Bad politicians’ businesses

FULL DISCLOSURE - Fidel O. Abalos (The Freeman) - May 4, 2020 - 12:00am

We’ve been through a lot of unforgiving catastrophes and countless misfortunes in the past, both manmade and natural. Last decade alone, we had the tremor in the Visayas and super-typhoon Yolanda (2013). Equally devastating and frightening were the Marawi siege in 2017 and the Abu Sayyaf’s endless banditries and notorious kidnappings. 

As we tried to understand and prepared ourselves in this decade (through earthquake drills, the setting up of evacuation centers, etc.) for calamities or tragedies of these kinds that may resurface, another malady came, the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19). Totally new to this generation in terms of extent and unpreparedness, even the affluent and advanced countries were caught flatfooted.

Just like many tragedies in the past, however, this recent one also brought about the best character in most of us, generosity. Sadly, however, some traditional politicians took advantage of our brethrens’ misfortune by letting the voting population know of their superficial concerns through massive exploitation of photo opportunities.

Not only that, bad politics were foremost in their minds in selecting the beneficiaries of the government’s support and financial assistances. Traditional politicians (Barangay Captains, especially) went for their relatives and their avid supporters first. Those identified with their political enemies and the truly deserving families were just feasting on crumbs or leftovers. 

It is not surprising though. They still saw it as an opportunity to do campaigning even if the election isn’t forthcoming. On the other hand, some sectors took some religious spins on this tragedy. That we all deserved to be punished for our sins.

Whatever the personal motives or interpretations were, the fact remains that scientifically, natural tragedies do happen, once in a while, and depending on its strength, may or may not bring about destruction to anyone. If it does happen, however, the poorer countries, like ours, will always suffer the most.

Nevertheless, we have to move forward. In doing so, having these traditional politicians in our midst, we have to be very vigilant. For one, to reboot our economy, we need to support the agriculture sector and boost government spending on infrastructure. 

Apparently, these are both good. However, there are a lot of concerns. In agriculture, for instance, money should not be handed over to the farmers, or worse, through these politicians.  What the government should provide are farm inputs. 

Simply put, must be in kind. To make sure that these inputs are not sold or placed as bets when they (farmers/beneficiaries) find gambling as another preoccupation, these assistances (whether considered loans or dole-outs) must be closely supervised. Or, in the jargon of the banks, these must be considered supervised loans. 

Since these are to be closely supervised, we need a battalion of agriculturists to guide them through. These agriculturists must be employed and under the strict supervision of the Department of Agriculture not with the local government units (LGUs). This is to make sure that LGU executives won’t dip their hands into the cookie jar. Nor can they claim credits for it and make these farmers/beneficiaries their perpetual parasites.     

Moreover, as we try to boost infrastructure spending, we have more reasons to worry. It is a known fact that politicians wield so much power especially in the countryside. Most of these traditional politicians are astute businessmen too. They own types of business establishments that heavily deal with the needs of both national and local governments. These are mostly construction related like hardware and sand and gravel. 

Also, most local government units (LGUs) have heavy equipment so they (politicians) are opening gas stations as well. With the LGUs’ Bids and Awards Committees (BACs) under their total control and co-bidders downright cohorts, they’ll surely win, albeit, under cover of their distant relatives’ or close friends’ names. 

On the other hand, some LGUs would prefer to engage contractors instead of undertaking the projects themselves. To this, we know, some politicians do have their own construction outfits too. Thus, in both circumstances, the possibility that biddings will be rigged is very high. 

So that, with these practices imbedded in the system, even if COVID-19 will disappear, there is nothing much to rejoice at all. With jobs coming in trickles (as most businesses will have to restart gradually), those who are even just wanting in food will tend to loot to provide something to their loved ones. 

On the contrary, some (corrupt politicians) who are already living in filthy abundance will tend to accumulate more millions through their oft-repeated devious means, rigged biddings.

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