Politicians run our government. Bureaucrats, those who have expertise, plan and implement whatever the politicians approve. That’s because we assume that our politicians are leaders.
What is a politician?
A politician is a person whose business is politics. A politician is someone who is holding or seeking to hold an elected seat in the government.
Politics is about who gets what, when, where, and how.
In a democratic government like the Philippines, politicians assume leadership roles. We consider them to be visionaries who inspire experts to come up with real-world solutions to our problems.
But our government is also run by unelected politicians. That’s because we allowed our elected leaders to appoint unelected politicians to lead the bureaucracy.
The President, for example, appoints department secretaries who bring with them cabals of suck-ups. Though we pay their salaries, they are not accountable to us but to the appointing power. So we get non-experts running our government like headless chickens.
We can say the same about local leaders. They bring with them their loyal supporters whose only qualification is loyalty.
Do you still wonder why the Philippines has the worst pandemic response in the region?
Are all politicians leaders?
Some politicians like Vico Sotto, Isko Moreno, and Leni Robredo are leaders.
The majority of Filipinos believe that our politicians, both elected and unelected, are enriching themselves while in office. Filipinos believe that most politicians are not leading us; they are stealing from us. Kleptocracy is the order of the day.
What is a traditional politician?
Traditional politicians are known as tradpols. When I was young, people call them trapo, another word for rag.
Though all elected seats have term limits, traditional politicians have circumvented the law.
For example, a mayor has three term limit. But after the third term, the wife or the child of the mayor will run for the post. Then, after three years, the former mayor will become the mayor again.
They get elected easily because the incumbents can use people’s money to their advantage.
We have been governed by traditional politicians who act like kings and queens. Government offices have become a family business. In some cities, local leadership is reserved only for a single surname.
Consider the Dutertes in Davao City and the Cayetanos in Taguig. Less than 100 political families govern a country with more than 100 million people.
Are all politicians corrupt?
No, being a politician isn’t bad. There are many good politicians. Jesse Robredo, for example, was a great leader and politician. Mahatma Gandhi was also a politician. Revolutionaries, in essence, are politicians too.
But corrupt politicians are our greatest tragedy. The existence of political dynasties shows that we have little chance of selecting the excellent ones though we elect our politicians.
When one family decides that the government office belongs only to them, we know that the democratic system is no longer working.