Still a Democracy for the Few

Letter to the Editor
16 June 2010

It has been a historical fact that in the country, appointments made by the president is a form of paying political debts, more than a recognition of a person’s capacity to serve the people in a field. We wonder why the PDI editorial “Noynoy’s choices” (06/10/2010) thinks otherwise – that appointments made by Noynoy Aquino are based purely on certain qualifications.

We do not see anything wrong in militant fisherfolk group Pamalakaya’s statement criticizing Aquino for trying to appoint a high official of the Makati Business Club to his cabinet. The MBC honcho’s support for Noynoy in the latter’s presidential campaign is not enough qualification for him to serve as a cabinet official. It is also not an “economically deterministic view” to say that businessmen in government, by and large, have advanced their interests more than those of the Filipino workers and people.

In the dominant view of how democracy should operate, the winning candidate should indeed “be given the space to implement his platform.” This is compatible with the thinking that citizens can rest after casting their ballots in the elections. We do not subscribe to this view. We are in an elite democracy, not a people’s democracy – and Aquino’s election to the presidency does not change that.

Given the long-standing character of Philippine politics and government, we believe that it is our duty – as workers, as concerned citizens – to speak out and criticize actions undertaken even by government officials, even by popularly-elected ones. Governance is just too important to be left to politicians alone. Again we say: the economic and political elite of the country – from which, after all, Aquino hails – have advanced their interests more than those of the Filipino workers and people.

What is worse, the editorial went overboard in implying that Pamalakaya, as well as other groups that did not support Aquino, have no right to “dictate how Aquino should form his government to meet his mandate.” Pamalakaya issued a criticism, not a dictate. After all, how can fisherfolks dictate on Aquino when the new president has for the longest time ignored demands by Pamalakaya and other marginalized groups and has instead spent so much time hearing advice from the US government?

Unfortunately, the editorial treats fisherfolks, workers and other poor sectors in the same way that Aquino treats us. It justifies the reduction of democracy into the privilege of speech available only to those who supported the victor.

Elmer “Bong” Labog
Kilusang Mayo Uno

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