A friend of mine is running for vice mayor. She was a town councilor in the past; she gave her all and gave up, swearing never to get involved in local politics again. But she has changed her mind and has paired up with a dreamer and political virgin who is running for mayor.
Short on campaign funds and political backing from above, the two candidates are using a different strategy: person-to-person, small barangay meetings, letter-writing and prayer requests. No miting de avance.
I am not disclosing my friend’s identity except to say that she was once a nun and is now into farming and environmental advocacies. In one State of the Nation Address, President Cory Aquino hailed her as among the “new heroes of democracy.”
Here are excerpts from my friend’s campaign letter titled “Journey to a Dream.” (It is in both Filipino and English.)
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Please pray for us and our town… It is blessed with nature’s bounty and has hundreds of springs flowing from nine rivers. It is a “first class” municipality with an annual income of P100 million that comes mainly from the livestock and poultry producers. We claim to be the “Egg Basket of the Philippines.”
But our town is a dirty town. We have no proper waste disposal. And so our air is dirty, our rivers are dirty, our springs are dirty. Our politics is dirty.
We have a newly built Police Station and a Court of Justice. They stand side by side at an end corner of our wet market amidst stinking garbage. Nearby hospitals can attest to the alarming number of patients suffering from serious ailments that can be traced to an unhealthy environment.
Our town leaders have nonessential priorities. The big covered court between the church and the municipal hall is regularly included in the Annual Budget. The last one amounted to more than P10 million.
If not for the intervention of a few concerned citizens and the National Historical Commission and the Department of Tourism, a new P90-million municipal hall would have occupied the remaining open space of the town plaza.
Our municipal hall is air-conditioned. Our honorable town officials enjoy an exclusive garage for their vehicles. All our barangays have newly built covered courts and well-maintained halls. Our local government officials have toured all over the country on “study trips.” Until last year, the most common study topic had been solid waste management. But our town remains dirty.
We have self-serving politics. The most visible and popular program of our town mayor and his brother (a party-list representative) is scholarship. One scholar can assure the sponsors of the votes of a whole family/clan.
In the 2010 election our two opposing mayoral candidates spent hundreds of millions of pesos. But last summer of 2012, in preparation for the coming election of 2013, these two joined forces and made a compact to run alternately for mayor and vice mayor every election till 2028. This compact is widely known because it was done in the presence of a congressman, a mayor and several barangay captains. A senator allegedly played a major role in that event. They claim to be following the good example of President Noynoy Aquino.
Our voter population has grown in number equivalent to two additional barangays. We jokingly refer to them as Barangay Lipad (for flying voters) and Barangay Bayad (to refer to those who sell their votes or are paid not to vote). Most of these voters are not legitimate residents of our town. Their votes can determine the victory of unscrupulous candidates whose victory means disgrace for our town.
In the national level we have successfully removed two presidents and a chief justice from their posts. Alas, in the local level, there has been no genuine and concerted effort to search for, encourage, support and successfully seat committed and capable public servants. More and more posts are being taken over by the popular and the wealthy whose families eventually become political dynasties … regardless of qualifications.
And so our journey begins. A few of us environment advocates met and decided to not just be confined to cleaning our rivers. We must also help remove the political cobwebs that have thickened through decades of deceit and corruption. These have blocked the eyes and ears, the hearts and minds of many. Those who walk the good and narrow road have turned their backs on politics because it is dirty. Who will be left to do the cleaning?
After long deliberation and reflection, a week before the deadline of filing of candidacy, three of us gathered enough strength of heart and decided to run for public office (mayor, vice mayor and councilor) in the May 2013 elections. We are no supermen or wonderwomen. But no one else dared take the challenge.
Our primary objective is to seize the election moment in order to awaken our townspeople to pressing realities. Secondly, we aim to provide an alternative to the present lineup of candidates. We all agreed to join the race with no money to offer, no house-to-house campaign, no liquor, no cigarettes, no candies or cookies.
We will only be sharing our dream to make our town a better place to live in, with a peaceful, healthy, green and well-protected environment, agri-eco-tourist livelihood opportunities, community empowerment, and good governance.
We cannot sit back and watch events that affect our people’s lives, the way we watch teleseryes that show kontrabidas prevailing even until the last two minutes. Sadly sometimes, the bidas or the good ones find justice only in the afterlife while the evildoers remain at large. This should not happen to our town.
Please pray for us, please pray for [our town]. Thank you. That in all things God may be glorified.
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