Churchill Aguilar .
WHEN I got into the world of local politics, I discouraged my friends and former students from ever running for public office. I have seen the game and I thought it’s not for the pure hearted souls and for the faint of hearts. For people with non-negotiable principles, such as I, it’s almost impossible to last. One will either get eaten up by the system or be thrown out of it. While the game is about leadership in social services and development, it was designed to be an enterprise for political positioning and power manipulation.
I am not saying our local governance in general is a hopeless case. No, not at all. Otherwise, how else can I explain why I am still very much in it? Contrary to that, it is still very much formable and moldable in a shape we want it to be. It can be navigated from within. And so, I am changing tune as to discouraging my friends and students or even as to outrightly dismissing the thought of running for public office mainly because I have seen how power gets wasted even by brilliant politicians time and again.
I am not saying that our leaders don’t have good hearts. Far from it. The fact that they won during elections simply means their goodness have been evident among the majority of voters. But being good does not also follow that one is a game changer. This is now where I’m coming in with this point. Being good leaders don’t just cut it anymore. In these times, we need trailblazers and game changers which is precisely why the Duterte politics has become phenomenal; we crave for someone who can make a significant dent in the old system however unpolished they may be on the edges.
Back to my point, wasted power has become the new norm. It should not be the case at all cost. There is tremendous power among local politicians from a Sangguniang Kabataan councilor in a barangay to the mayor and governor in changing the landscape of local development if only those seated have the grasp of their immense power to create history and the political will to make it happen. I mean how many of them have a detailed plan of their visioned social transformation? How many of them have translated their plans into implementable and calibrated programs? And how many of them are seeing things through from inception to outputs and outcomes? Nah, after being exposed to all local governments in the entire Philippines, what I see are politicians wanting to please their barangays with infrastructure projects such as roads and multi-purpose centers. There are also those who love public consultations and media exposures. I have yet to see any of them involved in capacity development with intensive monitoring structure to ensure success. They have a list of beneficiaries of their social services, mostly their loyal voters, but as to how many of those have become financially independent after the series of activities they conducted is another story.
So yes, I am now encouraging my students and friends whose outlook are into inclusive development to take part in local governance. As to playing to win, this is a gray area that needs to be crossed. You can’t change the game if you are not in it and so, get in by all means (something I have never imagined I could ever say, but yes, get in first). And when you are inside, just never lose sight of why you got in in the first place. Otherwise, you will just be an addition to the statistics of good leaders who wasted their power.