The dictatorship of the old order
The Philippines is not a democratic country. What we have are dysfunctional political institutions. They are not irreparably damaged, but because we have a badly debased political culture, any type of moral reform will not make societal change imminent. Thus, this dysfunction advances the opportunity for corruption.
Our weak state sows the seed of what Jose Abueva calls transactional leaders, who exist only in order to derive profit from any form of political relations. Alliances are formed on the basis of political convenience. While politicians forgive and forget each other, the indelible scar on the diminished life of the masses haunt them and the children of their children.
The Philippine Constitution states that “the Philippines is a democratic and republican State” and that “sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them” (Article II, Section 1). But this is not the political reality because our leaders and their cohorts in business engage in their rent-seeking ways in order to extract everything from the blood and sweat of the Filipino.
The problem is not only a matter of representation or of recognition. There also exists some kind of a demonic machine out there that systematically exploits and takes advantage of the powerless majority. The result: People are excluded from growth and development, inevitably resigned to their fate, hopeless and without a future.
Still, this situation is being exploited by some who prophesy that their genius is some kind of a silver bullet that the poor need. This new rising star instantly becomes their salvation. In truth, this intelligent savior has offered nothing but motherhood statements about jobs, education and public welfare. Somewhere in the woods and the jungle of city life, the common man is concerned about where to get the next meal for his brood of five.
Real democracy exists when institutions function for the good of the people. Transactional leaders do not want to change the system because they profit from the status quo. Reform, however, cannot begin from the top. It must begin from where real power emanates—the masses themselves. But we do not need the children from the old order because they are a product of our original oppressors. What is happening is that their children or grandchildren have now suddenly become the saviors of the poor victims of an oligarchic economic and sociopolitical system. Can we expect these people to rectify the errors of natural lottery?
If the leaders we produce are nothing but those that come from the most exclusive of schools, then we shall have failed to truly democratize leadership and public service. Democracy, to be truly effective, must work for the common man and not only for the talented few.
One characteristic of any true democracy is the existence of authentic political parties that are founded on principles, programs and a clear vision for the future. There are no real political parties in the country. What we have are an aggregation of groups and personal interests that advance the ambitions of some moneyed candidate or self-serving benefactors. Political convenience, in this regard, define for politicians the meaning of their principles. Ultimately, the masses have no real voice in the issues that affect them and possess no real power in choosing their future.
Solving the political problems in the country requires ending the dominance of the political elite to manipulate the consciousness of the masses. Political relations define the state of any nation. Where a country is immature politically, its people will naturally desire or cry for more from their government.
People queuing indicate the enormous inequalities that systemic political elitism can create. Where a state is weak and dysfunctional, the element of trust and personalism sets in. Policies are mere abstractions for the common Filipino. He sees results in his connections. He therefore seeks to establish and secure connections rather than help build his nation.
Also consider the fact that all appointments with the rank of regional or provincial director have to be signed by the president of this country. In a country as geographically disarticulated as the Philippines, this is a tremendous task if such is given its due moral and honest consideration. The fact of the matter, however, is that appointments sometimes are given on the basis of political accommodation. In the absence of a transparent and a truly competitive political atmosphere, commitment to public service is no more than an afterthought.
Any real democracy means that each and every individual possesses the power to realize his desire to be, which means, loosely translated, that he has the opportunity to acquire a decent life and provide for the wellbeing of his family without fear of losing it. This can only happen if people are empowered in a political way by making them a party to state decision-making. Without authentic political parties, this is not possible. Thus, instead of being his instrument toward the achievement of the greater value of his freedom, a weak state becomes its irreverent obstacle.
Christopher Ryan B. Maboloc obtained his MA in applied ethics from Linkoping University in Sweden. He attended the Training of Young Centrist Leaders sponsored by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung-Centrist Democratic Union in Germany in 2011. He teaches philosophy at the Ateneo de Davao University.