The road to heaven is paved with good intentions. So is the road to 2010.
It is still two years before the elections, but the battles have already begun. In the third district of Quezon City where I live, the councilors running for vice-mayor have strung many tarpaulins showing their fat, oily faces. Since they would be vacating their seats they have warmed for three terms, they have included photos of their wives, or sisters, or brothers, along with the pet poodle named Fifi to complete the family portrait. Of course, the wives, sisters, or brothers would run for councilors two years from now. In the Philippines, this is not called a political dynasty. It is called royalty.
Some of them are wise about it, in the Tagalog meaning of wise as in ”tuso.” They are offering 50 percent tuition discounts at some middling school or other. And when the poor people of Escopa would go to the schools, they would be informed that the councilors’ discount is 50 percent, yes, but the tuition is worth P18,000 per semester. And where would Aling Mila, who queues for four hours to buy two kilos of NFA rice, get that P9,000 to put Junior through school?
Or they are sponsoring bingo socials, or basketball games, or why not, even boxing matches, with them in tarpaulin poses that would make Manny Pacquiao blush in shame.
After I ran in the last elections and lost, I was contented to just return to my life a teacher of Literature, introducing students to the magic of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Pablo Neruda. But now as I write this column, my cell phone keeps ringing and ringing. Or else, it is beginning to be clogged up with messages.
Somebody running for congressman is asking me if I would run again for the same position? I won’t, I answer, not after seeing the election supervisors shuffled and changed by former Comelec Chairman Ben “Burjer King” Abalos one week before the May 14, 2007 elections.
“If you’re not running,” asked the persistent caller, “will you support my candidacy?”
I gave him my e-mail address and asked him to send me his platform. The silence of the lambs filled the other end of the line. “Hello?” I asked, and he was there again, resurrected from the dead, muttering that, yes, indeed, why not, I will send you my flatporms. Before I could tell him I wasn’t talking about shoes, he had already hung up.
Or take the case of this movie star running as a councilor in a nearby district, a friend of a friend, who is also asking for my, uh, endorsement. “My endorsement?” I wanted to say, following this with the laughter of a hyena. I never entertained the notion that my “endorsement” would amount to anything.
“Yes, sir, they told me you got 10,000 votes in the last elections, and you got them without any cheating!”
“Of course,” I wanted to answer, “without any cheating!” But I just resorted to my Americanism (aha, aha, aha), and let him drone on and on. I did not promise him anything even if he looked cute enough to play Superman in its next remake. I just advised him to begin working for the post now.
Yes, now. Two years before the elections, we do not need to see tarpaulins greeting us a merry Christmas, a happy Valentines, a great graduation, or a sizzling summer. I would advise below the radar-line campaigning.
What does it mean?
Good, honest-to-goodness work for and with the poorest communities. No fizz, no flash, no glitz, no glamour.
A real livelihood program, for one, where the people are taught skills, given initial supplies, then monitored afterward. A medical mission with good doctors, nurses and dentists, and a cache of medicines that could be used when the rainy season – and its illnesses – comes in. Books for the barangay library, so the young ones could learn to read and open the windows of their minds.
The list could go on and on.
But if I were you, you should also go out and talk to the youth. They constitute 70 percent of the voting bloc, and believe me, they will be a tectonic force in the 2010 elections. What I like about the youth is you cannot fool them. They seem to have what Ernest Hemingway called a “shit-proof lie-detector system” inside them that could sniff out the trapo from the real thing. The world wide web, the borderless world of cyberspace, cable television, even cheap air travel and the tales of wonder from their OFW relatives have made sure that in 2010, they will look for candidates who are young, bright, talented and brash.
Candidates who will call a spade a spade, a dictator a dictator – and step up the plate and offer themselves to the young voters. It is happening now all over the world, demographics have taken care of it – the rise of a new breed of candidates who reinvent the creaky wheel of politics. They do not have a lot of money, but they have guts and street smarts and the deep knowledge that they are inviting everybody to step aboard a ship A ship called hope.
My fearless forecast: the Jurassic candidates will doomed – those who are between 60 and death, those who give flowery speeches, and those who steal the country blind. We will see the revenge of the young voters in 2010, and it will give us the break from bad governance that we so richly deserve.