The Realities of Philippine Politics

Manila Bulletin, May 30, 2004 | Go to article overview

The Realities of Philippine Politics


ONE time, while I was riding on a taxi on my way to school, I asked the driver who among the presidential candidates he would vote for. He laughed heartily and threw back the question to me. He never revealed his candidate to me and I did the same. However, in the course of our conversation, he mentioned something about the local candidates in his place somewhere in Quezon City. He said with a big grin, that in his place, the residents were no longer buying pandesal because every morning when they open their doors, they would see in front of the doors of their houses either a plastic package of pandesal or champorado, courtesy of this and that candidate in that particular district in Quezon City. I thought he was kidding, but he became serious and reiterated that what he told me was true and that this pandesal and champorado campaign strategy was being done every election time in his district and it started eight days before the election day. He added: Alam ninyo Maam, minsan, nakakalimang supot kami ng pandesal. Hindi na nga namin alam kung paano uubusin eh. (You know, Maam, there are times when we will have as many as five rations of pandesal. We do not know anymore how to consume them).

I laughed at what had been revealed to me by that taxi driver. I could only utter, Kawawa naman talaga ang mga botante. Ang baba ng tingin sa ating ng mga pulitiko. Pati ba naman pandesal at champorado ay gagamiting pansuhol para sa election. (Pity the electorate. How lowly are we in the eyes of these politicians that even pandesal and champorado are being used as bribes so that they can get our votes). I laughed but deep in me I was angry. I was asking myself how political gimmicks of this kind could be stopped. For me, this kind of political gimmick did not speak well of the kind of politics we had in this country. This was an insult to our people.

But can political gimmicks which smack of insult to the electorate be stopped? Isnt this is one of the realities of Philippine politics which we have tolerated?

Some Observations and Studies on Politics

A number of observations and studies on politics, both local and foreign, have been done. How true these observations and studies are in our political system and practices is worth looking into. Some of these observations and studies reveal the problems, the weaknesses as well as the strengths of our political practices which our politicians as well as our electorate can consider for more effective and efficient governance.

One of the realities of politics is the dominant role played by political parties in the choice of nominees who will be fielded as candidates in the elections. Feliciano Maragay, in his American Democracy: Reality or Myth?, wrote that without party support, no person, no matter how impressive his credentials are, can reach first base in nominations since the political party wields the power as to who will win or lose in the elections. Another authority on politics, Gaudioso Sosmena, believes that the local government system is highly personalized, paternalistic and expensive and that political parties have no real meaning and most are wanting in their political philosophies that will encourage genuine electoral participation and the growth of true democratic local institutions. Walter Karps observations on politics in the United States fit those Philippine politics also. He said: a typical American congressman, governor or mayor is the unwitting tool of dominant economic forces working behind the facade of politics. Karp believes that a political oligarchy can survive in the republic only if it can bring into its camp a substantial portion of the wealth and social influence existing in a society-atlarge.

The observations of Maragay, Sosmena and Karp are realities in Philippine politics. In the Philippines especially nowadays, a candidates credentials do not play a very strong factor in considering him as the partys candidate. …

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