’ will weave carpets to be laid down by the feet of those who vote. The poor will be prioritized, photographed, glossed over. The lawyers who have been fighting for a fair and just agrarian reform program, Youth NGOs, tree-hugging groups and all other causes will either be forgotten, unfunded or used for campaign points. These groups just need to choose which square to stand on.
Many will ponder if the agencies over-utilized that Photoshop wand for this or that. Lips will be redder, skin will be clearer, even hairlines will wax more than it had waned in the past year. I have never seen a poster that made a candidate look smarter though, hindi pa yata na-iimbento yung software na yon.
There will be promises abound and a small percentage of people will have their hopes raised –raised by the ‘alternative politician,’ the one who is simply “not interested” in power or money or fame. No sir. Many are attracted to possible candidates who claim they aren’t interested in running for a power spot. Once they declare their disinterest in running, I suggest we believe them, then let’s walk away. Hindi dapat pinipilit ang pinuno mamuno – hindi na ito Grade School student council elections, pwede ba. Then there is that young stalwart whose campaign says, “I am young. I am vigor. I am progressive and not set in my ways. I am flexible and I have nothing in mind but the development of the future.” Then there is the patriotic group that says “Love of country is all we need.” End of story. Then there will be a woman who will say that the failure of her marriage and the age of her sons will make her an effective leader -since all of her – will be just for country. Then there is the traditional politician-who perhaps should not be dismissed just because they have been around for a while. If we’re lucky they have now achieved some level of competence we so direly need. Of course there will be military men who coax us not to be afraid; and then… there are businessmen.
So we sigh and we watch. And we bear their mugs on our TV sets. Hear their modulated, PR-firm coached voices, saying what we want to hear. “Give me your track record!” my friends and I will say. Then they will hypnotize us again with a clever ad that shows him pedaling the poor child to a future with rainbows and better schools. “I will take it on.” He says. Wow. They could all be true! Then there’s that flipside to that coin. Then on the other side of the central island there will be a million signatures gathered to wrench a holy man from the monastery, and he says, “Okay I will run.” There are those who will choose just to bask on the laurel of being “asked to run” yet they turned the offer down. They will carry on like turning away from power was a noble thing to do: when the noblest thing to do is to not run if you know you’re not qualified, prepared, nor trained for it. And for God’s sake run if you have it in you. Only the candidate will know if he or she can. I want to tell them, “Shush the big funder’s whispers for a full minute and decide for yourself. Jesus, if you have it in you –run for President and quit the bullshit. Go.”
So in the end, we will sit down again. On our benches, with colleagues and friends, we will sit shoulder-to-shoulder and watch the parade of elephants, clowns, bearded ladies and seals with plastic colored balls walk by.
On poll day itself, we will clutch our carefully prepared election guide and we will scrawl down our choice for a leader –who is hopefully a real choice and not a lesser of two idiots or the more good looking cad. We will write down his or her name. Once again we are prisoners. Once again we cast our hopes along with that ballot.
All we can do after that is hope that disappointment won’t come too early in the game. And we hope and we hope and we hope that promises are kept. We can’t stop now, though we have every reason to. We do have to remind ourselves that we can hold politicians to their word – because we voted for them. We can walk up to them while they have their coffee at the lobby of the Manila Pen and say, “Sir – Ma’am- please keep your promises, thank you.” And then we will be whisked away by their security people. Of course, subsequently we will get stuck in traffic while the sirens of their motorcade will whiz past us along EDSA, uploading onto our minds that they have the power while we eke our way home on the slow lane.
So today, at the onset of this irrational season, tayo na muna gumalaw. Register, think, analyze, question, read, meet, decide, rethink, listen, research, discuss, argue, decide then vote. And in the end we say, at least I voted. At least I did my civic duty. At least I can say — the ball’s on your court, clown. We stand up again and dust ourselves off, wish our colleagues and friends well and carry on. Whether we are activists or apathetic, we deserve good governance from people who begged for our votes during this stretch. I suggest we all vote. Vote so that with your indelibly inked finger you can point at the new batch of administrators and say, “Okey. Kayo naman.”
Rock Ed Philippines
11 May 2009
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