IF you have been offloaded a flight you know the feeling of being left behind—literally.
“Offing” someone is getting rid of a person, even a specific social class, physically or otherwise out of the way.
Philippine politicians intone Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address to buttress their claim that their entry into politics (and continued clinging to seats of power) is fueled only by their desire to be public servants working hard to give Filipinos a government that is “of the people, by the people and for the people.”
One has to get elected first, be a candidate before becoming a politician. Of course, in the Philippines, the distinction has long been blurred.
And getting elected, the first or subsequent times, comes with costs.
Running for political office is an expensive way to become a public servant. Based on what Philippine government officials are paid, the monthly or annual salary would not fall in the category of “decent, living wages.”
President Rody Duterte realizes how small the salary is of the top Philippine government official prompting him to say, “How can I feed my two families” with a Presidential salary?
So with very few exceptions, when candidates declare that they enter politics to “serve the people” they are, in effect, fooling the citizenry. And yet politicians spend millions to be elected, “buying” their way to elective posts.
In the last presidential election, Vice President Jejomar Binay was the biggest ad spender, with P344.8 million, followed by Sen. Grace Poe with P331.4 million. Manuel “Mar” Roxas 3rd was third with over P150 million, and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte was fourth with around P110 million.
For the vice-presidential candidates, Francis “Chiz” Escudero was the biggest ad spender, with P236 million. The winning and now Vice President Leni Robredo spent P225 million while Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano spent P172.3 million, and Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. came in fourth with P42.8 million. The cellar dwellers Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Gringo Honasan spent P38.9 million and P120,600 respectively
These monitored spending, according to PCIJ Executive Director Malou Mangahas, does not include other campaign expenditures such as campaign rallies, sorties, paraphernalia, and staff compensation.
Candidates spend time and money on a daily basis to press the flesh or be visible to the voters before and during the campaign period. Spending is buying.
Once elected, however, politicians are seldom seen in their election-day hunting grounds, becoming invisible to the constituents. With the votes counted and inside their hallowed halls, government officials have effectively offed electorate from the road to riches and dynasty-building.
Aware from the start that their promises of eliminating poverty and corruption are unattainable within a presidential term, government officials then turn to the next fast-fix solution: sell the people.
The domestic standard operating procedure (SOP) is to write a letter of recommendation to a government office for a constituent who is asking for assistance regarding a job, a referral to a hospital, or asking for benefits from a government agency as well as a government-operated and -controlled corporation (GOCC).
The international and official SOP is to sell constituents abroad after making sure they are packaged well.
The respected British Broadcasting Corp. reported on March 9, 2015 that the Philippines has achieved a reputation of setting up, maintaining and promoting a program of training people to work abroad.
To have a continuous supply of workers acceptable to foreign employers, the Philippines has created a Training, Sales and Marketing Team: the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).
TESDA takes care of the training stage mainly for tradespersons, skilled, semi- and unskilled workers with an eye toward equipping Filipino workers with world-class competencies to fill the manpower needs of the Middle Eastern, Asian, American and African employers.
POEA then takes over selling (“deploying”) trained or certified-to-work-overseas workers through at least two divisions as part of its “employment facilitation” mandate: (1) the Middle East Affairs Division and (2) American, European, Asian Affairs Division.
The employment facilitation of 1 million OFWs yearly is achieved by dispatching technical marketing missions, intensified market intelligence work, pursuing bilateral/multilateral agreements with countries for direct hire or channeled deployment of OFWs through licensed recruitment agencies, encouraging visits of foreign government and employers, and enhanced coordination with host governments.
Labor attaches are also tasked with monitoring the manpower needs of the countries under their jurisdiction, acting as the clearing-house for employers seeking to recruit Filipino workers.
In a democracy, the will of the people prevails. Where the election is conducted and votes counted—despite the recurring claims of fraud—a country has to live with or endure the government it elects.
Allow me to revisit and paraphrase Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address within the Philippine setting:
“Two scores and five months ago, our Fathers, Mothers, Priests and Sisters brought forth on this country a new nation conceived in liberty, justice and dedicated to the proposition that all men are equally protected by law.
Now, we are engaged in a great civil war whether this nation so conceived and dedicated can still endure. We are met on a great battlefield of this recurring war on poverty and corruption. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place—called the Libingan ng mga Bayani—for those who here gave their lives that this Nation might live.”
The last paragraph envisions a legal and moral authority to ensure that the “unfinished work … of the brave men and women, living and dead” would be sustained, that their deaths would not have been in vain.
“That this nation under God shall have a new birth of Freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
The 6,000-plus Filipinos leaving daily to work abroad seem to confirm that this type of governance had perished from this country. And why do Filipinos leave?
In the last five years, informal surveys of persons-on-the-street show the top 8 reasons for leaving the country instead of living in the Philippines:
More jobs with decent pay await Filipinos abroad. Just look at the classified sections of newspapers and count the number of jobs overseas and those available at PhilJob.net, the official job portal of the Philippine government.
Government is hopeless, translated to mean as having corrupt elected officials.
Filipinos believe success is not possible where the playing field is not level.
Criminals escape persecution: money launderers, big-time crooks: even if arrested or detained (at home or in hospitals), the plunderers often retain most of their ill-gotten wealth.
Suffering in their homeland, poverty, lack of health care, social services.
Filipinos do not feel safe in the Philippines, inadequate police protection, life-threatening public transportation infrastructure.
Family, relatives already abroad. With support groups in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK/Europe and Asia, trying one’s luck somehow seems to be not as fearsome as it was fourscore and seven years ago or even longer.
Peer pressure, direct or otherwise co-workers, friends in the same occupation or socio-economic class have found fortune and fame abroad and the yearly visits as balikbayans add to the desire to be another OFW.
Can federalism break the cycle of the government fooling, offing, buying and selling people?
Will President Duterte survive the loneliness at the top and inability to support his two families?