Same faces, old faces, comebacking faces
Before the May 13 election, while the campaign was still on hand, I heard many voters declare upon themselves and to their fellow residents on the need for a meaningful change in our leadership. In Iloco, they said, “Sukatan tayo amin isuda ta maka-uma. Kanayon met laengen nga isuda.” Plainly said, it would seem that the sentiment prevailing before the election was a total overhaul on the personnel that will constitute the halls of our administrative and legislative bodies. This bold declaration gave hope to those who are new in the scene, a chance to those who are trying their luck for the second or third time, a positive perspective to those who are hopeful of finally nailing a seat in the local government, and a level playing field in this wild and wooly industry. Oh, how they savored the chance of finally being one among the few who will be chosen by the people. The seats being contested have become so coveted that to win is like an anointment from God though the manner by which this end might be achieved need not be in accordance with the ways of God.
Two days after the election, the verdict was out. The people have spoken. By a collective vote, Baguio City has finally chosen its congressman, mayor, vice mayor, and 12 councilors. What I expected to be the result was not what was being clamored before the election that, “Sukatan tayo amin isuda ta maka-uma.” But in contrary, what I saw were familiar faces, old faces, comebacking faces, and faces whose presence in the corridors of the city hall have become a fixture as the tables and chairs that have been mounted on it. The new faces who took their chance is nowhere to be found. So pervasive is the status quo that from the highest position to the lowest, there was nothing new to proclaim. The officials who will rule us for the next three years have so deeply entrenched their stamp to their respective positions that to unseat them will be asking for the impossible. The new mandate to this set of officials is not really new but a mere extension of what we already had become used to.
Why did we clamor for change in the first place? The renewed vigor of this election was meant for us to examine our conscience and look deep inside our souls on whether we can find real solutions to the problems that beset the city. Take a few instances to question the propriety of our choices. Thus, when we had the garbage problem, who were in position? When we had the traffic problem, who were in position? When we had a problem on our water supply, who were in position? When we had problems on squatting, who were in position? The answer is obvious. So if the problems of the past were not resolved by those same individuals who had the capacity to solve them, can their reelection work wonders and transform them into newly-minted heroes? Can their re-election let them come out of their shell and become better public servants? This is the challenge that must be posed on our leaders. That they will better see what must be done to make life better in the city, rather than live the glamor and the promise that their positions hold.
I agree that there are new faces in our official list of elected officers. However these new faces are merely come-backing politicians who only went on a hiatus so that they can consolidate their forces to recover what they have given up in the past. The others are not really new faces. They are the same old faces who only got promoted to a different or the same position like a piece of a Rubic cube that was merely shifted from the bottom to the top. Deserved or not, they have to prove themselves.
The point here is, this election shows nothing new in our attitude and habit when it comes to voting. We still adhere to the old concept that familiar faces and popular names are the safest way to elect our public officials. This is true in the local scene as well as in the national scene. That is why no matter how we yearn for political change, no matter how we advocate against dynastic rule, no matter how we clamor for a new system, it will be a futile prayer. The status quo remains. We are continually governed by the same people who make promises during election time and renege on those promises when they are already in power. Then we blame them. We fail to recognize that the failure of our system lies in us – the people. For we are so afraid of change that every election time, we commit the same mistake by putting into position those who, by themselves and by their families, do not really care for change. We put into position those who stood as ninongs and ninangs of our children. We elect those who come from the same ethnic lines as we do.
In the end, if we are in this plight, we have nobody to blame but ourselves. We content ourselves with the same faces, comebacking faces, and old faces who have become so familiar to us that no matter what they do and decide not to do, we can easily forgive them and forget their faults.