With the coming elections in May, 2004, the people once again are excited since they reaffirm their supreme rule.
They crane their neck in knowing who the candidates are. This coming electoral exercise is unique because the filing of certificates of candidacy is a well-nigh 60 days from the start of the campaign. Early on, voters are already aware of who the prospective contestants are.
The first favourites are those who are the native children of a barangay, a town, or a district. People from the candidates’ provenance come a-rooting for their bets. Their bets’ entry in the electoral foray attests to the inner longing of the locality to send their best and the brightest in the municipio, capitolio, and congreso. It is with extreme pride that they talk animatedly on those who tossed their hats in the exercise. They cite anecdotes of their personal encounter with a particular candidate. They show their unabashed excitement on the possibility that their acquaintance may someday be the mayor, governor, or congressman. Think of the spectacle where a political leader utters in the presence of some constituents their first name at that. This is the ultimate event of a true leader placed by the people on an honorific pedestal with the expectation that sincere public service is at hand. May malalapitan na tayo, ika dahil kilala natin hindi tulad ng naka-upo laging wala.
They talk of their frustration with the sitting provincial official who invariably avoids them. This incumbent even has the temerity to say that he is in a huddle with some important persons, as if the barangay captains who come from far-flung barangays are just flies on the wall. For SIX long years, the people failed to personally see this sitting provincial executive who made it his style of governance to be on vacation abroad, on sick leave, on official mission, on out of town assignment, but never warmed his butt on the multi-million luxurious governor’s office he personally designed. His Vice-Governor acted as governor longer than his term as vice-governor. While he is abroad however, this provincial leader made it a point that his monthly payola from a northern city be converted into a foreign currency to ensure that his children abroad enjoy the luxury of the services of domestic helpers. A home away from home, while his constituents wallow in abject poverty.
This sitting official nonetheless has a surefire formula. Ipunin ika yung mga ibibigay sa mga mayor at kapitan bago mag-eleksyon. Limot na nila yung atraso ko. Pera-pera lang yang mga kapitan at mayor na yan.
But what he doles out is from the public coffers practically cramming to meet a deadline. Baka ma-lucky punch ako, ika.
Such that 30 days before the elections and coming afresh from a United States vacation complete with an executive check-up and an angioplasty to boot he rides his luxurious recreation van and off he goes to the farthest town in the South parlaying barangay aids he should have strewn early on.
His physique however betrays him. His arms and legs are those of an emaciated detritus. He is a sick man trying to look in the pink of health. He could not walk on a 50-meter catwalk. He could not stay under the punishing heat of the sun, hence, his personal appearance is limited, preferably in the early morning, and very late afternoon. Neither can he spend the night with you and me, because his doctors forbid him or else his blood sugar shoots up.
In this country of 80 million, power is held by very few. We have a fetish to be with the powerful. We adorn our homes with proofs of proximity with people in authority. Since we could not be them, why not just be known or close to them and therefore relish power vicariously. People in power create layers before them as a precaution for future contingencies, like a graft case, for example. One does not want to be bothered with questions once his out of office. It is not surprising to see hangers-on with an air of sub-power. Yon ang lapitan mo ika, malakas yan. That’s the reason why we could not produce a receipt; the grafter is wise enough to have a money bag. And once he’s accused of filching, the official denies to high heavens and demands that charges be filed against him because stealing is not his cup of tea, and instead of resigning, clings on because he is proving his innocence. While the front guy with the familiar haunch has vanished grinning from ear to ear with the access fees fed to his ATM.