Of ‘trapos’ and poverty

The official campaign period for the May 13 elections had started. Well, it started several months back for some incorrigible traditional politicians or trapos. These trapos were all over the barangays long before March 29 courting voters with their friendly touch and smiles – and promises.

Well, promises on what they intend to do when elected or will continue to do if re-elected. We have to mention also that their promises abound more in terms of the amount of money they can shower when elections day comes. Even now, they have started giving early cash “gifts” or pataligsik (rainshower).

Vote-buying, as far as we know it, is almost like a skin to the bones because it was, is, and will be there to ensure election of traditional politicians. It is more prevalent in poor communities. Which means, the poorer the people will be the more they will be susceptible to sweet talks, empty promises, and money.

The poor, comprising about a fourth of the population if we go by the World Bank criteria or about half of the population based on self-rating surveys, is prone to elect corrupt and inutile public officials. That’s the reason why politicians will always go for the poor in wooing votes by being extra nice.

Was it because the Bible says the poor will always remain with us why the poor still exist in good numbers despite numerous poverty alleviation programs?

Blame it to ignorance and laziness. Many have fallen with that myth. Most people are poor because of mindset. I don’t know if one person can be rich if he always thinks he will become rich sometime someday. Others would offer unlimited explanations why the poor have stayed with us forevermore.

But that does not change the fact that there is inequality because only 10 percent of the population own the 90 percent of our wealth. Worldwide, around 3.7 billion people wallow in poverty. Yes, that much. The economic pie was sliced disproportionately by those who have the temerity to bite more than they can chew.

We can say then that poverty is not because of fate, laziness, ignorance, and mindsets. Poverty is actually designed.

What do we mean by design?

In our political narratives, locally and nationally, those who are elected get enrich themselves with all imaginable schemes to recover the money they spent during elections. Actually, they do not just limit to recover what was spent – they are looting the public coffers. In so many ways, pocketing public funds at every opportunity or collecting kickbacks and bribes from government projects, these elected officials keep in the process the people in poverty.

Take notice also, these trapos timed their projects usually at the time near every election period. They usually claim projects to be their own as if the funds for these projects come from them. Aids such as educational assistance, for example, are released during election period.

So, for the corrupt and traditional politicians keeping the people poor is good for them. Vote buying is a natural cog in the traditional politicians’ machinery to keep themselves – and their families – in power.

It has been said that poverty breeds criminality. The government anti-drug war campaign is, in fact, tilted against the poor. But it can also be said that poverty breeds traditional politicians. Poor people, who are so desperate to survive, usually sell their votes and their future in exchange for a moment’s relief.

Traditional politicians and poverty are twins. The former designed it while the latter feeds the system of patronage. There is so little we can do to prevent the people to have their votes sold. Nada.

But it is not a hopeless case. Civil society organizations and other stakeholders must work hard to address the root causes of poverty. There’s no use to blame the poor when they sell their votes. It is even not helpful to malign them by calling them as “bobotantes.”

We should always bear in mind that the shortest route to a person’s heart is through his or her stomach. (Mindanao Sun)

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