I was more than a bit surprised at the spate of comments sent to this blog concerning the person, reputation and even the supposed airplane antics of the Hon. Philip Pichay, the incumbent congressional representative for the first district of Surigao del Sur (which includes the town of Lianga). Pichay happens, at present, to be gunning for re-election to a second term in the coming May 2010 general elections.
The truth of the matter is I do not know Rep. Pichay personally. Few of his constituents really do. What I am aware of is the public face of the man, the persona he has presented to his constituency in the three years he has served as our man in Congress. Even then it is a face that is enigmatic as it is confusing.
It is perhaps to his eternal misfortune that Philip must always be seen by the people here in contrast to his brother, Prospero "Butch" Pichay, the erstwhile 2007 senatorial candidate and Malacañang confidant who is currently chairman of the Local Water Utilities Administration before serving three terms in the same position Philip is presently occupying. Butch Pichay's shadow in both local and national politics continues to loom large and much of Philip's PR problems has to do with having to live up to the expectations of many of his constituents who see him as his brother's alter ego and not his own man.
Those who know him and have worked with him say that Philip is more the gruff, hard-nosed and work driven businessman than the folksy, backslapping and socially adroit politician that his brother is. They say he is results oriented, works hard at what he does and has little appetite for the PR side of politics. As a consequence, they say, he is perceived to be cold and inaccessible by the many of the local folks who are not comfortable with public personalities not deemed, in the local parlance, "politico" enough.
He is also saddled with much of the ill-will generated by his brother's meteoric rise to power and political influence. Many of those who have clashed unwisely with his more prominent sibling in the past and have come away battered and bruised often see him as a vulnerable and convenient target for their frustrations and, in many ways, he has received more than his share of negative publicity. Determining which he truly deserves and which he does not is however a contentious matter best left to the electorate to decide upon.
At best, one can say that Philip Pichay has tried to carry his brother's torch the best way he can and if many here feel at this point that he has not done well with that rather difficult task then they are entitled to that opinion in the same manner that there are also others who hold opposing views on the matter. This is a democracy after all and public officials like him are (rightly so) subject to the scrutiny and judgement of the public on all matters related to their public and private lives. Such is the price and burden of political power and public office.
I prefer to judge public officials by their accomplishments in office, the political ideology they have consistently espoused throughout their political career and the example they have set in their lives. Philip Pichay like the many others whose names will appear on my ballot on May 10 will be judged squarely on those merits.
In Philip's case, however, whether he likes it or not and because of the peculiar situation he is in and who he is, he will also have to continue to stand by and bank his political future on his brother's reputation and record of public service. That may be in one sense unfair but he did choose freely to hitch his political career to that of his brother in 2007 and continues to be seen as his man.
That means that as far as the electorate here is concerned, until he steps out from his brother's shadow and be seen for what he really is and what he can do on his own merits, he will have to continue to answer and pay for the sins of his brother, real or imagined they may be.