Do ‘bobotantes’ deserve ‘pulpoliticos’?

March 28, 2019

It’s fiesta time starting today as the 45-day campaign for local posts in the coming May 13 election begins with local bets joining national candidates going all-out for voter support.

Hitting the campaign trail is a mix of many kinds of candidates—from the highly-capable, selfless, and God-fearing politicians who genuinely have the country’s interests at heart, to the ones I’d like to call “pulpoliticos” or politicians who are deemed pulpol (dull, dimwit): the grossly incompetent or those who are clueless on what it takes to be an effective public servant striving for excellence in governance.

Also out to campaign, or to put up a semblance of a campaign, are the unprincipled political opportunists whose primary motivation is not to serve the common good, but to get some concessions or just get hold of sizeable campaign donations for personal profit without any intention of winning at all.

On the other side of the political spectrum are the voters, the civic-minded, conscientious and very discerning on one hand, and the so-called “bobotantes” on the other hand – those deemed incapable of distinguishing between the good and obnoxious candidates, and who are blamed for the poor quality of elected public officials.

That many unsavory characters and undeserving candidates easily get elected is a testament to the sad state of our political dysfunction and the many ills it nurtures: patronage politics, vote-buying, fraud, election-related violence, overspending, misuse of power, wastage of public resources, alliances of unprincipled opportunists, nonchalance to issues, and much more.

Indeed, many pulpoliticos have degraded governance and politics to a culture of “pera pera lang yan” as they look down on poor voters as “mukhang pera lahat yan” without regard for any decency that one might still value. They simply aren’t bothered by the thought that the greatest disrespect for voters comes from pulpoliticos who buy voters with money that was stolen from them in the first place.

That the impoverished can be easily lured to prostitute supposedly sacred votes for petty cash or a few kilos of rice and groceries is a reflection of the mindset of some who see elections as only a sort of fiesta and an opportune time to cash in on dole-outs and freebies.

“How do we fight evil in our society where vote-buying is common? Don’t sell your votes. Discern before voting,” outspoken Archbishop Socrates Villegas once said. “Our vote can bring either heaven or hell to this country.”

But should the poor who sell their votes be faulted? Should they be blamed if they cannot see elections as a means of change to uplift their plight and significantly improve the quality of their lives?

The elite can say what they want about the absurdity of our political dysfunction and “bobotantes” imposing their collective will on who should lead our communities and the entire nation, but still others believe poor and uneducated voters ought not be solely blamed for the mess our country is in.

During the past two decades, we had six elections for national and local posts. Yet while many elected officials have been changed in that span of time, the rate of the country’s poverty incidence has remained almost statistically unchanged with around a quarter of the population still too impoverished.

Therefore, it’s no surprise for the poor to want to cash in, literally, on the political exercise because their misery is bound to continue whoever wins elections. For them, election time is payback time – not to get rid of evil and corrupt pulpoliticos, but to get their share of what is generally perceived to be stolen from public coffers.

Indeed, why would the poor care about ideal platforms of governance or candidates with “character, competence, and integrity” if elections don’t bring lasting relief to their miserable lives? How to get their next meal and other day-to-day survival challenges would be their focus instead. (To be continued)