The Presidency and the Social Movement

The people when organized have proven their transformative power that can be mobilized to cobble the building blocks of a new government. From their ranks a genuine, incorruptible, and mass-oriented leadership for the national government can arise.

Posted by Bulatlat

As the country reels from the impact of the global financial crisis, eyes are set on the next presidential race in May 2010. Latest surveys show that nine out of 10 Filipinos are keen on the presidential elections and this has given rise to speculations that civilian unrest would ensue if the polls are derailed.

The present dynamics of the presidential race has been set by the pre-election campaign of several contenders as seen in their inclusion in popularity rating surveys and TV promotions since last year. As expected the surveys unveil a long list of aspirants from traditional politics (trapos), those identified with President Gloria M. Arroyo and those from the opposition vying for popularity. The early birds have also resorted to “billboard politics” putting up giant billboards strategically along the main avenues of the National Capital Region and in the provinces.

Having loathed the association of traditional politics with corruption and mediocre performance – painted so graphically in recent years under Arroyo – some groups particularly from the middle class, civic organizations, and youth are rooting for alternative candidates for president as well as for the Senate. For these slots, among the names being floated are the current chief justice of the Supreme Court, Reynato Puno, and a number of governors and mayors claimed to be independent and whose election into office had the backing of grassroots communities.

It is a positive development to see a whiff of fresh wind in the country’s electoral politics long dominated by traditional oligarchs, fraud, and corruption. More important, however, is that the search for alternative candidates should have substance other than form. How “alternative” are these candidates and what kind of reform do they represent? How about their winnability in an electoral process where the results are decided chiefly by money and fraud?

At the moment, yet to be seen with clarity and consistency is the claimed alternative contenders’ positioning on various issues that matter most to the masses. So far, aside from being depicted as models of “good governance” nothing is heard from these national aspirants on the issues of land reform, poverty, the neo-liberal globalization-driven financial crisis, human rights, peace talks, and so on.

The presidential office

The office of the presidency has always been tied with the oligarchy – the system of family dynasties that is at the helm of national and local power since election was institutionalized by U.S. colonialism. From the beginning of the current republic, the presidency has been filled by representatives of the Filipino elite and its vast central powers and state resources were used for self-perpetuation. Naturally, the country’s poor economic performance, corruption, breakdown of the rule of law, divisiveness and civil strife, and other problems have been blamed on the presidency. This is not to insulate, however, the bureaucrats in the state machinery, Congress, and even the judiciary from being held accountable to their own misdeeds.

After two civilian-led uprisings that toppled two discredited presidents in 1986 and 2001 the presidency has remained not only as the key dispenser and beneficiary of corruption but also as the roadblock to the popular aspirations for economic emancipation, peace, and justice. In recent years, the occupant’s vast powers and resources have been used for the abuse of authority, turning Congress into a rubber stamp to ensure presidential survival, and commit widespread human rights violations even as the people writhed with poverty, unemployment, and a future highly dependent on OFW remittances. Held for ages by the ruling oligarchs whose interests do not extend to the masses, the presidency has offered no clear visions to address the country’s fundamental problems and this is why it is increasingly isolated from the constituency whom it is supposed to serve.

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