Just thinking aloud | Inquirer Opinion

Just thinking aloud

12:30 AM May 03, 2024

It is not as though the world has not been warned about the erratic nature of our climate. We may not understand the technicalities surrounding the causes, but we understand the impact to us. Call it climate change, call it global warming, call it El Niño or La Niña, call it the co2 emissions, call it the ozone layer hole, and put it on top of what we traditionally knew as the ring of fire for volcanic eruptions, seismic plates for earthquakes, and the typhoon belt for hurricanes, we cannot forget we are inside one or the other, seasonally or all the time.

And, today, we remember again because extreme heat and drought are clamping down hard on us. School and work are disrupted because it is too hot and heat strokes become a threat on top of the hunger that stalks our food poor too frequently to count.

There is dangerous heat from the never-ending rise of food items, of electricity, and almost everything else that communities need to survive. It is bad enough when heat index levels breach 50 degrees, but we must contend as well with the daily misery of living in urbanized centers without the corresponding incomes needed. And to top it all, most Filipinos have to contend with overt, in-your-face luxury lifestyles from billionaires and multi-millionaires.

I am amazed at how that layer of elite money and influence blend nicely with senior political leaders from the barangays all the way to Malacañang. Elections are more like a selection process when voters have practical choices only from a short list of rich and powerful candidates. Vote-buying in all its creative applications does not look like a crime, it is a requirement to be competitive. The result, though, is catastrophic for a population that is sharply divided between the extreme rich and the majority poor.


As we keep electing the winnables coming from a practical short list, our political leadership from the barangays to the national government become more and more elitist. That may not be necessarily bad, but it is necessarily more representative of a minority perspective and lifestyle unbefitting a representative democracy. It is sad to lose the last vestiges of democratic principles that use seemingly democratic elections that ultimately subvert itself. It is even sadder when we are hypocritical about it.

If we have turned to an oligarchy, then let us be an oligarchy. The frustration of a failing democracy then disappears. It can only be a successful or failing oligarchy. Under our present circumstances, and I mean power and wealth as the main drivers of an electoral process, representative democracy has no chance. It is only a shadow of an historical dream that is now a nightmare. We might as well be honest and admit what we are. That way, we plan for a future as an oligarchy, not a fake democracy.

Let me go back to the roots of an oligarchy. The word itself is from ancient Greek meaning the rule of a few. An oligarchy, therefore, is a conceptual form of power structure in which power rests with a small number of people. Look at our daily environment in the Philippines. Its politics, its economics, its social order, its religious structures, and even the elitism in its academe, are all more oligarchic that democratic. Even its veneer of a democracy has gone more populist rather than a meritocracy – which again enhances an oligarchy.

In what may have seemed a totally sarcastic recommendation that I made after the presidential elections in 2022, I suggested that we do away with elections and instead auction off all elective positions. After all, if vote-buying cannot be stopped, or if government forces cannot go after those who buy votes in a fearless and determined manner, then forego elections where voters will just be bought anyway. Instead, make tens of billions exploiting positions from the president to the barangay chairman. Auctions are easier to manage than elections and the government can earn besides.


The same with formally changing a democratic form of government to an oligarchy. Congress then has substantive reasons to change the Constitution because a democracy to an oligarchy is an important shift. The change is easy, though, because our democracy has been operating as an oligarchy for decades anyway. We just have to amend the language of the laws, especially the courts, simplify them by reducing the rights of citizens and increasing the discretion of the ruling oligarchs.

In truth, one of the synonyms of an oligarchy is a dictatorship. Since we already experienced a dictatorship, I would like to remind those who were too young to remember (or not yet born then) that the one of the announced reasons for establishing a dictatorship was to break the oligarchy. But it was not successful because oligarchs were only substituted by the dictator’s cronies.


Now, we can begin with a failed democracy and admit into our laws a functioning oligarchy. For all we know, we may yet end up with a full dictatorship and history completes itself. Until the next revolution, that is, and who how many generations that will take.

Meanwhile, government just has to increase the ayuda or subsidies for the ordinary and the poor majority, maybe from 500 billion pesos to 1.5 trillion. That should keep most Filipinos placated. Not happy but placated. And money is no problem yet because the Marcos government can just double what the Duterte government did – borrow and not worry who will pay.

Noynoy added only 1 trillion during his 6-year term and left Duterte with a 6 trillion national debt. Duterte increased the national debt to 13 trillion pesos by the time he went back to Davao while all of us have to pay this debt. But if Marcos turns democracy to an oligarchy, he can borrow double what Duterte did and order the oligarchs to pick up the tab – or confiscate their wealth.

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Just thinking aloud.


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