OUR communities don't realize how besieged they are from all directions by modern-day charlatans, barbarians, and despoilers of our common wealth. Better known as traditional politicos, or trapos, the assailants wield the power of patronage and the pork barrel.

Handing out some of the money, but keeping a portion for themselves, trapos hold the masses under their spell by keeping them in a state of dependency. In turn, the masses acknowledge the "utang kabubut-on" (debt of gratitude) and let the trapos manipulate them. Thus backed by them, trapos can legitimize the illegitimate, railroad legislation, ignore complaints, or rig elections. They can ignore the taxpayers and marginalize them.

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This is most true in a locality like Cagayan de Oro, where squatters predominate. People that vote but do not pay taxes get all the attention. People that do pay are voiceless and marginalized; even if they speak out, they are easily drowned out. Voiceless and unrepresented, they're helpless.

Disorganized and lacking political will, they're manipulated. Divided by selfish interests, they're fair game to organized syndicates. That's why big-budget projects like markets, bridges, and highways get built without due process or consultation. When government is privatized, decision-making personalized, cronies get the contracts.

Remember events before the May elections? Hardly a week came without a political gimmick in progress - medical mission here, feeding program there, mass wedding elsewhere. Most everywhere, health cards were given, plus services for everyone: haircut or circumcision for the boys, outdoor salon and manicure for the girls! What else?

The abuse has become so rampant and shameless that even pigs are roasted, cakes are baked, and priests and churches are contracted to snare unwed couples into mass weddings. No one realizes how this hypocritical gimmick yields the trapos a bumper crop of grateful "ina-anaks" that become their supporters and campaigners on Election Day.

The truth is, the art of the dole is now a thriving industry. Every bit of public work or social service is calculated to be redeemable in terms of votes and voter support. How does a community end the sleaze, the corruption, and the shamelessness?