Saturday, December 15, 2007


They are practically everywhere and can be as ubiquitous as the common cold during the rainy season.

Look for an on-going public infrastructure project or, even more so, a completed one, say a concrete road or public building, and for sure one is present. Check a newly acquired government vehicle, say for example a police patrol car, a hospital ambulance or firetruck, and you can cut off my head if you don't find one neatly stenciled on the vehicle's side panels.

The same also goes for mechanical, electrical or medical equipment of whatever kind and size. If it happens to be purchased in part or in full with public funds then you must have something like it prominently displayed somewhere on the unit itself.

What is it? Just signage, ranging from small, painted notices to huge billboard size posters complete with full color pictures and illustrations, proclaiming that such and such project or item has been built or acquired "through the efforts of......" or is "a priority project of....." President So-and-so, Governor So-and-so, Mayor So-and-so and so on and so forth. And beside the lettered proclamation, is often a full, colored portrait of the aforementioned official smiling benevolently at the world.

I am always at a loss to justify in my mind the need to spend the certainly not inconsequential sums of money on all this signs and notices. There is certainly no need or use for them.

It does not take an Einstein with a genius IQ to figure out that most if not all of these infrastructure works, vehicle or equipment acquisitions (including the signages too!) are funded with government taxes and revenues. No private money, in almost all instances, (most certainly not from the personal pockets of these public officials) is being spent.

So why is there this obsessive, compulsive and also costly need for elected officials to pat themselves on their backs for doing precisely what they have been elected to public office for? Which is to serve the public good and look after the welfare of all their constituents? Why the need for overstating the obvious?

The obvious truth is that this signages are prime examples of blatant political propaganda of the most tasteless yet insidious kind. What they seek is to indelibly imprint upon government projects and programs the individual political identities and personalities of political leaders and personalities.

These are then depicted as omnipotent and paternalistic father figures whose favor must be cultivated and courted because they can arbitrarily dispense public funds and initiate the much needed programs and projects their constituents so desperately need. Democratic institutions and processes, thus, become subordinated to the political machines and the personalities that run and dominate them.

What is then promoted is a corrupt political culture that not only tolerates political patronage (and the graft that results from it) but actually glorifies it or at the very least sugarcoats it so that it becomes palatable and acceptable to the electorate. The end result is a surrealistic situation where corrupt public officials enrich themselves in office while presenting (often effectively), by clever propaganda, a clean, solicitous and compassionate image to the public.

Stripped of propaganda value, however, these signages are, at best, narcissistic exercises in self-glorification serving no other purpose than only to inflate the egos of those whose faces and names they so prominently and so lavishly display. And at the expense of taxpayer too! How lucky can you get?

In many ways, these propaganda materials (for that is what they actually are) are symptomatic of the malaise that is deeply eating away at the foundations of the democracy we are supposed to be living under. So is the massive graft and corruption already deeply rooted in our political culture and the gradual yet relentless concentration of so much power and influence among the political and economic elite that has swept aside and rendered inutile and impotent the doctrine of public accountability among public officials.

In Lianga when I see billboards like the ones pictured here, I am instantly reminded of William Shakespeare and the Bard of Avon's succinct comments on those who brag too much about what they may have done or claimed to have done. He wrote, " We wound our modesty, and make foul the clearness of our deservings, when of ourselves we publish them."

Or better yet and on a more earthy and vulgar note, he also wrote, "It will come to pass that every braggart shall be found an ass." Now that is an eventuality I would very much like to come to pass.

The sooner the better.


  1. Well said Benjie, no futher comment is necessary. Good Going!!!

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