The following essay – in English or Pilipino – express the Filipino youth’s hopes for the 2010 elections where all of the writers are first-time voters. The essays strip bare the oligarchic character of the Philippines which is only democratic in form but not in substance.
CAUTON, Maricor Anne DG. Social Science 120
2006-31542 Prof. Roland Simbulan
THE PHILIPPINE OLIGARCHY AND THE 2010 ELECTION
DEMOCRACY VS OLIGARCHY
Democracy sounds very idealistic. People vote for leaders who will represent their needs and address such, with great consideration to the welfare of the general public, specially the population over which he exercises his powers. The classic model of this democratic government is a configuration of levels from the national administration diffusing downward, as it extends to the local command which is subservient to the latter.
Government sectors are established to share the power so that every aspect of public service maintains balance and is given enough attention. The structure also hampers the reign of an individual or group, holding back selfish decisions that they might make for the people. A system where majority rules, where there is freedom of political appearance, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom to oppose anything.
On the other hand, Oligarchy, the rule of the few, is a system led by the minority of whom are richer and more powerful than the others known and called as the elites, aristocrats or the nobles. This group of people in charge may be elected, and sometimes they are born into their position, and at other times you might have to have a certain amount of assets in order to be in the council. This small group of individuals waves a hefty portion of power and run the lives of the majority.
PHILIPPINE POLITICAL SYSTEM IN SUBSTANCE
Philippine politics revolve around Representative Democracy involving people’s selection of government officials. The most common mechanism involves election of the candidate with a majority or a plurality of the votes. People vote for leaders who will represent their needs and address such with great consideration to the welfare of the general public, This reverberates appealingly to the Filipino people who are blinded by deep passion for freedom and justice for every one. Majority rules. There is freedom of political appearance. Freedom of speech. Freedom of the press. Freedom to oppose anything. But a restless and intellectual debate in the country escorted by public screams claims that there is no freedom at all.
It’s been open long before that political power in the country, despite the fact of it being democratic, moves lateral on the upper level of the society. Democratic countries could not possibly have the complete line up of the best qualified people in town for a position in the public office. What is sad about it is that the candidate that wins often lives in an almost perfect façade to defraud people.
I stick to the fact that we wouldn’t be seeing sheer public servant in the office. Most of the officials elected landed into power through either wealth and/or material force or range of violence. The power elite in other words. This fashion continues to this day not only in the Philippines but in any “democratic” country.
Masked dictators also thrive all over the globe. Power belongs to the tyrants and despotic rulers, to the lords and the most influential. And it is where almost all the present leaders came from. Belonging to this group are those who relied strongly on connections, wealth, violence and coercion and are known as the traditional politicians or trapo. According to Alfred McCoy in his book entitled, The Anarchy of Families, he argued that local elections are won via family coalitions (nepotism and chronyism), prestige, warlordism and enormous economic wealth. Positions under provincial level are wielded by popular and rich families in each town. National level on the other hand is under the strict dominion of the most prominent families from each region. One thing to note is that prominence does not mean all money. Same as that of power, it is not to be mistaken as solely wealth for it comes into different denominations such as numbers of followers, image and influence.
The main distinction of “democracy” lies in that voting takes place in a democratic system. Voting is not a result of any action other than a desire for change, rather it is an action to cause a result. The purpose of voting is to preserve the dominant political system which the proponents strongly believe is the best type of system for the country.
What is so disgusting about this is the collaboration of this powerful people to maintain and preserve their political power. It is really sad to note that even though a good number of the population put too much faith on their votes as what others who understand the very essence of being libertarian do, striving for radical change to reduce the overflowing state powers and eradicate abusive leaders. Leaders whose concern is more of self interest and strong hold of the position rather than the general welfare of the people which hampers genuine public service is still voiceless and powerless. We also have to consider that an act of refusal of these small people to the power wielders is the main reason why the proliferation of coercion and violence is very visible during elections.
It is also important to emphasize that there is no such thing as “people power fatigue”. The mere fact that cooptation needs coercive forces is a clear manifestation of our people’s call for radical and genuine change in our country’s putrid system.
