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Monday, October 1, 2012

Dakila: Going Beyond Epal

PRESS STATEMENT from Dakila Philippines
01 October 2012
Contact:          Betty Romero (“No More Epal”): 0917 821 7227
                        Kate Lim (DAKILA): 0917 708 0988

(DISCLAIMER: Any opinions written in this post are Dakila Philippines' own and do not reflect the viewpoint of any other Naga City Deck and/or NCD Contributor)


Manila – Today marks the beginning of the campaign season for the May 2013 mid-term elections. Over the next five days tens of thousands of political aspirants will file their certificates of candidacy in the hopes that they can acquire political office - the golden Ring of Power lusted for by many a political Gollum.  To this end, we have seen in the past few months efforts by individuals, mostly incumbents, to get their names and faces in front of the voters in the guise of public service, transparency and accountability – a practice known as “epal”.  Indeed, this practice was the trigger for the No More Epal Movement, as it saw the boiling over of the strange brew of Philippine politics in the form of “epalism”.  The public has responded to this movement by expressing its collective disgust at “epal” (as the thinly disguised practice of premature-campaigning) through social media, websites, blogs, editorials, social commentaries, letters to the editor, and the like.  Nary an independent nor sober voice can be heard that condones, advocates and supports “epal” behavior, save for the incumbents themselves.

“Epal”, the habit of politicians to claim personal credit for publicly funded projects and programs, accompanied by the need to stamp their names and faces on every square inch of public space, is recognized by the No More Epal Movement as merely symptomatic of the much deeper problems of our politics, i.e. patronage politics, campaign finance, personality based campaigning, weak political institutions and parties, corruption, and family dynasties.  A quick look at the unholy alliances being formed in order to complete a slate of 12 senatorial candidates speaks to many of these deep issues, where “winning at all costs” is the mantra of political strategists and is used as a substitute for “platforms of governance”, “issued based politics” and “political ideology”.   It is this utilitarian view that stands in the way of true political reform.

The No More Epal Movement has no illusions that it can significantly impact the outcome of the 2013 elections.  Instead, we see the upcoming elections as an observation point and a starting point for discussion among the public.  We ask that the public to stand as witness to the following over the coming months leading to elections:

- The lack of any substantive discussion by the candidates on essential issues such as freedom of information, reproductive health, human rights, the environment, good governance and anti-corruption;
- The insignificance of political parties, as political butterflies flutter from party to party and as unholy alliances form among erstwhile political rivals;
- The dominance of families and preponderance of family members running for multiple political positions despite the constitutional mandate for the State to prohibit political dynasties (Art. II, Sec. 26);
- The re-hashing of old, tired names aspiring to recapture political glory;
- Profligate spending by candidates and parties in the face of very clear campaign spending limits;
-Illegal use of government resources to support candidacies of political incumbents;
-The existence of political cartels at the local level that operate to limit choice;
- “Sarswela” campaigning, where glitz and glamour, song and dance blind the audience in a deliberate dumbing down of the campaign, instead of debating and discussing ideas, platforms and programs of governance.

This brand of politics is at the core of many of the country’s ills which range from state capture by the political and business elites which distorts policy and decision making to favor narrow family and/or business interests to grand graft and corruption.  It is a politics that concentrates power in the hands of a few established political families, while disempowering citizens.  It promotes the politics of patronage (as strongly evidenced by the credit grabbing by politicians and their “you should thank me” attitude).

Epal is only the symptom of a rotten political system that fails to address the needs and aspirations of the people it is meant to serve. The discussion on “epal” must now be steered away from the symptom to the disease, and to confront, analyze and finally find solutions for the deeply entrenched problems that bedevil our politics and political system.

 DAKILA - Philippine Collective for Modern Heroism
Unit 3A, VS1 Bldg., 34 Kalayaan Avenue, Quezon City
Cellular: (0905) 4292539
Tel. No.:(02) 4354309
E-mail:   mabuhay@dakila.org.ph
Website: http://www.dakila.org.ph
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/dakila.philippines
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