From gutter to genuine grassroots politics

By Herman M. Lagon

THE UPCOMING Barangay elections beckons at a pivotal juncture in Philippine democracy. While often overshadowed by the glamour of national politics, barangay elections are the heart and soul of the nation’s democratic fabric. They set the stage for the future direction of local communities and should not be dismissed as mere stepping stones in political careers.

Yet, the scepter of traditional politics casts a looming shadow. Politics, at its core, aims to maintain the status quo. In many barangay elections, power structures and societal norms remain unchallenged, giving rise to a culture of patronage. Politicians bestow favors, positions, and benefits upon their supporters, not as a genuine act of goodwill but rather in exchange for unwavering loyalty. This intertwining of personal interests with public duty is a breeding ground for dynastic politics, where power is restricted to an elite few, passed down through generations as though it is a family heirloom.

Furthermore, intense partisanship often trumps evidence-based decision-making, making it a game of allegiance rather than rationality. While traditional politics does hold a certain reverence for established institutions and processes, it sometimes becomes a crutch, hindering progressive change and innovation.

But traditional politics (trapo) is not the only challenge. Gutter politics, with its mudslinging and scandal-driven narratives, further muddies the water. Populist sentiments prey on emotions, sidestepping logical policy decisions. Covert dog whistle politics sends coded messages to select groups, sowing seeds of division and bias. Rather than focusing on genuine issues and policy discussions, the spotlight often falls on manufactured scandals, casting doubt and fostering an environment of fear and division.

Given these challenges, it is not surprising that public faith in barangay elections has waned. There is a growing sentiment that these elections mirror the dirt and grime of national politics. However, amidst this bleak backdrop, a glimmer of hope remains. Citizens, equipped with the power of their votes, can set their communities on a path of progress. Electing the right leaders means prioritizing competence, integrity, and genuine public service over shallow allegiances.

True public service goes beyond personal gains and seeks the greater good. Hence, it is crucial to look beyond traditional and gutter politics, seeking leaders who embody genuine service and selflessness.

Filipinos must be discerning in the upcoming barangay elections, basing decisions on qualifications and track records rather than fleeting popularity, affiliation, money, leverage, or empty promises. After all, the barangay is a reflection of the nation. A progressive barangay can pave the way for a brighter Philippines, but it starts with an informed, engaged, discerning, and “woke” electorate.

To all voters in the forthcoming elections: let us rise above the trappings of traditional politics and seek a brighter future for our barangays, communities, and nation. Let us vote for progress, integrity, and genuine public service. The future of our local communities and the country hangs in the balance.


Doc H fondly describes himself as a ‘student of and for life’ who, like many others, aspires to a life-giving and why-driven world that is grounded in social justice and the pursuit of happiness. His views herewith do not necessarily reflect those of the institutions he is employed or connected with.