Understanding Philippine Democracy in Transition

Manila Bulletin, February 2, 2002 | Go to article overview

Understanding Philippine Democracy in Transition


POLITICAL transition in a democracy always has possibilities. It is an evaluation of tendencies of a relatively uncertain state of affairs to something that is a relatively predictable condition of the future. It is the defining moment of a new government. It is a moment of creative tension usually pushed by effective leaders for authentic change. Martin Luther King says that a moment of creative tension is a necessary element of political transition. Transitions are temporary states of affairs. They are, however, preconditions to building the bases of stability and growth.

If managed properly according to the mandates of public interest expectations, then political transition will lead to achieving short and long term development goals. When acted on according to micro-private interest expectations, then society will mostly likely suffer what social scientists call as social decay - something that will either drive society to backwardness or will retard development initiatives from taking root. The other possibility is when transition is led based on a well-balanced satisfaction of expectations of all public, private and civil society formations.

In all the possibilities, it is imperative to have a thorough background check on the motives, perspectives, interests and biases of those who actually stirred the political transition (including those who by chance and opportunity found themselves in it). Also paramount in defining the tendencies of political transition is the objective conduct of reality checks into the interests, dispositions and behaviors of social, political, economic, moral and security institutions of society.

Recent events dictate that the church, the military, the Philippine congress, the media, and the civil society formations have become the country's major transitional forces. The positioning of these institutions on every policy, every move, decision, and every performance of government, will most likely predict the resiliency or weakness of change in transition.

The Philippines is experiencing a political transition characterized by a struggling national economy, a sharply divided citizenry in the local and urban communities, ethnic violence in the southern and northern islands, a legal and judicial system that is under heavy pressure to reform a politicized police and military organizations and a corrupt political system that has not for decades been able to stamp out high-stakes cheating and irregularities in government.

Today, government is under heavy and immense pressure to shape up and is widely expected to do what is necessary, what is beneficial and what is broadly acceptable to bring the nation back to a positive direction and take the country out of the perils of political transition.

There is no greater challenge now posed to the presidency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo than to spark the plug of an effective and efficient machinery that can carry through a government of delivery without delay. Filipinos are sick and tired of a government of promises. People are eager to see a fundamentally new Philippines in a fundamentally new period of high expectations.

Central to the success of democracy in transition is the capacity of government to lead, including creating a strong base of its own legitimacy to govern. For any government to govern effectively, the issue of its own legitimacy must be well founded and well projected. For political transition to pave its own path, government must be able to communicate well-established philosophical underpinnings of its own work program, policies, operations, decisions and actions. Political psychology says that a good political stimulus produces a good political response.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was in her element as a politician and leader when she laid down four fundamental political bases of her presidency: First, moral leadership at a time when many institutions are suspected to have been corrupted and made morally bankrupt by the previous regime; second, accountability and transparency in government at a time when minor and major business deals and transactions were widely believed to be limited only to the cronies of then President Joseph Estrada; third, a government of consultation and consensus when major policy decisions were the privilege of those close to the corridors of power; and, lastly, the ethics of effective implementation (result-oriented work ethics) when no one in government seemed to be interested in bottom lines that will have clear positive impact on the lives of the many who are poor. …

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