Politics, Philippine style


Local and congressional elections are just around the corner. The ruling coalition dubbed as Team Pnoy is aiming to win it big by bagging the clear majority, nay dominance, in the senatorial, lower house, and local elections. By the looks of it, by the sheer number of candidates contending political parties are able to field, it appears that the ruling coalition will achieve just that: dominance.

An inquirer.net article ‘Outgunned,’ but UNA sure of Binay win in 2016 polls by Christian V. Esguerra revealed that the Liberal Party (LP) has 158 candidates for Lower House representatives while the UNA has only 58; the LP has 196 candidates for city mayor and vice mayor positions while UNA has 66; the LP has 470 candidates for municipal mayor and vice mayor positions while UNA has 166.

However, former president Joseph Estrada appears unfazed. He was quoted by the inquirer article as saying:

“I spoke with a number of local officials and they told me they were staying put with the administration only because P-Noy is still the President,” he said. “But come 2016, they said they would go for Binay,” he added referring to Vice President Jejomar Binay, who is expected to be UNA’s standard bearer in the 2016 presidential elections.

This says a lot about Philippine politics: party loyalties shift as fast as you could say “I won.” And having dominance and the majority position change overnight. Look at Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. She used her party’s dominance to fend off all attempts to depose her. But now her party does not even figure significantly in the upcoming elections.

Yes, everybody loves a winner, especially if that winner would have the power to release or withhold pork barrel funds, and decide whose pet project gets approved and funded first. Sad to say, but still, even under the current Aquino government that promised change, the power of the purse is being used to make officials, senators, and representatives to tow Malacañang’s line.

The president could also make life difficult for an elected official by using the government machinery at his or her disposal to harass an incumbent.

So it is not just about personality politics, it is more about the politics of money, privilege and power. The politics of platforms, programs and issues are still far from becoming a reality in the country.

The party-list system could have been a seed of that as parties are elected on the basis of programs, advocacies and the sectors they represent, but look at how this is being debased and used by traditional politicians or trapos to gain access to Congress and by big political parties to multiply their vote in Congress. Also, the token 20 percent representation purportedly being give to marginalized sectors, if filled up by genuine party-list groups, if that ever is possible, could hardly make a dent in elite politics. At most, it could amplify the campaigns of the marginalized. It is worse with the recent Supreme Court decision removing restrictions on big political parties and the elite from fielding their own party-list groups.

The delineation of party lines along platforms and position on issues used to be the hallmark of political parties in Europe and the US. And candidates, even card bearing members, do not readily cross party lines. The same is still generally true. But after the series of crisis, party lines are blurring. For example, the proposed 2014 budget of the Obama administration contained a $ 1 trillion cut in social security programs, including a $400 billion cut in health care programs. It could be remembered that health care reform was the issue Barack Obama rode on, on his way to the White House.

Worse, Obama who won on the promise of change from the warmongering Bush administration appears to be not just continuing, but even intensifying his predecessor’s war on (or is it of?) terror. Reports reveal that a vast majority of the between 1,990 to 3,308 killings resulting from drone attacks in Pakistan happened during the Obama administration. The UK’s Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported that over 1,000 civilians were killed in US drone attacks in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. (so much for spreading democracy)

The point is democracy and the competition of political parties along platforms and positions on issues are slowly becoming a thing of the past even among the models of capitalist democracy. And we are in a much worse position than these countries, politically, economically and socially.

Is there hope for a country like ours? Yes, and that hope lies in the exercise of genuine democracy, in galvanizing the will of the majority and the repudiation of elite politics. (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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