Recycling and Revising



Last week, my husband and I traveled long-distance from Naga City to Albay and Sorsogon. It was our first in two years since the start of the Pandemic. Leaving the house, we immediately felt the election fever heating up. Along the streets, a common inescapable sight or eyesore is the whole trail of giant billboards, tarpaulins, streamers, posters, banners, buntings, and ribbons from the predominantly pink to multi-colored election paraphernalia hanging and festooned on fences, electric posts, windows, walls, building tops, and even trees! How much of this wasteful toxic plastic splashed with chemical paints would again end up as garbage clogging the waterways, drainage onto rivers and oceans like what usually happens after the noise and flurry of the festive elections?


Fellow advocates for a sustainable and resilient environment have the 3Rs to guide communities to Reduce, Recycle, and Reuse election trash; hence, to eliminate waste, promote clean air, and prevent pollution. Unfortunately, so far, no candidate running for election is known to abide by the zero-waste policy of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, which makes it mandatory for parties and candidates to use recyclable and reusable campaign materials free of hazardous chemical substances. This is worrisome for a disaster-prone region like Bicol which for many decades has remained vulnerable to soil erosion, flooding, and landslides.


But as we traversed the narrow highway of Camarines Sur to Legazpi City, then toward the wider and gentle slopes of the Albay-Sorsogon road, I became absorbed watching at another worrisome landscape oblivious of the passage of time. Election paraphernalia is in almost every available space with the incredibly, perfectly photoshopped faces of candidates – national and local – from the president, vice-president, senator, district and party-list representatives, mayor, vice-mayor, and councilors against their colorful backdrop in the posters, stickers, and billboards. We know that political advertising is essential to vote-getting for any candidate’s campaign strategy. With financial backers -local and foreign – who volunteer or pay to advertise, a few candidates would stand out with their most visible paraphernalia. Without even knowing who they are, the visibility of one’s faces, slogans, and colors, including on social media, has been a game-changer in elections.


We saw familiar and not-so-familiar faces plastered on campaign materials everywhere we looked. My husband would call some recognizable faces, most of them recycled politicians. They are the traditional politicians of past ruling administrations who are staging a political comeback; members of political dynasties who are running for another position while another family member is running to take over; who have been sacked from a government position at one time, or transferees of other competing political parties; balimbing who swore political oath to a previous electoral winner but now aligned with their perceived new padrones; who left and switched parties for political convenience, and politicians with a recycled program of the economic policies that only enriched a few but left many poor in the past decades.


In political parlance, recycling means re-imaging, re-coloring, repurposing, re-inventing, or re-packaging one’s political personality, agenda, and platform to engage in the electoral battle to win votes. Why? Politicians with controversial past or failed programs need to appear new and “hopeful” to the voters. Sometimes, a myth is created around some candidates who are made to appear “good and beautiful” in this personality-oriented exercise. The reason is also psychological. Recycling oneself or sporting a new image makes the candidate less associated with the past. This goes true for some Party-List groups with wealthy nominees, which battle one another on who genuinely carry the program for change of their marginalized sector that needs representation in Congress.


Another emerging syndrome is a twin problem of this political recycling phenomenon: revising the past and revising history! Making revisions of a paper, theses, dissertation, or news report is a standard practice when one wants to make changes in the write-up. A writer reexamines data in the light of further evidence and reflects a changed situation based on new data. Even history undergoes constant revision based on emerging validated evidence of truth and records. In revising, there is deleting, amending, adding, or enhancing part or some parts of the whole write-up. But in real politics what makes historical revisionism deeply disturbing is when evidence is ignored and lies amplified. Candidates who promote a past as “glorious” and “Golden Age” contrary to historical records and evidence are committing a grave mortal sin, of lying and covering the truth.


The pernicious effect of allowing the politics of recycling and revising unchallenged in Philippine politics is immeasurable, especially for the future generation.


I may have pictured recycled politicians all evil. They are not. Recycling and revising can either be good or bad, like plastic and scrap paper which are recyclable materials that may be indispensable when converted into refurbished bottles, paper cups, and even furniture. That is good recycling. Recycled politicians can also be good if given a chance to rectify and pursue a pro-people program. But overall, the downside is more detrimental to the people and the country. Recycling is not always cost-effective and is of lesser quality, not to mention, less safe. Recycling a used car with old parts won’t work like new. If one is not critical and unknowing of the past, recycled politicians with the same old program of solutions almost always provide the people with a false sense of hope. Often, these recycled politicians belong to political dynasties that pose an obstacle to developing new leaders from the bright and promising among the population. They had their day!


The pandemic reels and new challenges like war and conflicts continue to rage worldwide. Bob Dylan, a 60s period singer-songwriter, artist, and author, wrote in his famous song, “The times they are a-changing.” The times call for new responses and new fresh leaders to start anew. With life-and-death problems in the country since the Pandemic, it is high time to open the door to new programs of action – not recycled—and new brand of vibrant leaders, energetic and forward-looking who are honest, patriotic, action-driven to serve in government. We have many of them in our stead who are qualified, prepared, and ready. Give it to them! Better, give the people a chance!