A matter of choice

By: Stephen D. Capillas May 05,2016 - 09:03 PM

Whenever there’s an election, local or national, I always remember a story told to me by a former classmate who served a term as barangay chairman in Cagayan de Oro City back in the mid-2000s that made me realize just how incredibly difficult, unpredictable and impermanent the fortunes of politics can be.

He told me that he spent a lot of money running his campaign, even closing down his mineral water supply business and using the remaining capital as funds while asking both family and friends to help him out in his candidacy.

He won by a close margin, but it was enough for him to be grateful to everyone who stood by him, including those who simply wanted to borrow money or get any material aid from him.

When he thought that he saw the end of his election expenses, he woke up the following day to the rude realization that it was just the start of a steady stream of house calls made not only by constituents but by people he didn’t even know or was unsure if they lived in his barangay.

He told me that he would often have to pawn some of his belongings so he could give money to his visitors, though he would remind them to give him the receipts so he could know about their payments or purchases for medicines, food and even housing materials.

Some would resent doing so, while others dutifully gave him the receipts which he would then liquidate. When the campaign period came, he heard from friends that some indigent barangay residents would often troop to his rival candidate’s house just as soon as they received aid from him.

True enough, when election day came he lost by a wide margin since his rival is not only rich but is allied with the administration party. He was told by friends that his rival told the residents to simply accept aid from both of them while persuading them to vote for him.

With no iota of evidence to suggest cheating, my former classmate resigned himself to his loss and prepared to return to civilian life only to wake up the next morning to see his erstwhile constituents knocking on his door, asking for money.

At the time he told me his story, he had returned to his mineral water supply business, and looking at him then, he seemed quite relaxed and happy. Clearly his return to business agreed with him and his health as well as his disposition.

Entering public service, even running for a lowly village post, isn’t something to be taken lightly as anyone who’s run for public office will tell you.

Even before you assume the title of barangay chairman or higher tier elective offices, you can expect people coming from all walks of life asking for your help. And as their candidate and public official, they expect you to help them.

When my classmate ran for barangay chairman, I don’t know if he was spurred by a genuine desire for public service or if he merely wanted the distinction of an official title. Maybe a combination of both or neither, I really don’t know.

We all have different persuasions, personalities and motives in life, and running for public office if pursued altruistically can be quite a draining, challenge-laden calling.

As in every profession, you do get paid but the enormity of responsibility, of being there for your constituents 24/7 at least most of the time makes one question whether the sacrifices one makes are all worth it.

For those committed to public service, the rewards may be more psychological fulfillment while those who run for government office purely for the fame, the wealth and power that it brings, the costs and the “investment” of doing so may be worth it or not enough depending on how they see it.

The point is, as we cast our votes on May 9, next Monday, so much has been said about each and every candidate and yet we really don’t know how each one of them got there aside from the usual inside information we receive from official and unofficial sources.

We really don’t know them as people at all. They don’t know each of us personally anyway. Thus when one candidate says his or her life is an open book and “what you see is what you get”, that’s when you get suspicious and question if that’s true at all.

Since we cannot really know them at all, the next best thing is if what these candidates are offering is at the least palatable and acceptable to you and me. If those changes that they’re proposing are something we and our individual and collective consciences can live with or not.

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TAGS: barangay, Cagayan de Oro City, election

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