As the presidential elections in the United States draw to a close, Filipinos who closely followed it can only sigh and treasure the moments that they felt they were participating in something truly big. The United States after all is the daddy of Philippine “democracy”. And in this age of social media, ‘citizen journalism’, and insta-punditry, elections turn into a big love-in of armchair opinion brokering that gives everyone that warm fuzzy feeling that they are “in the loop”.
Tomorrow, however, is a Monday for the multitude of “online journalists” who headily covered the US elections, however. After a virtual weekend in the fantasy world of US elections, we now turn our attention back to Pinoy-style elections, where all the wrong arguments win and the “droll and unintelligent, focused on the trivial or the irrelevant” national “debate” dominates the online chatter.
Indeed, re-elected US President Barack Obama shares only one thing with Philippine President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III: both politicians campaigned and won within a timeframe that placed them smack squarely within the age of social media “activism”. But whereas ideas garnered a good enough share of the social media chatter surrounding the elections stateside, in the Philippines it will be back to the less intellectually-stimulating world of pedigree platforms, showbiz psychopathy, and dynastic power brokering.
So presumably now is the time to apply what our US election “observers” supposedly learned from their excellent coverage of that fiesta. As Mr Paul Farol noted, it is unlikely that the there is any new and real wisdom da Pinoy can add to the collective intellect of humanity and consequently, in the context of recent events, we should ask: “What political insight can the common Filipino observer add to the tomes written about the American Democratic thought over the last two hundred years?”
Not much. Our role has always been one of apprenticeship since Independence in 1946 and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. Unlike Darth Vader who, at one point, arguably had a legitimate claim to the distinction of having switched roles with his former master Obi Wan Kenobi, the Philippines remains a third-rate copycat democracy.
Some of the lessons are obvious. The campaign was fierce and grounded on issues and character, there was a televised debate (duh!), politicking gave way to resolve and sobriety when Hurricane Sandy hit, and results were out and announced by authoritative sources in a timely manner. The way Americans routinely step up to exhibit such grace along those aspects of their elections is what separates the men from the boys in the practice of democratic governance.
Filipinos, on the other hand, are stuck in a rut that prevents them from rising above the lowest bars of the most basic components of decency. Even the most fundamental tenets of ethical behaviour seem to loom beyond the aspirations of the average Filipino politician and the voters who vote for them. Nepotism and the conflicts-of-interest that accompany its practice, grandstanding that goes beyond reasonable bounds of political campaign, campaigns that insult the intelligence of the electorate, and an inbred media clique whose proficiency for internal collusion is only matched by the Philippines’ fuel retailing industry; all of these remain deeply-entrenched in Philippine politics and continue to endure despite the much-vaunted “power” that is supposedly in the hands of the Filipino people.
For now, US elections like Sesame Street are loaded with lessons and are nice to watch to boot. But the application of these lessons in the Philippine setting will remain a pipe dream for many decades to come — at least until Filipinos learn how to think.
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