It is when politics is turned into a business enterprise that public service becomes hostage to the economic interests of the elected.
There may be those who by sheer luck because of their privileged economic station in life may get elected to positions in government, but in whose veins the blood of politics doesn’t run. But because of their economic interest, public service is still relegated to the sidelines when they hold the reins of power.
Politics should be understood as synonymous to public service. No one in his right mind enters politics for the fun of it, if not for the fund of it. It is in politics that one finds meaning in serving others. It is a misplaced intention if one enters politics for purposes other than being able to serve others.
But Philippine political experience tells us that politics has become an extension of the politician’s business enterprise. In fact, it is for this reason that politicians hand the reins of their office once they reach their term limit to their anointed successors — a member of their immediate family — as if public office is their business enterprise.
The spirit of the constitutional provision about term limits thwarting the politician’s dream of being in office for a lifetime becomes meaningless by this practice of handing over on a silver platter the public post held to the anointed successor. This was true when members of royal families ruled their countries as a birthright. It is no longer the case.
As a business enterprise, this type of politicians — and it comes by the dozen in our country — does its best to ensure the enterprise doesn’t go to the hands of other politicians. And not content with this, it also expands the enterprise by seeking other positions just so the entrepreneurial business called politics gets bigger.
It is not uncommon to see nowadays incumbent congressmen vying for posts as governor or mayor in the provinces where they currently serve. This is more expensive because there will now be two or even more from the same family vying for elective posts.
But there would not have been much fuss about this if private money is used to seal political victory. Sadly, incumbent politicians use their positions to secure campaign funds from the government itself. Take, for example, the P60 million allocated by congressmen to themselves in the 2019 national budget.
Remember that this P60-million allocation is over and above the regular P90 million congressional fund each congressman gets in next year’s budget. Still not content with this huge multimillion-peso allocation for themselves, other congressmen were said to have secured more than the others. They are those who are closer to the current leadership of the House.
We learned, for example, that current House Deputy Speaker Arthur Yap of the Third District of Bohol reportedly secured for his congressional district an additional allocation of more than P2 billion, described as budgetary insertions into the budget of specific national line agencies, to fund his favorite programs and projects in the district and perhaps in the entire province.
Yap, who is a Boholano by affinity, is running for governor of Bohol. He used to be the current Speaker’s Agriculture secretary. He is now facing graft charges over the alleged fertilizer fund scam during his watch in the Agriculture department. Of course, this additional budgetary allocation will surely help boost his gubernatorial bid given the numerous programs and projects that it can fund beginning 1 January next year.
Programs and projects that perhaps can make his name a byword in every Boholano household may be funded by public funds. But what about his opponent in the gubernatorial race who is not as blessed as him to secure for himself funding from the public coffers for programs and projects of his choice?
The only thing Yap’s opponent, former Cabinet Secretary Leoncio “Jun” Evasco Jr., could boast is his sincere desire to serve the public proven so many times when he was longtime aide and confidant of President Duterte when he was yet mayor of Davao City, when he was a two-term mayor of his hometown Maribojoc in Bohol and as Cabinet Secretary of the Duterte administration before resigning to run as governor of Bohol.
It is when politicians turn politics into a business enterprise that public service, the one that Evasco knew by heart, is put in peril.