Ah, the generic reason behind every person’s intent to run for elective office. Not that it’s not valid. Of course, it is. An elected public official ought to and needs to serve his or her constituents for their betterment.
But the difference between a genuine public servant and a shameless politician lies on the last three words of the previous paragraph: “for their (constituents’) betterment.”
These words, in my view, are the essence of public service. It’s about stepping down from office after your term and seeing that you have helped improve people’s lives. It’s about sleeping soundly at night, assured that you have done a nice job and implemented much-needed changes. It’s about leaving a positive legacy, not just your name on government project signages.
The news between the last election and the next are mostly about those we have voted: from councilors committing graft and corruption, to senators calling themselves “the country’s favorite whipping boy” and “the national punching bag”.
The idea of solving problems, laying down rules and protocols for future implementation, and monitoring our progress is lost amid the noise of sensationalism. In short, the news revolve around people, not around pressing problems.
Twenty-six years after People Power, we still have the ghosts of Martial Law and 1986 lurking around. This has been my frustration about our country for a long time: our focus on criticizing and mocking people, our disregard for processes and the law, our “abuse of discretion” in (if not all-out abuse of) our rights and freedoms, and our utter refusal to acknowledge that we enabled all these.
For example, the “anti-epal” initiative making the rounds online is indeed ground-breaking and effective in shaming “epal-iticians”, but let’s not forget who elected them.
In my view, it’s about time we admit that we are also responsible for most of the nation’s problems. We are quick to point out politicians’ mistakes, but also quick to wash our hands and absolve ourselves of blame. I believe this is unhealthy for the nation already.
It’s about time we become more responsible Filipinos, and I believe it starts with our votes.
Be the voter who elects a candidate because of his qualifications and accomplishments, not because of his surname. Public servants are not necessarily born; in my opinion, they are made, trained to be role models and great leaders.
Re-elect those who have greatly contributed to your area’s (and the nation’s) progress, and vote for those who are truly deserving to be elected because of their ideas and platforms. Let’s refrain from patronizing “traditional politicians” for the reason that things “would be worse” without them in charge.
However, I believe naming specific people who should be elected runs counter to the idea behind this crusade. We should be smart enough to listen to the candidates’ promises, and decide on our own for our own sake for the next three to six years. For me, spokespersons are just that: spokespersons, mouthpieces. We should hear from the candidates’ mouths themselves, pick their brains, and assess their capabilities even before they get elected.
Then, after the elections, we, as participants in nation-building, should keep track of their promises. The buck doesn’t stop at the elections; nation-building is 24/7.
Public office is not a permanent position for a political dynasty; it is meant to be a temporary, representative office. It is not a family business, it is a public enterprise. It’s loud and clear in the phrases PUBLIC office and PUBLIC service.
We should hold public office in high regard, and demand quality performance from officials. Also, we should not allow the “little kingdoms and fiefdoms” they create for themselves and their families.
When deciding who to elect, ask yourselves these, among other questions:
- Is your area better off now than it was before your incumbent official got elected?
- Looking beyond their names and faces on tarpaulins and government properties, have they really done something to lessen poverty in your area?
- Do they have proposals to address your area’s problems, and are they brave enough to go against the status quo and implement these ideas?
- Look at your area’s progress. Have there been improvements in terms of infrastructure, employment, health care, education, and other government services?
- Are they able to make a stand and stick to it until the end?
In short, will you vote for a candidate because he/she needs it, or because he/she deserves it and your community needs his leadership?
We vote for our representatives in public office. In short, we are who we vote.
This has been a cliché already, but now, more than ever, it should bear repeating: Vote wisely.