Published on Page A13 of the December 23, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer
DEAR PUBLIC SERVANTS (A.K.A. POLITICIANS):
Before anything else, let me greet you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
I would like to return the favor of being greeted by your colorful posters and streamers every morning as I pass by the streets of your respective districts. As early as the first week of December, I could already feel the spirit of Christmas because of your Christmas greetings and wishes for peace and goodwill, not to mention your "star-struck" smiles which never fail to put a smile on my face.
Your posters seem to be a common sight this season. They are in public places and even pasted on private walls. They are nailed to trees and electric posts.
I think every street already has some kind of greetings from you. I remember seeing posters and streamers similar to these Christmas posters, but with different greetings, such as "Happy Fiesta," "Happy Halloween," "Congratulations Graduates," etc. These greetings come from the same people. Similar faces, similar smiles, similar names are on those posters containing different greetings. I suppose the pictures on your posters are your best or perhaps you do not have any other picture, because every year I am being greeted by the same face, the same hairstyle, the same dress, the same posture.
Some of you have become so creative in designing streamers so that only the greetings need to be changed to fit the occasion, be it a fiesta, graduation, Easter, Christmas, etc. Of course that is an economical way to do it, but there is always the risk that others will notice it and think you are insincere.
I keep trying to convince myself all this exposure is in fulfillment of your obligation as public servants to reach out to your constituents. The people need to feel that their leaders care for them and so they are present at every celebration that is significant to them.
But more often, I am skeptical about the purpose of your posters and streamers. Are they really intended to spread the spirit of Christmas in its meaningful sense or are they part of your publicity campaign for the next elections?
Correct me if I am wrong, but I have noticed some kind of pattern in the contents of your posters and streamers. They always carry your close-up pictures in which you are either smiling or grinning like a show-biz personality and your greetings and of course your name in big letters.
I have also observed that your pictures and names practically crowd out your messages. In fact, they give me the impression that your names and faces are the only things you want the people to see and read—not your greetings. If the purpose of your posters and streamers are to greet your constituents on special occasions, is it not logical that the greetings should be larger than your names?
Assuming you are sincere in wishing everyone will be happy during this Christmas season or on any other occasion, is it absolutely essential that they be reminded of how you look like and that the greetings come from you? The public just might wonder why their public servants are like show-biz personalities competing for exposure. Your posters even compete for attention with other billboards along the highways as if you are endorsing some products.
Do you really think that people will believe that you are serving them well with your greetings pasted on posters and streamers? It is quite obvious that their purpose is political. They are not much different from the campaign posters scatted all over the land when elections are approaching. In fact, when such greetings appear in profusion, I am reminded that the next elections are only a few months away.
Have you ever paused to consider if your posters and streamers benefit the majority of our people in any way? Most people I know think they are a waste of paper and ink and money. What our people need are projects that help lift them out of poverty or improve their standard of living.
I do not mean to tell you how to spend your own money, but something tells me you are not using your money to put up all those posters and streamers. And considering how much your colorful posters and streamers must have cost, I can think of more than a dozen ways it could be better spent, like buying food and other basic necessities and distributing them to our less fortunate countrymen as gifts for Christmas. I know that most of you already have programs to distribute relief goods to some depressed areas in your towns or districts. But you could have reached more people if you had used the money for your posters and streamers to buy more essential items for your constituents.
I have also noticed that when you distribute goods to the poor, you don't forget to put your smiling pictures and your names on the plastic bags. Can you not give away anything without forcing others to know it came from you and therefore they should be grateful to you? Can you not give anymore without expecting something in return? Jesus gave his life to save sinners, but He never asked anyone to put up a sign saying, "I saved this soul—Jesus Christ." Can you no longer give for the sake of giving? I know that there is no such thing as a free lunch, but can you not make an exception of this holy season?
My dear public servants, please pardon my naivete or lack of understanding of "political realities." I just thought you might need something to reflect upon during the holidays. May the true spirit of Christmas be with you all!
Heherson U. Butac, 20, is a fourth year accounting student at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines.
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