Asian
Wisconzine
by Heidi M. Pascual
Dirty Politics
“The true Filipino who loves his country doesn’t have a peso sign on
his face. (
Ang makabayang Pilipino ay hindi mukhang piso.)
Then I plan to sign it with:
2017 Pinakamagandang Lola ng Laguna (ANILAG)
1977 University of the Philippines-Diliman

The only hindrance for doing so is the advice by a very close friend
who warned me about the dangers of involvement in politics by trying
to correct voter impressions. She told me that dirty politics even
drives fanatics to extremes, like assassinations, which is quite
“common” especially in local places like provinces and municipalities.

So I am having second thoughts about the plan. I still want to live and
focus on other important matters such as my family, my work, and
my lifestyle as a happy retiree.

I worked for more than 25 years in the Philippine government, first in
the Commission on Audit, then two decades in the legislature. Go
figure why auditors look for anomalous contracts entered into by
many local and national officials. Go figure why many elected
officials who started with nothing end up getting wealthy. Go figure
why the Philippines’ poor get poorer and their number increases
seemingly forever. I hate dirty politics, but that’s what we have.
Unless and until our electorate chooses candidates with proven
integrity, honesty, and genuine desire to serve, dirty politics will
remain.

The real work to make a difference is educating people and making
them self -sufficient to a point where a little grease money isn’t
necessary to sell their vote.
I am, almost always, tempted to only write about beautiful things in my native country, the Philippines; not only to help improve its image to
the world but more importantly, to make Filipinos more proud of their homeland. But in recent months, I have observed an election strategy
which I have come to dislike to the core.

This 2019 is an election year for both national and local officials, except the president and vice president. It is therefore normal to see
roadsides and front yards full of banners urging people to vote for particular candidates, or to hear deafening sound systems in trucks and
other vehicles broadcasting similar advertisements. While I truly do not like littering and creating noise in public places (with these ad
vehicles creating enormous traffic jams on their way), these are minor inconveniences compared to this particular observation: gatherings
distributing goodies (rice, groceries, T-Shirts with printed names of candidates) and cash, when there are no natural disasters happening
around.
(L-R) A house by a barangay road is "decorated" with candidates' banners; a voter wearing a
candidate for councilor's T-Shirt. The number signifies the number of the candidate on the
ballot, and the design was patterned after a basketball team's T-Shirt.
To attract more people to come to these
parties, attendees are offered free food,
drinks, and the chance to win big raffle
prizes of more goodies and appliances!
The parties are usually held separately for
different groups of voters: tricycle drivers
and operators, teachers, senior citizens,
laborers, etc. It is therefore a common
sight to see drivers in “uniform” wearing
their free T-Shirts, proud to freely
advertise the candidate who gave them
the same, oblivious to the fact that they
are being used as free advertising agents.
It is also common to hear people on the
street say, “It was great to attend the
‘rally’ because I got to eat good food and
take home some groceries!”
The masses of our people are poor. That fact is, and has always been, a candidate’s focus during election. Thus, we’re talking here of
MONEY that should go around for a while to entertain voters, in addition to bringing in beautiful people from show business during rallies.
We’re talking here NOT of what candidates could do or have accomplished during their incumbency, but what voters GET before Election
Day.

I hate this seemingly common strategy among candidates who either are affluent already, or planning to be affluent soon. And I hate the
practice that keeps poor people beholden to candidates who promise more to come if elected. Poor people rely on candidates who give them
something to tide them over for a day or two, not even realizing that they are being taken for a ride. Tell me, how would these candidates get
back their election investments?

There are lists being taken by unofficial “election coordinators” or simply candidates’ voter-lists. The rumor is, if your name is in it, you get
at least Php 300 (roughly $6) and the opportunity to join your chosen candidate or party during their campaign sorties (of course, with free
food, T-Shirt, and perhaps allowance).  Well, I see some workless folk, students, bored housewives and still-can-walk oldies, on a few of
these so-called surveys or lists of potential voters and supporters. So pardon my language for saying that this part of the strategy to get the
poor’s vote is dirty.

I am really tempted (and I have expressed this to close friends) to have a tarpaulin announcement made and display it prominently in front of
my yard, with the following statements:

“Do not sell your vote. It is the most important right you have under the Constitution. (
Huwag mong ibenta ang iyong boto. Ito ang
pinakamahalagang karapatan mo
ayon sa Saligang Batas.)
“Vote for genuine community servants, not wealth servants. (
Ihalal lamang ang mga tunay na lingkod-bayan, hindi lingkod-yaman.)