By Rod Kapunan | Posted on September 15, 2012 | 12:01am | 890 views

The anti-epal bill titled “An Act Prohibiting Public Officers from Claiming Credit Through Signage Announcing a Public Works Project” filed by Senator Miriam Santiago is telling that indeed there is an urgent need to rein in our shameless politicians. They have become callous in grabbing credit for government projects with their names and faces written and printed on billboards and streamers, stating that it was through their initiative that the project was made possible.

Such uncivilized behavior that combines insecurity and hubris to project themselves into the limelight has become a nuisance. It is reflective of our deteriorated political system. The rat race to be remembered by their constituents for their “accomplishments” has sunk to the gutter level. They do not only pepper streets, plazas and public places with billboards, posters, and streamers. Mind you, they even engrave or carve their names, their initials and at times their faces in such conspicuous places as street signs, street islands, walls of schools, hospitals, police precincts, and even gates of public buildings.

This new practice has become prurient much that seeing their names and faces only invokes immorality in public service. Desperate politicians even have their names painted on government vehicles, ambulance, fire tracks, police patrol cars, and even on business permit plates.
Many shake their heads in disillusionment and frustration, for it seems nobody is minding that these clowns are in fact causing public irritation. Not one from the supposedly vigilant public has raised an objection to that insult to their intelligence and flagrant misuse of taxpayers’ money just to make them aware they are not sleeping on their job.

For that matter, the use of public funds to increase their chances of being reelected is malversation, a crime worse than the prohibition set in the proposed anti-epal bill of Senator Santiago. There is personal gain in having politicians’ names and faces printed and posted while they go on with their systematic diversion of public funds.

Millions of government funds are routinely wasted that if the Commission on Audit would just to its job, it could easily conclude the gravity of their malfeasance. It is illegal because there is no law that grants politicians the right to spend public money just to advertise their names and their accomplishments.

This circumvention of the law to keep these politicians in power is so blatant, short of telling us just how stupid we are. After all, many of them were elected not to hold executive positions but to legislate laws and ordinances. Their duty is to use their coconuts to come out and propose sensible laws and ordinances.

But as it is, the huge amount of money spent to make the voters remember their names by the Pavlovian technique of name recall betrays their nature as incorrigibly corrupt. The huge amount set aside just to enhance their chances of being reelected is, by any definition, a form of corruption. We are, as one would put it, being fried by our own lard.

They also take every occasion to greet the public on Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, to congratulate graduating students at the end of every school year, and to greet their constituents on the occasion of their fiesta. Such impersonal but ludicrous way of greeting people is an intrusion to an occasion they are not supposed to butt in by campaigning in the guise of greeting them.

In fact, some shameless and bootlicking politicians cram their streamers along Commonwealth Avenue or buy one whole page in leading broadsheets just to make sure the top hierarchy of the Iglesia ni Cristo would remember that they were not remiss in their duty to greet their executive minister on the occasion of his birthday or on the occasion of the church’s founding anniversary.

In fact, the more discerning citizens look at them as pathetic victims of implied blackmail. While that sect does not compel them to exhibit their misplaced sense of fealty, it is obvious that many of them tremble in fear of losing the solid votes of the members. The public is asking because this specific act of idiotic “epalism”, if one would like to put it that way, has no relevance whatsoever to their desire in wanting to inform the public of their accomplishments.
This heathen form of fealty becomes doubly illegal because that amounts to subsidizing their campaign expenses. Maybe we can give them the benefit of the doubt for advertising their names in the place where there is an on-going government project initiated by them. But that assumption of legitimacy is nowhere to be found by their vassalage act of paying homage using public funds just to increase their chances of getting the solid votes of that sect.
As said, since our system of campaigning has been reduced to one of a fracas, the public now have their reservations whether the anti-epal bill of Senator Santiago will ever see the light of day. The pressure to reject the bill will not only come from her colleagues and from the lower house, but also from the city and municipal councils. Barangay chairmen and their councils, which now have their own version of pork barrel, will join in opposing this bill.
The perks and the privileges of being an incumbent public official is so tempting to be taken for granted. The money and the power drive them crazy. It is on this basis that made many to believe that indeed we have gone to the dogs because what we see is a spectacle of “campaign cannibalism” at its worst.
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