Seeing through the poverty line

(This is an article written by Stanley Palisada of ABS-CBN.  Your karikna was interviewed as one of six resource persons across the nation.)

MANY FILIPINOS are really sick and tired of being poor in pocket, in spirit and in association. Presidential aspirants spouting off promises to end poverty should think twice about using campaign lines that patronize Filipino misery. To a growing number of voters, such a campaign is insulting and debasing, to say the least.

Beyond sympathy for the poor or association with poverty, provincial voters now look for substance from their candidates.

“Think twice,” says U.P. Visayas Political Science Professor Joseph Loot, who believes promises to ease poverty and coming up with concrete solutions to eradicate poverty are like night and day and provincial voters know the difference.

“Our candidates just keep filibustering on poverty but they are not acting on it,” says Loot. “None of the presidential or vice presidential candidates have really addressed it.”

Although we have not fully matured as an electorate, it now takes more than a promise to end poverty to get the votes. Poverty as a campaign thrust may even be a futile advertising exercise because voters already know that many of today’s presidential aspirants do not have a track record of alleviating poverty while they were senators or congressmen. “We’re basically looking at the same dogs wearing different collars,” says Loot.

Candidates have to come up with a better campaign line, especially those seeking re-election or aspiring for the presidency. Whatever it is– it should be refreshing and unique, if they are to spark renewed interest among the provincial electorate.

In General Santos City, Mindanao State University Professor and Political Analyst Richard Pernia notes that people are now wary of such “familiar” dogs sporting new collars. The top 5 presidential contenders have served the government now or in the past, and have provided voters samples of the kind of performance to expect if one of them wins.

“Voters in this part of the country are thinking voters. Those who have not performed in their past positions are likely headed for defeat,” warns Pernia.

Voters here are also impatient. “The people of Mindanao want farm infrastructure, jobs, health, education and peace right away,” says Pernia in describing the region’s voters’ psyche, which has been embittered by years of government neglect and a war that had dragged on for decades.

The same sentiment resonates in Cagayan De Oro City. While it is not part of war-torn Mindanao, it has suffered just as much because economic opportunities have been driven away by the unstable peace and order situation of its neighbors.

Attorney Raul Villanueva, Xavier University College of Law Dean, thinks the region needs more jobs through a stable economy. An improved peace and order situation in Mindanao will also attract investors that can help improve the economy.

“There has to be a stronger campaign against corruption, protection of the environment, and investments,” Villanueva said. “These must be part of a candidate’s platform to improve the economy and generate jobs,” he added.

While many voters now take the poverty propaganda with slight reservations, such a traditional political strategy may still work in some regions where people look for charisma and humility in their future leaders, as much as they seek out their platforms.

For many Bicolano voters, one of their own would have been the ideal leader. But with the withdrawal of Senator Chiz Escudero’s bid for the presidency, they are left with any one of the top 5 presidential aspirants— as long as he speaks the “familiar language of poverty in a humble tone.”

In Bicol– which is among the country’s poorest regions— poverty could be the bridge between candidate and voter. Bicolano Political Analyst Ramon Beleno III believes, for one, Bicolanos are not likely to support candidates perceived to be “elitist”.

“Bicolanos are believed to favor candidates who have a pro-poor image, for as a whole, Bicol remains a poor region,” Beleno explains. “Locals look for a candidate who sympathizes with the less-fortunate,” he added.

But Beleno warns candidates not to overuse “associations with poverty” to gain charisma or project humble beginnings and aspirations. “The sincerity of the candidate is still a powerful factor in getting the Bicolano vote,” he says.

Discerning who is sincere and who is not can be a problem as Filipinos generally tend to favor a candidate perceived to be the humble underdog. Negros Occidental political observer Attorney Andy Hagad thinks voters should realize that there’s more to finding the country’s next leader than just putting another modest guy in Malacanang.

“As Filipinos we are more partial to humble persons. We like humble people more than the braggadocio and I think this has to change,” Hagad says.

