Sunday, March 14, 2010

If we so decide

March 26 marks the beginning of the end of the rule of the Madrona-Beltran-Perez political triumvirate.

If Romblon so decides.

And that’s how far this bold prediction goes. The decision to put a stop to decades of inept governance, lying, and thieving lies at the soiled hands of the Romblomanons and not in the surveys or in the artful deception of the politicians now enduring the heat of the Romblon sun just so they could sweet-talk us. Talk us down, in fact.

Let’s see what is in store for us during the campaign.

It will rain from March 26 to May 8. It will be a politician-induced rain and the rain will come in the form of promises, recycled, unbelievable and untrue. Promises which we have heard three years ago, but which have remained unredeemed.

Madrona will promise us deliverance. Beltran will promise us how he will clean up the mess in the capitol. And Perez will promise us more 'projects'.

How about the others, the lesser gods of Romblon politics?

The others? Never mind the others. If they are in the mold of Madrona, Beltran and Perez, chances are they will just parrot the three until their batteries, sustained by the money of their masters, will run dry. Many Romblon politicians are not known for thinking by and for themselves. They are known for following strict orders from whoever wields the political strings. At the moment, those strings are tied at Madrona’s waist.

What else shall we see during the campaign?

Chances are we will see Romblomanons more divided than ever, not along ideological lines, but along familial ties. Our politics is local and so the appeal to the voters will be on the realm of relativity.

Vote for me, please, because we are relatives. That’s it. The campaign will be among tribe and clan, family initials and surnames. He or she who has the most number of relations, marital or otherwise, will win. Blood is thicker than water, our politicians would tell us. What they will not say is that it will be our blood they will suck when they are already in office. What they will not tell us is that it is the relatives first who get double-crossed (or the juicy positions) when these politicians acquire political power.

There are some things we would like to see, but will not, during the campaign.

Among these is the exhaustive, intelligent discussion of the issues.

Let’s begin with Madrona. Madrona could talk to death about how he made the lives of Romblomanons better through his 'projects' as congressman and governor during the last decade, which was interrupted when Lolong Firmalo reigned briefly from 2004 to 2007.

Don’t believe him. He is lying. Socio-economic indicators tell us otherwise. In 2000, Romblon’s poverty incidence was 52.2 percent, according to the National Statistics Office. That placed the province 10th among poorest provinces. In 2004, the poverty incidence was 37.5 percent, putting Romblon 26th on the list, but in 2006, the poverty incidence climbed back to 41.9 percent, slipping us down the ladder to be the 25th poorest province. Recently, the NSO adjudged Romblon as the worst-run province. Top that.

This is only the general picture. As they say, the devil is in the details, but since I will run out of space, I’ll reserve them for some time.

When Beltran promises that he will clean up the mess at the capitol, don’t believe him. The boy is lying.

In the first place, the mess in the capitol is his own, not ours. One has just to look into the COA audit reports to find out that this official is unfit to run even a barangay. The tales of graft and corruption involving the governor is unending, I wonder if he is still able to sleep the sleep of the just. Why should we re-elect a grossly irresponsible and corrupt politician? Are we not condoning idiocy in government if we give him another three years?

During the campaign, he may again recall as a sentimental appeal what his late father supposedly told him as a death-wish: for Beltran, Jr. not to leave Romblon alone.

Well, he better leave us alone now, for experience tells us that with Beltran Jr. accompanying us in our journey, he is only leading us to the road to perdition.

And Perez the menace? Oh, I almost forgot that this guy was supposed to have seen an apparition of the Virgin Mary a few months ago. If this is not the election, I would have believed the news. Almost. He must be so hungry for 'project' funds because of the election ban on construction projects that he is now ‘seeing things’.

The ‘seeing things’ are in quotes because I copied the phrase from Seamus Heaney, the Irish Nobel Peace laureate who write outstanding poems for the powerless, not like Perez who write outstanding checks to remain powerful.

But then again, the former DPWH official has been ordered dismissed by the Ombudsman for graft and corruption, but because of his supposed ‘connection’, he still freely roams the province with a coterie of police officials as umbrella-holders and security escorts.

And now, Perez is a candidate for vice governor. Good for him. It would be interesting to see him pounding the gavel during the sessions of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan. Has he promised to behave and stopped sending out feelers to buy-out Awe Eranes for the latter’s scathing commentary against him?

There are so many issues that will be left unsaid in the campaign, issues that the candidates will prevaricate about, evade, and hope that these not be raised. My point is that if we must be true to ourselves as citizens, we must precisely bring out these issues into the open so that the voters will be educated. We must discuss them during the campaign, instead of just hand-shaking and back-slapping voters in the campaign trail. Are our politicians even teaching the voters how to vote using the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines?

I have been lamenting to friends that Romblon is unfortunate. Our province is rich but wretched. Thanks to our politicians who derive happiness from keeping us ignorant. That’s a Raul Manglapus line.

We have a university, yes, but I believe that in the larger sense, it is not helping much to educate the Romblomanons either on the true nature of our socio-economic and political deprivation.

A university, I believe, should perform the function of a leaders’ laboratory, initiating change and reform and leading movements on establishing a just social order.

How about the Romblon State University sponsoring a debate between the congressional candidates so that the Romblomanons can be illuminated on their choices during the election? Can President Sespeñe temporarily abandon his worries about his Ombudsman cases, rise to the occasion, and initiate this voter education exercise?

If he can’t, then my bold prediction at the beginning of this piece—that March 26 will mark the beginning of the end of our misery—will be just that: a bold prediction.

Still, I have hope that if the Romblomanons so decide, they will seize this moment, this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and set aright decades of wrongdoing, by voting out of office the causes of their deprivation and opening up a new chapter for a better tomorrow.

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