“BAYARAN,” or paid—this is the most common attack against someone who espouses a partisan view. This is particularly gaining more virulence in social media, where just about anyone who speaks passionately in defense or criticism of one particular political personality is considered as a paid hack, implying an unprincipled mercenary work.
Indeed, political operators have always offered themselves to the highest bidder, often to do the dirty job of cheating during elections, or mudslinging an opponent. These operators label themselves as professionals in the same way that narcotics dealers call themselves businessmen.
Many of these political operators do not have political ideologies. They are paid professional publicists and lobbyists who know how to separate their individual political beliefs and persuasions, if they have one, from their work. They can work for politicians regardless of their political platforms. Two things matter to them: the money they get and the influence that awaits them if their clients win.
Some operators have professional credentials, with political science degrees, or backgrounds in communication and public relations work. They help candidates prepare their winnable points, even advise them on how to dress and speak, and manage a campaign strategy that they think would propel their clients to victory. These people may also have a strict adherence to some ethical standards in that they market themselves as professional publicists or PR consultants.
These kinds of operators are in fact functional elements of a democracy. These people are performing legitimate political labor, and it is plainly exploitative if they do not get paid for their work.
However, there are those who operate in the shadows and whose expertise is to make gold out of trash in a political cesspool of intrigue-making, character assassination, and election tampering. They plot how to besmirch reputations and how to steal elections.
These are the operators whose political labor is as abominable as a gun for hire.
It is in this context that we should put an end to the shaming of the word “bayaran” as if when one gets paid for performing political labor that it is already a mortal sin, without making an attempt to discriminate on the basis of the kind of work being done.
It is not the fact that one gets paid that is the problem. Rather, it is the ethical and moral dimensions of the act that should be scrutinized.
One must realize that to have a blanket expectation that anyone who performs political labor should do it for free renders much of the political process as an exploitative endeavor, where only those who enter politics through the formal processes of the state are entitled to enjoy the financial benefits of doing politics.
Politicians are paid when they are elected. People who are appointed to assist and facilitate their work get their salaries and professional fees. Lobbying and political advocacy are paid work.
Gone are the days of political mobilization that are done out of voluntarism. Rally organizing has somewhat become another form of event organizing, with the latter becoming a paid profession. In fact, there are professional rally organizers, as there are professional rally performers.
Even revolutionaries nowadays are paid not only by the funds given them by their international supporters, but also by the monies collected as revolutionary tax.
Thus, it’s about time we take to task the people who use “bayaran” as a generic pejorative to accuse a person performing paid political labor that enable the work of either the government or the political opposition, whether it is in the real physical world, or in cyberspace.
We should now realize that the process of state-building is no longer a process that subsists on the goodness of the heart of a revolutionary willing to risk life and limb to make a better Philippines, and to contribute to the progress of the nation. If a politician who rarely attends sessions gets his salary, as do his minions in his congressional off ice, then we should not begrudge those who perform paid work on the keyboard to participate in the weaving of political discourse that would strike deep into the process of shaping the political fate of the country.
Cyber-netizens who are paid to write blogs and post ethically, and are there to express support for one or criticize another political figure or position, using their expertise in writing pieces that are well-researched and well-argued, deserve to be treated as legitimate political actors. They are the kinds of “bayaran” that are functional to democracy.
On the other hand, a cyber-netizen involved in political labor whose behavior in the internet is driven only by destructive intent, who operates in the shadows of a pseudonym, with the goal of not contributing to political discourse, but only in the taking down, or in targeting for demolition anyone whom their clients wish to destroy, is in fact engaged in a form of “cyberterrorism.” These are the kinds of “bayaran” who are enemies of democracy.