Ilocano voters on the other hand have a way of spotting sincerity and humility. According to socio-political analyst Herdy Yumul of the Mariano Marcos State University, the Ilocano voter is not easily swayed by empty promises. A candidate’s words as well as his sincerity and humility are reinforced by a good reputation in truthfulness. Someone who has a track record for corruption, lying and abuses may likely get thumbed down.

“Mahalaga na ang isang kandidato ay may integridad. Hindi siya dapat corrupt (it is important that a candidate has integrity. He should not be corrupt,” says Yumul.

The country’s future depends on the kind of leaders Filipinos will vote for. That’s why a lot of voters in the provinces now take the May 2010 election as a colossal mission of choosing a leader whose greater qualifications are competence, reliable performance and integrity— traits that can drown out another irrelevant pitch for the poverty line.

Author: Herdy La. Yumul

A hesitant academic pimp, writer

19 thoughts on “Seeing through the poverty line”

  1. You can always find some faults on all the presidential contenders. The top contender has a high profile family with blood-tainted hacienda after police and military tried to disperse the striking farmers, killing a few of them. The case has been buried in an opaque shroud. The 2nd contender grandstands to say that he rose from rags to riches, his bank and business empire is in dire straits then. With political magic wand that he has when he impeached the incumbent head of state dramatically changed the status of his business empire, which he should not be allowed to be part of, per compliance to being a national official. The third is a good upstart politician who rose to prominence being selected by the incumbent as her likely heir, which others see as a “kiss of death” being associated to a ‘cheater’ in the last national election, as C. de Quiros says. Then there’s this elderly semi-retired actor who was the deposed one. There’s an ambitious old lady senator; a dynamic male senator; a preacher and a newbie. Many contenders, but per surveys which were very accurate indeed on the actual outcome, the top two would really battle it out for the seat of power come May 10. We hope to see the best virtues to the one who wins, hoping for a better Pinas..

    1. Nice rundown there, asiong.

      I have been reflecting, and I opine that there are really just two real contenders in the presidential race: Villar and Aquino. I’d go for the one who does not exploit the issue of poverty, and who does not give people false hopes.

      This news article from the Inquirer moved me.

  2. Most of the time I don’t make comments on websites, but I would like to say that this post really forced me want to. Really nice post!

  3. Hello,nice post thanks for sharing. I just joined and I am going to catch up by reading for a while. I hope I can join in soon.

  4. Like what has always been said… we pray to God, we beg Him to save us and our country’s future! May the righteous among the contenders provide the needed panacean for the Filipino people’s dire needs. I would also go for the lesser evil who does not mock the poor innocent masses on false hopes…

  5. I know the Arabic, even the Urdu alphabets. Uhhh, umm… I think our arabic-text poster just use such an alias; he may know arabic, or may have asked someone to write the term in arabic text. We hope he doesn’t have to be mean and foul in his upcoming posts. Anyway, you have the right to edit posts, being the moderator and owner of this site.

    1. Rest assured, asiong. I was surprised of the translation of his name though. Good to have somebody multilingual in the house. 🙂

  6. Quite an impressive talent and skill you have Pards Asiong, wonders never seized in your wild wild world or world wide web? My last and formal education of foreign language was during our college days in Spanish 1, 2, 3, and 4. I found it very amusing to apply with Mexican decent players whenever we have a pick-up games in the tennis court. As what the gov. in Calif always said in his closing speeches, “hasta la vista baby.”

