Defining Politics

Palusot-o-Matic by Raco Ruiz

The term ‘politics’ originates from the Greek word ‘politikos’ which means “Of, for, or relating to citizens.” At its core, politics is meant to be about the people who are being governed, not those who govern. Government officials derive their power from majority vote of the people and as Philippine President Benigno Aquino III has repeatedly stated famously, or maybe infamously these days, “Kayo ang boss ko (You [people] are my boss).”

However, the true meaning of ‘politics’ seems to be lost in the local setting, where things seem to work in the opposite direction, with greed and misplaced entitlement characterizing many of our politicians.

Recently, after accusing Vice President Jejomar Binay of corruption, former Makati city vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado told a Senate inquiry panel last September 11 that he himself received P80 million out of an allegedly promised P120 million share of the proceeds from the construction of Makati City Hall Building 2.

In his testimony before a Senate Blue Ribbon sub-committee chaired by Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, Mercado claimed that then-Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay promised him a PHP 120 million cut from the Makati building budget, but was given only an aggregate amount of P80 million in smaller tranches to be used for his election campaign.

Binay, for his part, has repeatedly denied all these claims against him. His family has been vocal in insisting the vice president’s innocence as well. His daughter, recently elected Senator Nancy Binay, claims that all the allegations are “baseless,” and the family has declared the entire investigation as a way to weaken Binay’s 2016 presidential campaign. The issue, they argue, is all just politics.

Pinopolitika lang kami!” seems to be the newest addition to local politicians’ wide arsenal of excuses. Binay claims that the investigation is just another political game, one which opens the floor for his political enemies to destroy his name. In this game, the pursuit of truth can be labelled “persecution,” and investigations, “harassment.”

Game or not, these accusations and counter-accusations matter little to the majority of the Filipino people if nothing is truly being done to rectify the situation. The political undertones of these accusations do not mean that they are any less true and not worth investigating. Claiming that this is all a political game does not magically erase any fault that our politicians might have.

Our public servants can quarrel about motives all they want, but without real results felt by the the public that they should be serving, Philippine politics will remain untrue to the definition of politics. The word will continue to be a dirty one, spat out in accusations and counter-accusations by the elite, or mumbled by the common Filipino with disgust and discontent.

There is a need for our leaders to remember the reason they were given the responsibilities that they now hold. Until politicians truly prioritize the citizens’ welfare over their own, politics will remain a curse that the Filipino people have to bear, instead of a mechanism for national well-being. For now, we will have to settle once again for the of Filipino politics or ‘pulitika’, defined as “Of, for, or relating to the politicians.”

The LaSallian

By The LaSallian

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