The Plight of Philippine Politics

by Arnold De Villa

June 25, 2010

Less than a week remains before the inauguration of a new Philippine President transpires. Speculations abound in different spheres of electronic information. Blogs, list serves, e-zines, twitter and Facebook all converge in different voices with various hues of factual data, peppered with unfounded gossip.

On one side are those who crave for a clean slate, demanding the heads of rotten leaders, those who grafted like weeds through corrupt currency. On the other side are those who believe that new economic policies should be installed in order to attract foreign investors, hopefully to alleviate the miserable conditions of poverty. Meanwhile, across different oceans are overseas Filipino workers with rosaries on one hand, a cell phone in another, counting their blessings as they send their earnings transformed into remittances on their way to Philippine consumption.

A new page of Philippine Politics is imminent as Philippine history enters another phase. Despite the biased, erroneous or factual speculation regarding the new wave of politicians, it appears that an index of hope is quite visible from a huge blanket of cynicism and incertitude. Nonetheless, just like the old days, the burden of proof is cast unto the victors with sour grape losers on the side preparing themselves for a senseless battle. The opulent few will do everything to maintain a status quo. The grass roots poor will remind whom they voted for before they demand a portion of the “pork barrel”. And the middle class will fade in between as struggling advocates of the needy, sycophants of the wealthy or immigrant workers to help sustain the poor back home.

Suddenly, out of synch and out of nowhere, a message pops out from the corner of my computer monitor debating whether patriotism or nationalism should take precedence in the new realm of Philippine politics. In silence, I responded that while “patriotism refers to the love of country; nationalism is the love for one’s own people”. One is not detached from the other. The verbal debacle before my eyes zoomed with insults cast like a tennis ball. It was like an ancient scholastic debate on how many angels could fit the hole of a needle, ludicrous at its best and ridiculous at its least. Sad to say, it somewhat illustrates the plight of Philippine politics, an atmosphere wherein the popularity of a personality will first attract attention before crimes committed and felonies condoned will appear. Then, when all folly is said and done, it becomes a free and unholy simulation of Good Friday. Someone gets hurt. And when in doubt, ask the dead. Many of their corpses have not even been found.

I find it hard to accede to a Psychological theory that most Filipinos are predisposed towards intense bouts of anger ending in violent behavior. “Huramentado” is a term found in Psychology textbooks describing the irrational burst of ire attributed to the Malay race. Reflecting on the bloody side of Philippine politics, it sheds light on the many senseless lives lost because of anger: anger from the politician who cannot bear the criticisms of journalists armed with facts and evidence, anger from the rural poor whose land has been usurped by corporate bullies, and anger from the man whose friend challenged his manhood. They are all dead and their death reflects another angle of Philippine Politics.

We kill ourselves: not only with guns, and knives, but also with words and other acts that degrade humanity. The pity plight of Philippine politics is seen through the insistence of the press to dig crimes of the past. And the pity plight of the press is because of readers who delight in the sadistic exposition of character assassination. Lastly, the pity plight of the reader is because of the environment that condones the misery of the ignorant and the arrogance of the self proclaimed elite.

As you can see, I am trying to highlight pessimism as a creative strategy to move my readers. And as I can see, I don’t think it will work. I can only feel the ire while I etch those phrases, an ire that does not lead to anything constructive, an ire that can only lead to death. Death, the pending reality of a country we love so much, and the dire reality of the politics many of our politicians opted to do. There are many who chose life, but they seldom win for reasons hard to understand.

Many Filipinos outwardly proclaim disgust towards politics. They cannot be blamed. Many have terrible definitions and blatantly erroneous notions of politics. They will not be culpable either. Politics, per se, is neither bad nor good. It is merely a process by which groups of people will attempt to make a collective decision. As members of a larger society, we do it every day. In its more peculiar way, politics turns bad when the process to perform a collective decision is tilted towards the anarchy of an ignorant majority or the tyranny of a powerful minority. When fairness and justice is stripped from a collective process, politics is deformed. Unfortunately, in many nooks and crannies of Philippine politics, such is the case.

Senators, for instance, do not directly represent a specific group of constituents in the Philippines. Yet it seems that they get the larger portions of the pork barrel. House Representatives, on the other hand, directly represent specific constituents of geographical districts, but that they have nothing until they “play politics”. When it comes to economy, the disparity created by the lack of checks and balances pave ways for a systemic structure of financial corruption. Nothing new.

At the end of day, after we get tired of debating on-line on who is who and who did what, the final and only question that truly counts is what we can do and what we are willing to do. It is not easy to be patriotic towards a country where the sense of nationalism is not as strong as it has to be. Without that nationalist sentiment, it is easy for people to retire back home without an iota of care. Hence, since many of them only look after building a comfortable house (oftentimes in the middle of nowhere), and having a comfortable life style, many of them forget that the political system surrounding their neighborhood will have a direct impact on their lifestyle. How do they find out? Well, when they suffer from a mild stroke or anything similar, they wake up to a rude awakening that Philippine Politics has not yet cared for universal health care. Now, will many of our old folks still consider retiring back home?

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