Not so genuine

01 May 2007

As of this writing it is just a little bit more than two weeks before the 14th of May legislative and local elections in the Philippines. And while there is immense media bandwidth devoted to political discussion, little if any has been achieved in the way of charting out a course for Philippine society beyond the short-sighted political goals embodied in most politicians' campaigns -- mainly charter change and the short-term future of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's (GMA) presidency.

Indeed, while the Wikipedia article Philippine general election, 2007 as of the 28th April 2007 devotes much space and rich detail to describing the personalities and sub-groups involved in this year's Fiesta Election, it had only this to say about the issues at stake:

Among the issues are the on-going efforts by the Administration and others to amend the Philippine Constitution to shift the country from an bicameral and presidential system to a unicameral and parliamentary system, and by the opposition to oust President Arroyo through various means. The opposition is this case includes the UNO as well as other groups and individuals not in the UNO. The UNO is now known as the GO

That's right. Just a three-sentence paragraph.

As far as Fiesta Elections 2007, this Wikipedia article is a microcosm of topics that dominate talk amongst the chattering classes of Philippine society. Discussion has, and has always been, thick on gossip on the personal agendas and posturings of individual politicians and thin on much else. In fact, the only real objective of the campaign of the "Opposition" is no different from any other "opposition" campaign in the past. "Unity" in any Philippine "Opposition" is based and has ever only been based on a common objective of removing an incumbent.

The Black and White Movement say they beg to differ. They call the perception that the Opposition "have no real agenda except to remove GMA" a myth and instead profess the "truth" that:

Many in the opposition have clear advocacies and agenda for good governance [...]. And there are some in the opposition today who were reformists within the GMA administration.

But of course.

"Many in the opposition" do have clear individual advocacies (agendas would probably be the better choice of word). But that does not necessarily mean that they are united in spirit as an Opposition group in any way more profound than the name ("Genuine Opposition") that they go by. History shows that once the typical "opposition" objective (removal of an incumbent) is achieved, the lofty ideals of any "united" opposition (past and present) vaporise as well. Each moron politician that was originally part of the preceding "united opposition" then goes his/her own way to found his or her own splinter "party" and pursue their own respective personal agendas. "United" opposition parties or alliances in the Philippines are almost always unions of convenience, no more than that.

True enough, despite pages and pages of blurb on the need for "reform" all over the Black & White Movement website, it all came down to this statement by "helga" (one of the B&WM owners) in a comment in their blog:

[...]it would be a no brainer list, really. Everyone from Team Arroyo would be on the Black List. No fun in that.

This was referring to how the Movement presumes to classify Philippine politicians into Black (no-vote) and White (yes-vote!) as a "guide" to the electorate in their efforts to "elect into Congress men and women of moral courage...". To which they add "...who will exact accountability from the GMA regime for the unabated corruption and extrajudicial killings".

Filipinos for their part eat this all up, conveniently forgetting for the sake of hollow-headed partisanism that corruption and "extra-judicial killings" have always been a fact of life in the Philippines. The fact that they crested significantly during the Arroyo administration is beside the point. The shallow way by which Filipinos continue this never-ending cycle of beholdenness to the mind tricks of "united" oppositions -- the images and fantasy worlds they paint of a corruption-free Philippines where truth, justice, and accountability prevail once they are elected into office.

Sound familiar? Of course it does.

That's because corruption and rub-outs are systemic issues that can only be solved by systemic approaches that transcend any one administration or political fad. Yet the way that Filipinos regard elections involves vision (if you could call it that) that goes no further than the next election, the latest slogan, and the latest dance craze.

Indeed, for most of the politically-passionate in the Philippines "the fight for genuine freedom goes on" as Ellen Tordesillas say in a blog entry celebrating the granting of media access to rebel-turned-senatorial-candidate (who isn't, anyway?) Antonio Trillanes. Ellen's blog is to the 2007 Election what the PCIJ Blog was to the equally ridiculous 2005 impeachment bid against Arroyo -- as of this writing enjoying a robust comment traffic mostly from people cheering on various news snippets and, yes, SWS "surveys" posted on the blog and being used in the larger scene as campaign fodder for the "united" opposition of the day.

In the same way, in its heyday in 2005, the PCIJ Blog served as a conduit for updates on the latest oppositionist posturings and street antics. It fell just short of endorsing what was supposed to be the mother of all street rallies at the time in mid July of that year where, according to a report:

[...]Music and entertainment were another crucial component, keeping the crowds from drifting away. Pop stars crooned on a huge stage and the "Sex Bomb" dancers--a group of young women in tight white tops and blue capri pants--did the classic bump and grind.

Thus, whilst we "fight" for "genuine freedom", the question remains -- do we really know what 'genuine freedom' is? As, the Sassy Lawyer Connie Veneracion pointed out in a blog article dated the 26th of April 2007:

In the context of influencing people's choices and votes, what makes campaign promises any different from Chavit's "donations" or Gonzalez's promise? If we really strike at the heart of the matter, a campaign is just a bigger and more organized system for subverting free will.

Just like mass marketing, propaganda, and the ramblings of evangelists, campaigns are nothing more than quaint mind tricks. However, even Obi Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader themselves admit grudgingly that their Jedi mind tricks work only on weak-minded fools (like the drone-like stormtroopers and Jabba du Hutt's pig-like henchmen). A "free" society populated by, in Nasty's words, starstruck ignoramuses indeed is a mind trickster's paradise. The trouble is, lazy brains are quick to delegate their thinking to the most popular belief systems and their slogans. The unfortunately lame duck (or is she?) President Arroyo is the the strawman of choice at the moment and "Patalsikin Na, Now Na" is the slogan of the day.

It is unfortunate that the many who fancy themselves as guardians of freedom do not seem to see the irony in their parroting of party lines like "genuine opposition" and basing decisions on who to vote for on shallow alliances.

Just another irony lost in the intellectual sink that is Philippine society.

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