  7. Ha,ha! Bill, you’re reminiscing the good ol’ days in Mapua! I could still recall some phrases of the ‘Mi Ultimo Adios’ you know. “Adios patria adorada, rehion del sol querida; Perla del mar de oriente, nuestro perdido eden…” See, my brains’ RAM is not as volatile as the obsolete computers, he,he! My prolonged sojourn in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has widened my sphere of socialization and learned more from other peoples of the world than from the books. I have many friends and co-workers of different nationalities. Being cheerful and friendly come in handy. Do you know that Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are all part of India before, named as Hindustan during the British occupation? That India has the most diverse in religions, languages and alphabets even though it is only a landlocked country? They have over 500 ethnic languages and alphabets! That most Hindus still practice the caste system and dowries are given by the family of the bride to the groom, contrary to Muslim, the groom presents dowry to (or, buys) the bride? That most Christians in India were previously from the lower castes of Hindu families, in order to escape the stigma of being outcasts or ‘untouchables’ and cannot marry anyone in higher status? That even in predominantly Islamic Pakistan, family of the late Benashir Bhutto presented dowries to her husband’s family before they got married? Their family must be Hindus before…

  8. Asiong, magaling ka talaga! Ako ay nakapagtrabaho rin dyan sa Riyadh, KSA`at nakakausap ko rin ang mga Pakistano at Indian. Noong nagkaroon ng incursion ng Indianong sundalo sa Kashmir, aba awayan rin ang mga lintek na Pakistano at Indiano, ha,ha…

  9. Our country used to be second to Japan in terms of economy. Now, we lag behind our Asian neighbors in all aspects of life. IRRI is the institution of all Asian farmers, we used to export rice, but lo and behold, we are now the ones importing rice! Indian scientists have developed a rice variety that need not be cooked to be eaten, just immerse it in water! Good for them, they even has their own car now, the Tata Nano. But the ever-critical Pinoy who belittles the products of his Asian neighbors, but cannot even produce his own. Nonetheless, there’s proliferation of Chinese-made products because they are cheap: the Futon cars, the KingLong bus, motorcycles, generators, etc. We import cheap Indian medicines; Vietnam/Thai rice; Korean cars, etc. Can’t our government officials do measures to build plants and produce our own products? All they want is to buy, so they could get percentage cuts on the sale? As such, our people are suffering in poverty due to mismanagement of our coffers. Add to that is the inability to control population. We have just this much of farmland areas and then some are used for housing the multitudes of Pinoys. When will we stop and thoroughly evaluate the situation? The Church should be cooperative in this regard…

  10. Hey, another arabic poster is with us. A “mohandes” no less! It means engineer. Ya mohandes, shukran kathir wa assalam alaikum…

  11. That is the reason why in the constitution mandates a separation of the state and the church. The state through repersentation should have the freedom or freewill to discharge laws for the benefits and well being of the citizenry of the land without any influence or pressure from the religious orders. The religious organizations should just confine themselves to serve and cleans the human spiritual needs. This way we are all guaranteed to go to heaven irrespective of our transgression.

    It has been proven time and time again that infliction of poverty on large scale of the population is a fertile ground for the religious orders to convey their sectarian message across the board and to attract followers to follow their selfmade wooden cross insignia. This is also parallel during electioneering season where in in-depth persuasion, bravado rhetorics, and wagging tongue promises from the political comedians are a common theatrics. The reality is these religious figures and shrewd politicians thrive and breath in this type of environment.

  12. I’m not sure how your niece may have pronounced it, Tita Lita. Here are the basic translation of the term. Ana= me or I ; sallah=pray; anta=you. It could be said as it is: I will pray for you… Arabic is much simpler than Spanish, English or any other languages, as Arabic has less or not much required for word conjugations. I did not have formal study on Arabic, but my Arab friends think I do better than some of our Muslim Pinoy brothers.

  13. napakarami talaga ng mga tag lines ng mga kandidato., halos puro nakakaencourage minsan.,. nadadala talaga ang mga tao.,, pero halos pare pareho ding puro salita lamang ., kulang sa gawa., ang kulang sa atin kasi ay unity.,. kahit man magaling ang ating pinuno., may mga iba pa rin na pilit naninira sa kaniya., sa mga konting pagkakamali nila. compared sa madama nitong nagawa naman na nakatulong sa ating bansa., mas may isyu pa rin ang ilang maling nagawa niya., I hope someday,., meron na tayong pagkakaisa..

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