Traditional Politics or what we have figuratively transform ed to read and sound “Trapo” has been with us since time immemorial. Ever since there was a need for someone among the people to stand up in their behalf and undertake what is purportedly for the common good or public interest. That ‘someone’ is generally considered the political leader. And in so far as he/she exercises authority or sovereign right o ver the whole or a part of the body politic, he/she may be the Chief Executive, or any of the government officials in descending order down the line — provincial governor, city/town mayor, or barangay captain.
In the Philippines, the species of men and women who aspire for political positions in the government through an electoral process may become political leaders in the executive and legislative branches of the government. These are the so called “politicians”. They comprise those individuals who have made public office a veritable source of a money-earning care er. But their ostensible motive has always been couched with such phrase as “the common good” or “of public interest”. Among politicians these two interchangeable phrases have become convenient bukambibig ( catchphrases) they constitute the most abused cliché in their vocabulary.
Because politicking is their preoccupation, politicians are adept in the ways of political gimmickry and chicanery as ladders for their rise to power. A public office because of the opportunities for special privileges—prestige and fortune—is a hotly contested social status. The use of violence and fraud is not precluded as a means to insure victory in the electoral contest. The greed for power, like drug addiction, is a compulsive form of obsession. Verily, it consumes one’s energy and passion and even compromises the politician’s right to life.
Under ordinary climes, the road to triumph in an electoral exercise is an interesting phenomenon that engages the politician’s talents in public relations. Even long before the legally mandated campaign period, the candidate politico already harnesses his/her propaganda arsenal which often characterizes the brand of politics one subscribes to. By the propaganda and PR activities that a politician is engaged in, he can be either a man of scruples or a “Trapo”.
The principled politician, albeit he is a very rare species, departs from the run-of-the-mill candidate by a serious presentation and discussion of a platform of governance or a program of government as his credentials for election. He does not sing and dance like the Trapo who tries hard to impress the electorate with his stock of skills in the performing art or talents in stage acts. Oftentimes, these “payaso” acts are orchestrated with music of lies and deceit. Logically, the more sincere politico proceeds from an honest-to-goodness analysis of the realities obtaining in the country. His interests are lodged in a scientific concern and consciousness for uplifting the lot of the nation, more especially the marginalized sectors of society. He/she targets his mark on the root causes of the country’s social ills. He presents a no-nonsense radical remedy for these dire realities In short, this brand of a politician proposes a radical change from the prevailing system that has proven inutile for decades. His slogan therefore is a one-word proposition—Change— change from the age-old Status Quo that has utterly failed.
On the other hand, we have a breed of politicos that make a “clown” of themselves. They are the most common and they have survived against all odds—amidst turbul ent political rains and storms—oh, they have even multiplied in merry abundance all these years. These are the Trapo politicians. Yes, they abound in our society. In the language of social critics and political observers these are the unscrupulous, the carpet-baggers or profit-seeking political adventurers and fortune-seekers. And because they offer nothing for genuine social uplift or national development, they resort to gut-level entertainment acts and gimmicks which by all standards are mediocre attempts at cajolery and foolery. They of course don’t anymore astound the people by their condescending mimickry of a poor man’s “eating of his meal from a glass” or such “sablay” stunt acts of feigning a “lowly palengke car gador” and such malicious mudslinging babbles against political adversaries. The over-all effect is that of an artless clown in a barrio fiesta carnival fair. Well, to these Trapo pseudo-leaders, election time is nothing but a carnival holiday.
As many as there are public offices open for politicians, as merrily enthusiastic are the Trapo politicians that present themselves as candidates during election period—no different at all from hosts of preying birds that swarm on carcasses of corruption in the overly-abused but much-coveted public service. Their bloody beaks and dirt-soaked claws accustomed to dirty the ballots with time-honored fraudulent tricks can notbe prevented from tinkering on the PCUS machines for their self-serving ends. After all, machines are operated by human hands.
In the ultimate analysis, the electoral process cannot be cleaner than the rotten social system that begets it. Its integrity is only as good as the ends designed by the power that utilizes it. It is an instrument of the ruling classes that have no intention whatsoever of sharing power with those who seek to transform society for the “genuine common good”, much less hand over power to the classes who struggle for Radical Change.