Seeking Change: Will the May 2010 Elections Deliver?

Applying the criteria to the presidentiables, Madrigal appears to have the most progressive position overall. She articulates a nationalist economic and political agenda aside from having a record in the Senate of taking progressive stands on key legislation. Aside from these she also has a record of taking up advocacies of people’s organizations. Despite these– or some might say because of these– her candidacy appears unable to gain traction which precludes her platform being leveraged through the presidency. None of the other lagging candidates coming from already holding political office or even civil society have been able to formulate a similarly coherent alternative agenda.

The profile and nature of the leading candidates if anything affirm how Philippine elections remain fundamentally elite- and money-driven. The unfortunate implication is that the corresponding front-runners whose agenda are much less progressive (or even retrogressive) are the only ones who have the political influence to pursue these. Pushing for consequential reforms will then demand an even greater effort from organized grassroots forces to seize what democratic space and opportunities exist or can be created.

Aquino’s appeal appears to stem from being portrayed as anti-corruption and a reluctant candidate–which establish his credentials as a non-ambitious and non-traditional politician– and from being depicted as heir to his parents’ democratic legacies. Glaring however is the absence of a broader and cohesive political, economic and social reform agenda. Aquino is also compromised by his personal stake in retarded land reform, through Hacienda Luisita and whatever other landholdings their family has, and a deferential attitude to US intervention in and influence over the country.

Villar meanwhile plays up his supposed personal odyssey from poverty to riches as something that the country’s poor can similarly undertake. He does not have a particularly progressive legislative record although it is positive that he has spelled out an economic and political agenda with relatively progressive elements. Even if this agenda is only of recent vintage and mainly prompted by the electoral alliance forged with the country’s mainstream Left political parties, it could indicate an openness to building consensus with non-traditional and alternative political groups. However his candidacy appears to be hurting from allegations of corruption in the C-5 highway extension as well as accusations of being the unpopular Pres. Arroyo’s preferred candidate.

The Estrada candidacy stands out not just for being a presidential re-election bid but also in bearing the outcomes of the previous presidency– beyond any formally articulated agenda his stand is defined by an outright plunder conviction (albeit later pardoned), and the economic disarray and political disorder under his administration. Teodoro was ever only worth considering only as the official administration candidate and presumed main beneficiary of its formidable resources and machinery. To be sure, among all the candidates his position on political and economic issues is the most continuous with that of the Arroyo administration.

The People’s Choice: Advancing democracy

The May 2010 elections reflect the state of Philippine democracy which evidently remains a work in progress. Among the implications of the country’s retarded democracy is that the likely winner may not yet fully represent the people’s interest– he or she will come from the ranks of the country’s elite oligarchy and will be most strongly influenced by the sorts of anti-people and anti-democratic influences that have long kept the majority poor, exploited and marginalized.

The coming elections cannot in themselves yet bring about the real change that people seek. What is more realistic is to view the May 2010 elections as a way to contribute to creating the conditions for that real change to take place.

Share This Post