Politics is personal

Depending on how long I will stay in this world, the 2016 national elections may be one of the last few that I may be a part of. No, I am not sick and do not (yet) have a condition needing any maintenance drugs. It is basically just the numbers, the age.

As a child, I do not have political memories. All I knew was that we were poor. But so were most of the people I knew.  However, life then was much simpler, it was as if all one needed was to work hard and there would be food on the table. Yes, I remember how difficult my mother’s life was but I attributed it to other things.

There were floods, yes. I experienced walking through almost waist-deep water in flood-prone San Juan in the 70s to go home after school.  But it only got flooded after many days of heavy rains and it was not scary. In fact, walking around San Juan under the rains with my friend Marissa was enjoyable. We did just because we wanted to.

Now, even just a few hours of rain can already submerge many of our streets, even those that never knew flooding before. We have also seen how heavy rains and floods can kill not a few. It gets scary and people need to take all sorts of precautions. Walking under the rain is no longer fun.

Indeed, there was traffic but it was not much of a problem. People were not immobilized because of hours of being stuck in a sea of unmoving vehicles.

Then, I knew that I had to get an education to be able to move forward in life. The best part was that the public education system worked.  I wanted to be an engineer (because I was good in Math) and my biggest dream was to own an owner-type jeepney.

Then, graduates of public school could compete with those from private schools without needing “special” policies so we could enter good universities, including the University of the Philippines (UP) system. Now, especially with the proliferation of the use of jejemon, a lot of students cannot even properly spell words both in Filipino and English languages. It is difficult to think how public high school graduates now will make it in the real dog-eats-dog world beyond.

Indeed, the world has changed a lot. But in my view, past and present administrations were remiss in the performance of their responsibilities to our people. The kind of politics in our country is generally not conducive to a people-centered development paradigm. In fact I think that our kind of personality and clan-based, expensive politics run counter to people’s interests. 

Even our government system and form can hardly be considered as friendly to serving people’s welfare.

And these worry me.

In a few years I will be entering my senior years and it pains me that despite claims of economic growth, a big part of our population remains impoverished. The way our people suffer because of the near-breakdown of infrastructure especially in the transport and urban planning sectors is frustrating. The callousness and insensitivity displayed by our public servants to people’s problems directly brought about by their inaction and irresponsibility infuriate me. The way they trivialize people’s suffering and insult people’s intelligence are enough to make one desperate.

I feel hopeless with the selective anti-corruption initiatives undertaken by government and angry at how many of our politicians squander the people’s money for their vested interests. I want to puke every time politicians of all colors speak as if they do no wrong.

My heart bleeds knowing that people in god-forsaken communities eat food unfit for human consumption and live inhumane lives while many of our politicians stay sheltered in their offices and mansions totally detached from the very people they are supposed to serve.

What kind of a society are we bequeathing to our youth?

I now have two grandkids and I do not want them to grow up in an environment of suffering and desperation. While I am confident that my grandchildren are luckier than many because their parents have the capacity to provide for them, this is not the case for millions of Filipino children born to poverty-challenged parents.

If we fail to fix what ails us as a country, we will not be judged kindly by the next generations. We owe it to our youth to make our politics conducive to their full human development. It is our responsibility to create an environment where our young people can flourish.

Politics to me, because of how it affects people’s lives, is personal.

Despite everything, I remain steadfast in the belief that electing the right people to office, people with a real vision, political will and courage to take the difficult decisions to make things right by our countrymen and women is key.

At the same time, people’s participation and active vigilance in public affairs beyond elections must not only continue but be further strengthened.

The political changes we need are not cosmetic. Rather, they are systemic, ideological, and substantial. These are difficult to achieve and as one nearing her senior years, I take this challenge personally.

For my grandchildren, I take politics as a personal issue. For the future of all Filipino children, we should make the political changes we need as our personal crusade.


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