Election fraud as well as vote shaving and pudding are very discernible in previous elections around the archipelago. A vote would cost too little compared to what is at stake if it is sold. In the greater portion in Mindanao distributing five kilogram of rice and Php 500 only will it take to gain a vote. Unusual electrical failure during the tallying of votes would most likely occur to ensure a position. Most voters complained of difficulty in finding their names in voters’ lists. Flying voters are flocked at precinct start the first day of voting which were reportedly taken from various resettlement sites. As reported by the press, there are frequency of brawls and ballot snatching, non-posting of the Computerized Voter Lists (CVL); no indelible ink being applied to voters forefinger; some voters could not vote as their names were already filled-up, a clear case of disenfranchisement; some ballot boxes were not padlocked; general disorder inside some polling precincts; non-secrecy of voting on a widespread basis and BEIs filling up and casting multiple ballots. This is our election in the Philippines and they say it is the democratic way to choose our leaders. Come to think of it. It is not the case. Not the case for the Philippines I think. Not to mention the fact that those who runs for the political positions are members of the elite class and therefore, expectedly, will never favor the interest of the toiling masses.
Aside from these problems, the weak political parties in the Philippines also tell us how weak this political system is. For a long time the reigning two political parties, the Nacionalista Party (NP) and Liberal Party (LP) are without any ideological difference. Both serve as the machinery and vehicle for higher support during elections. Also, it is very important to stress that these political parties represent certain kind of interests, beliefs and ideology—Elite interests.
The population of the Philippines has tremendously increased for the past seven years. Buying of votes wouldn’t be enough to garner enough votes and take the lead, thus, the boom of coercion as an alternative as some old elite families now rely on force to protect their interests.
The higher the population, the smaller the resource allotted to each member. There is not enough housing and necessities to utilize. This results to stronger inclination to politicians that appeared too concerned about the welfare of the poor. Relationship between show off trapos and the needy is highlighted.
What we have at the moment is elite democracy practically the same as, with only the powerful and prominent people establishing and enforcing rules. Although many citizens of so-called democratic societies argue that they are living on a majority rule arena, in fact and reality they are not. Taking as a concrete sample a community as little as ours, and much more in large communities, despite utilization of the most sophisticated electoral process and technology, direct democracy does not really exist. The governing body faces bulks of decisions and pronouncement every day that go without the participation of the commoners.
THE 2010 ELECTION
This coming 2010 the land will again face the realities of selecting its next leaders. As early as now, even if the Omnibus Election Code restricts it, these politicians are evidently campaigning for the next election and worst many of them are using government funds to boost their popularity using the multi-media. Such instance is a lucid proof our weak “rule of law”.
People’s movement for X candidate is also evident nowadays. But I have always believed that movements are more than just a conglomeration of people. I also hold the view that so-called movements centered around a politician are not genuine movements. As I told my bestfriend, for me, these so-called movements are just campaign machinery like their ever confusing links to whatever political parties as their vehicle for convenience.
With all the movements sprouting everywhere, I think it’s about time that we all gain knowledge of how to distinguish the real movements from the rest. We should be especially concerned about this because, in our country, even the most idealistic movements inevitably end up being commandeered by politicians. “Epal” (mahilig pumapel) as my good friend would like to call it. There’s just no way we can stop politicians from embedding themselves in movements. “Epal” is in their nature. All of them.
It is also very interesting to recognize that aspiring politicians are now using the showbiz industry to favor them. Mar Roxas and his wedding, Kiko Pangilinan and the Mega Star, Noynoy Aquino and the death of former Pres. Aquino etc. Yesterday night, I watched the TV news and I’m very disappointed to watch the news about Erap’s “movement” in Tondo, Manila where he officially declares his candidacy for the 2010 election.
Sad to say, I also believe that the 2010 election is again an elite domination of power and prestige, especially now that our voting system is automated.
STRIKING THE ROOT
During the past years this corrupted system did not take too much toll on the country’s growth but with the kind of economic performance we have this time, a little pricking would cause a collapse. Continued power of the upper class hampers the true purpose of the central government to provide appropriate services to the public and support a non-corrupt politics.
The problem about the political system in the Philippine must not be targeted in short time through clamors and concerned people who are in the position must be dedicated to restless debates but must not stop there. It is only until we strike the root of this political imbalance that we terminate this rotten system. But viewing it, the problem is structural and institutionalized. The fundamental intent of democracy is upright but human nature makes the ultimate goal of the system perverted and dirty that the prevailing structure turns out to resemble what it was suppose to replace.
Philippines will not have a true democracy until there becomes stable lower and middle class, social mobility, informed opinions, and open access to the political process where individuals would earn a position, and not buy or inherit it. A genuine and progressive change is needed.
The date posted here is due to our website rebuild, it does not reflect the original date this article was posted. This article was originally posted in Yonip in 2010