Tell it to SunStar: Political freedom, not patronage

Tell it to SunStar.
Tell it to SunStar.SunStar file photo

By Lancelot Denorte

Patron-client relationships have long been ingrained within the Cebuano social culture, perhaps among Filipinos in general. It may come as simply bargaining for a discount or a free service from our business-owning confidants in exchange for a free endorsement.

With that being said, I am no saint in this matter and am equally guilty of this as any of my other fellow Cebuanos. While it may seem like a harmless social practice, it is evident that the political arena of the vibrant city of Cebu was not left out of this indelible culture.

In essence, patronage politics thrives on relationships between patrons or, simply put, politicians, intending to claim a seat in a government office and us, the voters, known in this system as the clients. In this symbiotic system, our support is bought by the politicians’ promise of favors and future opportunities in a narrative along the lines of “You will do this for me, and I will do that for you when I get there.”

While this may seem like a win-win situation, it is actually a flimsy structure that, at times, in all honesty, does serve its purpose but merely provides short-term gains and is exclusive only to a handful of people.

While this may now be a sociopolitical norm, I, for one, genuinely believe that this system creates an illusion of representation and that our patrons serve our best interests, but it merely perpetuates a culture of dependency on an insecure foundation, likened to a house built on sand.

This dilemma only raises the question, were we truly remembered by those we put on the government’s pedestal? Did our lives get any better when our chosen politician took office?

It’s quite amusing how we demand profound change, yet we actively trade our political rights for promises and temporary benefits, while overlooking those who actually deserve the post.

A vote may seem like a small price to pay but to them, it is one worth “buying” for — no pun intended.

Ultimately, our fight against political patronage is a fight for our political freedom. Only by breaking free from the culture of patronage can societies realize the true promise of democracy: a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.


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