KAKAILYAN,” masapol mo ba ti tulong (townmates, do you need help)?” That line printed on a tarp and posted on fences, barangay halls, houses, and walls of sari-sari stores located along roadsides in Benguet is simply telling people in need of help to call the cellphone number on the poster.

The posters appeared sometime in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. It already intrigued many the first time they saw the poster that was apparently posted for political mileage. What tickled my brain was the attempt to fake a personality by using the term “kailyan” when the person cannot speak the local tongue.

After the distribution of the posters all around Benguet came the informal declaration that the guy will definitely run for the position he was assigned to as “caretaker”. Then came the multi-million peso rock-netting projects that do not provide so much benefit to the majority as compared to road opening, road concreting, and bridge construction.

Then the rock nets came down one by one from their moorings, wasting millions of pesos of taxpayers’ money. This after the profits of all kinds were pocketed.

There were also testimonials in circles of contractors that availing a rock-netting project or any multi-million infrastructure program comes with a 40 percent fee to be paid in advance or upon collection of the public infrastructure contract price.

With all the grapevine news going around, it was becoming clear in my mind that the guy from the south could not be blamed because he is a politician and a businessman rolled into one. It was a big mistake on the part of local chief executives in Benguet to allow the entry of another kind of politics we are not used to.

The questions being asked now are: Are we lacking in Benguet sons and daughters who are unpretentious and real blood relatives who belong to our clan? Don’t we have true-blue Benguet politicians who know our culture, customs, and traditions?

Don’t we have politicians who were born or raised in the province who speak our common dialects? Is it hard for us to elect into the office any of our genuine “kailyans” who are qualified for the position of representative in congress?

For those of us who wish to include in their choices one who is not among us, the main reason among other things is the “padulas” (grease), according to former Congressman Ronald Cosalan who is pushing Itogon Mayor Victorio(us) Palangdan!

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Critical choices after EDSA 35. In the 35 years that passed after the EDSA peaceful revolution,  the lives of Filipinos have not changed, except that the number of dominant political parties increased to about 15 from only two – the Nacionalista Party (1903) and the Liberal Party (1946), the two main parties that we were aware of.

Every administration that followed after Marcos’ downfall in 1986 vowed to eliminate everything linked to the former strongman’s government but after enjoying what it felt to be a resident of Malacanang, all those thoughtless promises were unfulfilled.

Truth is, the infrastructure built during that time is still in use until now. That includes the loot of government lands, furniture, cars, refrigerators and cooking devices that were stolen by public officials employed in several government offices when the Marcoses were exiled to Hawaii.

Thanks to civil service rules, those government workers were still employed when a new administration took over and appointed a new set of corruptible public officials. Many of them now are still employed or managed to get elected into office but have not contributed much to uplift living standards.  

In 35 years, programs in infrastructure, agriculture, and education moved slowly compared to the changes introduced during Marcos’ rule. Today, every candidate for president is rooting to do something about these concerns and the failed promises of those who sat before them.

But will all of them have the political will to address these issues once they get the comfortable feel of living in Malacanang? That is doubtful as far as the political campaigns are going. One or two tandems were willing to hold the bull by the horn while the others were speaking in general terms.

Anti-corruption, peace and order, illegal drugs, the arbitral ruling over the South China Sea, providing housing and big infrastructure have become over-exposed topics discussed by the presidentiables.

I heard one candidate talk about more tangible and doable projects such as windmills and renewable energy, and providing potable water to communities. I heard another presidentiable talk about stopping gambling, a topic avoided by the others.  

While some bets were talking unity and avoiding smear campaigns, the rest were insinuating sins of the past, campaigning with hate and character assassination. They should be the last in your list. Whatever, the most important for the voter is that there is food on the table three times a day.