What's in a name?

If there’s one good example President Noynoy Aquino has set for other government officials, it is his preference not to name any government program after his name.  This, of course, is very much contrary to how other politicos have been behaving for decades.  In  a country plagued with political patronage, having one’s names plastered all over a town, city , or province is a necessity to ensure that one’s projects are remembered — especially when it’s election season.  After all, it is common belief that a politico would easily win the next election if citizens are constantly reminded of his projects.  Perhaps this works for some.  But for a greater majority, the practice is just an annoyance and a waste of government resources.

For P-Noy, he says he simply does not want to be showered with attention.  The truth is, whether it was intentional or otherwise, he is practicing delicadeza.

We have seen in many places how politicos have stamped their names on anything they could get their hands on.  And in the process, we have seen how they’ve turned their respective territories into places of complete tackiness.

In Pasig, you would see the distasteful lampposts with the big “E” at the foot of each post.  Back in Lito Atienza’s time, lampposts and street signs in Manila would have the city’s name spelled as MayniLA to emphasize his initials.

Mayors have painted and repainted walls and overpasses to reflect their campaign color. During election season this year, MMDA overpasses painted green from blue and pink so that the administration could campaign for Gilbert Teodoro. What a waste of government resources.

There had been tarps, flags, and trimmings that had FT, Forward Taguig, or Freddie Tinga.  Also SB, Serbisyong Bayan, or Sonny Belmonte. Jesli Lapus had built a typhoon-proof school in Bicol, which was named after him.

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has had several projects using her initials — many of which did not deliver in the long run and were even a cause for embarrassment.

I know of a politico who claims to have an environmental agenda and does a lot of tree planting.  An environmental group approached the politico to ask for support for their project and asked for seedlings.  Much to the shock of the environmental group, the politico said that aid from the office will only support the placing of signs to remind Filipinos to plant trees.  Of course, these signs  had politico’s name.  And these signs which were much more expensive than seedlings!  So never mind, thought the environmental group.  Natalo tuloy siya!

The funniest I have heard is how a politico, this time out of loyalty to his alma mater, insisted than an eagle be placed in the city seal, when cityhood was attained.  And how much did the previous government spend to congratulate itself for its achievements?  Of course, this is another story all together.

There are many more stories out there.  And I bet, just go to any municipality or city and you will see a project named after a politico.

We can even include roads and highways that politicos name after themselves or after their ancestors.  And the sad thing, these ancestors even didn’t do anything to be recognized.  Or worse, they were even notorious.  Oh, and how many unfinished and poorly-built streets, highways and schools were named after the father or grandfather of politico?  Just go south of Luzon and you’re bound to spend hours traveling on an unfinished, substandard highway of embarrassment.

The truth is, the Department of Public Works and Highways prohibits such practice.  But then again, not all projects involve the DPWH.  And politicians are able to circumvent the law by filing bills that make naming and renaming of roads legal.  In fact, if you have the chance to look at the bills being filed in congress, you’d see a lot of these non-substantial local bills.

At the House of Representatives, Bayan Muna had filed a bill in the past that would prohibit the naming of projects after politicos.  Unfortunately, this was not passed — and it was even ignored by the House leadership then.  I personally remember trying to get a reaction on the bill from one of the House’s leaders, who only laughed at the bill.  Now, Senator Francis Escudero has filed a similar bill.  Let’s see where this bill will go.

What’s in a name?  By plastering one’s name over the city, a politician acts as if his family or dynasty owns the place.  A politico is insulting the intelligence of voters by thinking that he could be reelected on the basis of name recall.  And yes, he is wasting taxpayers’ money too because all of these are an extra expense.

With the President’s pronouncements — and we trust that he will be consistent with this —  he is setting the right tone for officials to follow.  A lot of difference is made, really, when the change comes from the top. And thank goodness! Can you imagine the Philippines painted in yellow if P-Noy decides to do otherwise?

The more pressing question now is, can we expect everyone to follow the President’s example?

When you think about it, politicos really don’t need to stamp their names on all their projects because if it’s a good project, people will remember them.  Take the case of President Marcos.  Yes, he left a legacy of dictatorship, corruption, and human rights abuses.  But even the young today know that it was his administration that built many of the structures, which we still use up to this day.  Now, how’s that for recall?

In the end, it goes back to us voters.  The challenge, of course, is to know what the projects are in our city or town and see if they do make a difference.  The challenge lies in 2013 and beyond to vote on the basis of real performance and not billboards.  And this would be another good way to clean up our political system.

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