The Manila Times : The state of our politics

News & Interviews
30 June 2021

By Lito Monico C. Lorenzana | The Manila Times

First of 3 parts

THE traditional and social media are now rife with speculation on who should run the country after President Duterte - not excluding the conjectures about the man himself running for vice president as foolishly proposed by the Cusi faction of the broken PDP-Laban. Even the President himself, I'm sure, is somewhat embarrassed by such a display of sycophancy. The President has dismissed this recipe outright from one senator suggesting he would run for president only if the Deegong runs as his VP. But clownish and inane declarations are par for the course for this sexennial event when all sorts of creatures come out of the woodwork to declare themselves fit to vie for the highest office of the land.

Presidential wannabes

Which brings us to several interrelated topics, among which are the state of politics in this country, particularly the patronage system impacting on our political parties birthing a mix of individuals, genuine and spurious, who have somehow decided that they are fit to follow after Duterte. Much worse are some deluding themselves worthy and destined to be gifted the ultimate prize by the electorate.

Subsequently, five names were released by Malacañang as possible candidates for the May 2022 presidential elections. Prominent among them are presidential daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., PDP-Laban president Sen. Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquiao, Manila Mayor Francisco "Isko Moreno" Domagoso and Sen. Christopher Lawrence "Bong" Go. It was hinted that Duterte may pick his choice from among these at an appropriate time.

An alternative list was an expanded one proposed by partisans to include those who may be under Duterte's radar to widen the choices from the heavily Mindanao-personalities-leaning one. Thus, were added Sen. Richard "Dick" Gordon; the AdeM niño bonito, Sen. Panfilo Ping Lacson, Lakas-NUCD stalwart Gilbert "Gibo" Teodoro and Sen. Mary Grace Poe, who all lost their presidential bids, respectively, in the 2004, 2010 and 2016 presidential elections.

And the opposition has advanced the expected names of Vice President Maria Leonor "Leni" Robredo, former vice president Manuel "Mar" Roxas and former senator Antonio "Sonny" Trillanes 4th. Unfortunately, with their tattered reputation and the way everything is stacked up against them, they may have the same chances as perennial candidate Pascual Racuyal, who has run in every presidential election beginning in 1935 against Manuel Quezon. Chances are the opposition candidate may eventually come from those that the Deegong will discard from among the list of top names, analogous to a "loyal opposition."

No doubt their partisans and even perhaps a substantial number of our electorate consider these names as persons who can make a difference when elected. I take the opposing view. My stand from years back congruent to the tenets as a Centrist Democrat (CD) that names, though important, should be subservient to the systemic configuration for good governance and their perceived moral standing. Simply put, the well-considered political platforms and the seriousness of the type of political systemic reforms advanced by principled candidates are elemental and have precedence. Not the popularity, the electability and the name recall that have been unfortunately the sine qua non of our elections.

What's wrong with PH politics?

As I intimated years ago reprinting excerpts here, everything's wrong with Philippine politics - period!

This tongue-in-cheek reply to the above query encapsulates the frustrations of many a writer on where to begin to dissect the multitude of problems reducing them into palatable morsels. The easier way to go about this is perhaps to focus on the whole universe of the electoral process which has obstinately captured the interest and occupied the minds of our people - next year's presidential election and its implications.

What comes to mind, as one voter from among the millions who will troop to the polls on May 9, 2022, is a simpler question. Who selected this dozen or so politicians in the first place to compete for my vote for the highest elective office in the land? Who made the decision that only these good people should be considered by the millions of Filipinos as worthy of their votes?

No wide consultation

Were people consulted on the process of selection? Was there a vetting process similar to one in politically mature countries - like the preliminaries and caucuses in America (or in China by the diktat of the Chinese Communist Party central politburo)? These are selection processes sanctioned by their political parties, where only the best (or most popular or intimidating) of the lot are selected and will be presented to the public as candidates worthy of contending for the highest honor the citizens can gift them with? In our case in the Philippines, I don't remember being asked about the criteria I want for these people to possess prior to their being paraded for the scrutiny of millions.

We boast to the world that ours is the first and oldest democracy in Asia. And by definition, the demos, we the people, perhaps through our political parties should first set the criteria for the aspirants to possess before they are allowed to enter the political arena and engage in partisan combat winning our hearts and minds - through the force of their character, the courage of their convictions, moral standing and familiarity with the longings and aspirations of their constituencies, and the articulateness of their submissions to the body politic.

Unfortunately, we don't have this kind of democratic vetting. Let me attempt to elucidate how these 10 or so persons could have emerged as candidates worthy of our consideration.

Self-serving process

The first is self-selection. One may have figured out what the job minimally entails, so, a mere declaration will suffice: "I want to be President of the Republic of the Philippines." Or perhaps a moneyed neophyte from other professions, principally the entertainment or sports sectors, seeing the opportunity to leverage popularity, a reputation as coming from the "masa" to run as independent, fashioning a temporary political vehicle, calling it a political party or movement.

The second is the notion that the presidency was agreed upon previously by the "barkada" - a clique. It is a legacy, an entitlement or even a family heirloom because one's relative has been there before me. This time around: "It is my turn to run for President of the Republic of the Philippines."

The third is a political patron, principally an oligarch selecting one from within or outside of a political party: I have the money; the organization and I anoint you as my candidate for the presidency of the Philippines.

There are permutations in the selection of who will run for any elective position, from the presidency down to the town mayor to the various sanggunian. But the underlying narrative is that any of these selection processes are the definition and the tools of traditional political patronage.

And this is basically what is wrong with Philippine politics. Traditional patronage politics has been the practice in the country for decades. This has been ingrained in our political culture permeating the very sinews of a good part of our political life. Our political system itself is a perversion and this travesty has been embedded in our Constitution.

This brings us to address the second part of the question above: How might it be fixed?

Next week, July 7, 2021:

Fixing a dysfunctional system

For comments:

[email protected]