THERE will always be under-educated but over-ambitious politicos who insist on inflicting themselves on society. Woe unto society if such a man gets lucky or succeeds in buying his way to power, because his mindset will dictate how he governs.


If he grew up spoiled or self-indulgent, or irresponsible and a school drop-out, he may think it normal to be spoiled, self-indulgent, or a drop-out from polite society. He won’t find fault with nepotism or graft and corruption, and will tolerate gambling, vice, or prostitution in the neighborhoods. He’ll think that’s just how people are! 

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Such an official may live in a nice home, but see nothing wrong with dilapidated shanties and filthy slums in his jurisdiction. It won’t disturb him if the market he builds looks and smells like a pigsty, or if the public cemetery under his charge is so trashy that it insults the living and dishonors the dead. He may fence off his private compound to ward off intruders, but he’ll let squatters trespass on forbidden land and do their worst.  

Flush with power, he’ll cruise around in a tinted vehicle, filled with self-importance, but he’ll give no importance to solving the problem of beggars, rugby-sniffing street-children, or prostitutes. He’ll just feign pity or compassion for them. And if pushed to solve the problems they cause, he’ll move to legalize them!  

Can’t prevent prostitutes from plying their trade? Give them a license! Can’t control persistent beggars or street urchins? Leave them alone! Can’t contain criminality or gangsters like Batang Mindanao? Let vigilantes salvage them! 

In fact, few or none of these problems would crop up if he knows how to mobilize the community to expand its economy so it will provide useful, dignified occupations for everyone. But this notion won’t occur to such a leader.

A certain callousness afflicts his character, an esthetic deficiency in his vision, a conceited view of his mission.  

This is true of a leader who grows up thinking that what’s good enough for him is good enough for everyone. Egotism is a product of early conditioning, of growing up spoiled and recalcitrant, of the habit of self-indulgence, like skipping school, of gambling and smoking with impunity. To him, it’s been like that ever since he can remember, ever since he got away with wanton habits. So it all seems normal to him. 

Such a leader won’t see how wrongful attitudes and values trash community life, not if he didn’t stay in school to learn civics, social studies, philosophy, or religion. He won’t know, for instance, that to tolerate squatting threatens the community û with fire from illegal wire-taps, with disease from absence of sanitation, or with budget deficits for overloading social services. His leadership won’t improve quality of life. He has nothing to teach a barangay or a city. But he will insist on taking charge anyway. Sad, no? 

(Manny is a former UNESCO executive and director at the Development Academy of the Philippines.  Email: