The face of Philippine politics
In times of great evil, we are often reminded of Epicurus who famously questioned the notion of an omnipotent God. Epicurus argued: “If God is unable to prevent evil, then he is not all-powerful; if God is not willing to prevent evil, then he is not all-good; and if God is both willing and able to prevent evil, then why does it exist?”
Indeed, the answer is that if God designed a perfect world for each one of us, then there would be no value to human freedom. Precisely, we have to learn from our mistakes, suffer from the consequences of ill-fated decisions, but most important of all, the reflexive attitude toward human action means we must not commit the same mistake over and over again.
This, however, is not true in the realm of Philippine politics. Our political leaders are still in their usual intramural debates and politically motivated legislative investigations. In 2010 we saw President Aquino as some silver bullet delivered from above, thanks to the death of a democracy icon, yet what we have seen so far is that the job of cleaning the terrible mess of corruption is next to impossible. The issue of the Disbursement Acceleration Program only showed that he also fell into the indispensable necessity of party politics.
The difference between Third World politics and First World politics is not really in the efficiency or the scientific way developed countries do things. The difference is more fundamental. Mature democracies determine the fate of their country on the basis of political principles. The formula we are using is like the one filmmakers use in their movies, and that is: Some superhero will save the day for all of us. We think that there is some superhuman who will finally bridge the gap between rich and poor.
Theorists in this country talk about all-inclusive growth, yet one government think tank is recommending relaxing minimum-wage regulations in order to solve the high rate of unemployment. That suggestion is not even a Band-Aid solution; it simply hides the real problem by artificially improving employment numbers. People do not need just jobs. People need jobs that are sustainable, that will give them the capability to send their children to school and to afford healthcare.
The rumor that Manuel V. Pangilinan will supposedly bankroll the presidential campaign of Vice President Jejomar Binay is not at all good news. It means simply, if confirmed, the marriage of business and politics. While both camps deny it, it is nevertheless a matter of fact that politicians get their campaign kitty from corporate patrons. The reason is simple: Businessmen expect returns.
The difference between public service and business needs no further explaining. In the corporate world, you hire the brightest and weed out the incompetent. In electing people to public office, everything will depend on the decision of the majority. While the right of suffrage is an equalizer, a vote is always counted as one regardless of the voter’s IQ. The reality, however, is that new forms of control, subtle and obvious, are employed by cunning politicians in order to influence voters. There are many examples. There is no need to mention one.
A politics based on personalities is the root cause of all evil. But I suppose this is not something that God willed for the Filipino people. We can point to history, culture and tradition as to why the future of our children has been compromised. Some of our intelligent legislators are even proposing useless bills in Congress. There are good bills, though, like those that are intended to enhance the role of the middle class by easing the burden of income taxation.
In the Philippines, politics is always about the glamour of public office. Marriage proposals take more space in social media than the achievement of a teacher who has committed his life to serving the children in tribal communities. The facts are glaring. Dynasties in the South have stifled human development. The poorest provinces are ruled by pseudo-kings.
Many bright academicians feel that politics is nothing but a chaotic phantasmagoria. For them, it is a hopeless case. Those who say that there is a light at the end of the tunnel are actually outside of it. They want nothing about political engagements. The poor, in this regard, have two problems: Many good men who refuse to get involved in designing a better country for our children, and plenty of evil politicians who continue to bully their way into the future of this nation by way of political machinations.
In 2010, I put a lot of faith in President Aquino. I was wrong. It was a mistake. A mistake cannot be undone. However, while the courage to be is still preferred over falling into the abyss of despair, I suppose we have to change the way we see things. We have to encourage civil society to heighten discussions of public issues rather than recommend political heroes. The face of Philippine politics has not changed. Not because we still have the same maniacal leaders in office, but because many Filipinos have remained in the dungeons of human poverty.
Christopher Ryan Maboloc teaches philosophy at the Ateneo de Davao University.