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FLEA MARKET OF IDEAS

Political virus

Viruses are mostly known for causing a variety of diseases, ranging from mild colds to deadly illnesses. Viruses are gaining a dreadful reputation nowadays because of the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic that has so far caused half a million people sick, has claimed more than 24,000 lives, and has wrought unparalleled havoc on our lives.

But not all viruses are bad. There are good ones, too, that kill dangerous viruses and bad bacteria. In fact, there are a lot of good viruses that make themselves at home in “ecological niches” in different parts of our body.

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Our politicians can be compared to viruses, with many of them belonging to the really harmful varieties. They’re the reason why our country is in a continuing state of malady. Bad viruses cause diseases such as smallpox, hepatitis, and HIV. Bad politicians cause societal illnesses such as corruption, poverty, and illiteracy.

Every now and then, however, we get lucky when a few good ones emerge among our leaders. And their emergence does not come with fiery speeches, grandiose plans, or rocket-science solutions to our problems. In fact, the more flamboyant their personalities are displayed, the more flowery their words are uttered, and the more obsessed they are with the camera and microphones, the more these politicians reveal their affinity to bad viruses.

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The few good ones stride in our midst unpretentious and candid; they straightforwardly present commonsensical remedies to our people’s survival needs. The fact that they stand out with down-to-earth plans and actions speaks volumes about how disconnected our entrenched politicians have become from the dire conditions of our people. The fact that they shine with simple deeds makes it abundantly clear what a parched political landscape exists in our midst, with the people figuratively thirsting for even just that one drop of genuine good leadership.

Take the case of Vico Sotto, the 30-year-old Pasig City mayor, who has been coming up with plain solutions to the critical needs of his constituents during this crisis. When it was apparent that the poor would have difficulty going to the market, he introduced a mobile palengke that brings food supplies to the barangays. When it was evident that poor people were unfairly disadvantaged by the ban on public transportation (but not private transportation), he allowed tricycles to have regulated trips for those who needed to travel for health and food reasons, or who worked in establishments that provide basic necessities. (This was unfairly disallowed by the national government.)

When thousands of jeepney, tricycle, pedicab, and public utility drivers were left with no source of income, Vico extended financial aid to them. When he realized that public school students will suffer from stunted growth because of their suddenly jobless parents, he distributed food coupons to them. When the risk of community contagion became even more imminent, he partnered with a hotel owner to provide quarantine facilities for those who show symptoms of the infection.

The significance of Vico’s feats is not limited to the benefits derived by his constituents. Vico’s value is that he succeeds in getting society’s searchlight to illuminate the equal efforts of other leaders who are going the extra mile to work for the common good. Leaders like Vice President Leni Robredo, who marshaled resources and donors to provide transport for health workers at a time when the only option presented by the national government was for them to walk daily; Marikina City Mayor Marcelino Teodoro, who moved quickly to set up a COVID-19 testing facility for his city, at a time when the Department of Health testing facilities are severely deficient, and; unheralded municipal mayors who have waived taxes, market fees, and water usage bills to alleviate the critical plight of their constituents.

Vico’s importance is that he provides a measure by which our countrymen can compare plain good governance against the grandstanding, privilege-flaunting, and credit-grabbing species of harmful political viruses in our country.

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TAGS: Flea Market of Idea, Joel Ruiz Butuyan, political viruses, politicians
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