Does the solution to the multitude of ills that plague the Philippines reside in politics? Is it really the quality of government that is behind the chronic failure that is the Philippine nation? Think again.
[Photo courtesy Today in History.]
Perhaps there was a time when there were lots of scapegoats that Filipinos can count on to account for the wretched state of their society. First it was colonial imperialism — yes, that much-loved evil bogeyman that Filipinos finger as the perpetrators of the wholesale “victimisation” of their ancestors. The “scourge” of imperialism as we know now is gone (one can argue that it isn’t considering the way Filipinos’ independence and sovereignty itself remains debatable, but that’s another topic in itself), but the Philippines remains as degenerate as it was during its colonial periods. Then there was the “tyranny” of the regime of former president Ferdinand E. Marcos. That too eventually ended, but the now renowned failure to launch of the Philippine nation persists like a stubborn rash.
So much for those excuses. Becoming “free” and practicing true “democracy” was pitched as the “new hope” of a nation “long victimised” by the forces of authoritarianism and imperialism. We now have both “freedom” and “democracy”. But prosperity and justice still elude us.
What democracy really achieved for Filipinos was to prove once and for all that the real underlying problem of their society had more to do with their cultural character. One “promising” president after another was “elected”. They came and went and left the same hollow shell of a nation they inherited from their predecessors. The uncomfortable reality became evident: representative democracy gave us governments and leaders that more accurately reflected the character of the people that elected to be subject to and led by these respectively.
In short, “true” democracy as applied by Filipinos did, indeed, bring out the TRUTH about Filipinos — that Filipinos are inherently unjust thieving liars. Those three traits are traits Filipinos seem to like to attribute to their politicians. The trouble is, in a democracy where leaders are elected by popular vote, any finger you point at government is ultimately a finger that points back at the electorate.
As the eminent United State President Abraham Lincoln invoked:
…that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
We can thank the perpetrators of the 1986 Edsa “revolution” for turning the Philippines back into a country that lives up to those ideals. Unfortunately what simply won’t perish from this earth is the reality that there is something profoundly inherent in Filipinos — the Filipino Condition — that rubs off on their politicians, specially now that the ordinary Pinoy wields absolute power over the composition of their government. It will take many more generations and a prayer before this condition that dooms an entire society to muddle along in mediocrity for the foreseeable future is purged from its cultural DNA. Before that happens, we can only expect more of the same sort of politicians to rule these sad islands — the same sort who possess the same traits of the very people who voted for them.
Will the Philippines become a better nation given the right leader? Perhaps. But how does the “right” leader come to power to begin with? That is the real issue. In a nation where the wrong arguments always win, this hypothetical “right” leader does not stand a chance of being elected. And that is the tragedy that is the Philippine Nation — a country that is 100 percent “potential” and zero percent realisation.
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