COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
In the newly launched book Oligarchic Politics published by the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG), there is a good political analysis of the power structures in Philippine society today by Temario Rivera. More objective and stripped of slogans inherent in political propaganda, the analysis dissects the different forces that have been in operation after the 1986 Edsa Revolt, their influences and efforts made in building a working democracy for the Filipinos.
An astute political scientist, Rivera’s presentation is very informative and enlightening. Actually, he’s discussing here about “electoral representation and accountability” but in so doing, lays out a situationer of our present set-up that gives a clearer and deeper view of the social dynamics working in our midst.
Rivera, like the other authors in this book maintains that we are ruled by the oligarchy, the traditional economic and social elite that have taken state power through the national and local elections. Their representatives dominate in the house of Congress and most of the major elective posts in the cities and provinces. Unwittingly, we help put these people in their positions by being bought, cheated, and apathetic.
The only intransigent force that challenges this combined economic and political power of the oligarchy is the communist insurgency and Muslim movement which also complicates the matter. For in fighting the insurgents and protecting their interests, the members of the oligarchy employ military and police power thereby exacerbating an already tense and precarious atmosphere for the civilian populace. And, with the influence of the US government’s war on terror etc, they are not only running after the armed rebels but also after the unarmed civilians identified with the militant social movements.
However, new forces are emerging that neutralizes these two extreme forces and broadens democracy. There are the millions of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) with their remittance who are now allowed to vote under the Absentee Voting Law. There is the civil society sector comprising the people’s organizations (POs) and non-government organizations (NGOs) that surveys estimate to have reached over 200,000 organizations in the country, which spells a per capita distribution of over four hundred persons for each organization. Civil society represents varied interest groups and their organizations “engage in development and advocacy work,” “monitor government performance,” and simply help people help themselves.
Then there is the central bureaucratic agencies that is considered weak; still being under the domination of the political oligarchy and plagued with corruption and inefficiency, and still less capable of addressing to the clamors of the various interest groups. Yet I see this as the force that somehow keeps the country afloat. So, it is the challenge for government workers and professionals to clean their ranks, institutionalize internal control, improve and modernize, for a more responsive and efficient service.
Still, things have to be institutionalized. The Party List Law is a step towards broadening democracy with the representation of the marginalized and underrepresented sectors in Congress. But the law has to be amended to increase the number of party list seats for a wider and more effective representation. On the other hand, the Local Government Code has been a giant step towards greater participation of the people in actual governance. And along with the Absentee Voting Law, Rivera asserts that these three developments can pave the way for building political parties for a “truly representative and accountable democratic system.”