When I was little my lola taught me the values of humility, modesty and honesty. A woman of deep religious faith, she believed that in order to go to Heaven a person should not announce one’s good deeds in public – the logic being that if you have already been rewarded on Earth then you will no longer be entitled to “pogi points” in Heaven. The Bicolanos have an apt term for it – “Dios Mabalos” – which translated means “God will pay you back.” If this belief is true, then politicians who publicize all of their “good deeds” do not accumulate “pogi points” and will certainly not go to Heaven. This is because they have already claimed their “rewards” on Earth.
There is a perceptible shift in voter attitude towards “epal” politicians today. One can easily validate this attitudinal shift in various social media sites and traditional media. Whereas before people treated the ubiquitous and self-serving posters of local politicians with benign neglect, Filipinos now are voicing out their annoyance and disgust against these epal politicos. And politicians are starting to listen. In Quezon City, Mayor Herbert Bautista heeded the voice of the people and ordered his City Engineer to take down all his “HB” markers stamped on public infrastructure projects in the city.
The other day I encountered a hilarious post in Facebook by a certain Carlo Alfonso describing the various classifications of “epal” which I thought is worth sharing here:
1. The Credit Grabber.” An elected official who announces the “sponsorship” of a so-and-so infrastructure project. The “grabbing” pertains to the fact that the funds used were not the politician’s personal money but from public taxes, although the project is made to look like it was the politician’s “gift” to the people.
2. “Fief Welcomer.” A local official who puts up streamers “welcoming” visitors to his town or city, as if the city was his own fiefdom or real estate property.
3. “Interloper.” A politician who grabs every inane excuse and/or occasion to set up his or her poster (i.e. Happy Fiesta, Happy Graduation, Happy Easter, etc.)
4. “Political Parasite.” A politician who basks in the reflected glory of a more famous figure (i.e. Jesse Robredo, Ninoy Aquino, etc.) or a more prominent relative (e.g. his father, mother, uncle, etc.)
5. “Issue Rider.” A politician who rides on a pressing concern or political issue just to get his or her name out in public (e.g. “Enact RH Bill Now!, etc.).
I am sure that there are a lot more categories of epalismo out there, but nothing beats what Iloilo City Hall minions have recently come up with – attaching Mayor Mabilog’s face in the official City Hall ID. With this development, Iloilo City politicians have just raised the level of “ka-epalan” to new lows. I recall that when he was vice mayor Mabilog was also loudly criticized for putting his mug on the medals awarded to outstanding public school students. I have nothing against local officials trumpeting their achievements – people after all have to be informed of what their leaders are doing – but stamping your face on ID cards and medals is really going overboard. It does not tell or “inform” people anything. Except perhaps that Mabilog has a receding hairline.
Make no mistake about it: there is a growing movement against “epalismo.” And politicians should do well to heed this public clamor, or suffer defeat at the coming polls.-30