There’s really not much you can say about the outcome of the 2013 elections other than to invoke those famous last words: Told ya so.
The proverbial pig is a lot bigger than its proverbial lips. So you may put as much lipstick as you want on said lips, and the fact will still remain there that there is 200 pounds of pig behind them. Not only is Grace Poe, the daughter of the late screen legend Fernando Poe Jr (FPJ) leading by a huge margin in the mad scramble to grab a porky seat in the Senate, that other former screen legend Joseph Ejercito “Erap” Estrada looks set to bag the mayor’s seat in the nation’s capital city.
Ain’t democracy just grand? Nothing beats this noble system of government when it comes to reflecting the real collective character of an entire people.
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Most notable of all is the emergence of an interesting common denominator: former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Recall that it was Arroyo who ascended to presidential power on the back of an illegal but arguably popular removal of Erap from the presidency in 2001. Was it really a popular revolt that ousted legitimately-elected Erap from MalacaÃ±ang back then? More than a million bozos who trooped to Edsa in what was billed “EDSA II” would like to think so even if voters using a legitimate channel to select him as their president clearly begged to differ earlier.
But the popularity of a notion, as we have shown many times before and are being reminded of now, does not necessarily imply righteousness. Erap, after all, was a duly-elected President of the Republic and as much as our modern-day “social media practitioners” stomp their feet about the questionable population sampling methods of the SWS and Pulse Asia in the surveys they issued and that were used to prime voters’ minds in the lead up to the polls, there was as little challenge to the question of whether the Edsa II mob really represented the Filipino people in 2001. As I wrote back then…
We had in recent memory removed a president in a blatant disregard of constitutionally-prescribed procedure and installed a new president who then proceeded to govern by virtue of the very same Constitution that her ascent to power had trampled upon!
Arroyo also ran for re-election against the late FPJ in 2004 in what was widely believed to be an exercise rigged in Arroyo’s favour. But those who worry their pointed heads off over whether or not any of this alleged “cheating” really occurred in 2004 miss the real point of whether or not this “re-election” exercise itself was a valid one to begin with. Again as I wrote in my typically prescient style back then…
Conveniently, Ms. Arroyo has since been “re-elected” constitutionally (something possible in a nation that loosely defines the term) in 2004. Or has she? That question is now the buzz of 2005 [as the chattering classes of the day rail against the alleged cheating in 2004] — another one of those all-too-common things that distract the Pinoy from that elusive job of nation building (remember the concept? Not.). That little after-the-fact legalisation of the 2003 power grab that we thought had been neatly swept under the rug (a la tapal Vulcaseal) is something worth bringing up now as the nation lurches towards another dose of its favourite laxative — Fiesta Revolution! We need to remind ourselves yet again that we in fact not only deserve each other, we deserve the Philippine Government.
Fast forward to 2013 and behold the funny way things turn out. It turns out those candidates who profess to be â€œmakamasaâ€ (for the masses) aren’t really that popular amongst the masses they presume to represent after all. Perhaps they would have been a bit more pesuasive to the common folk behind the butt of an AK-47 where they originally belonged than while strutting about all dolled up pretending to participate in legitimate “democracy” before the television cameras. It turns out that social media noise is only noisy amongst those who were under the illusion that the proverbial lips of the proverbial pig represented all of Filipino sentiment. It turns out surveys based on “random samples” don’t really provide a true picture of what common folk would actually do once in the precincts, ballot is in hand.
And it turns out that the names Estrada and Poe remain every bit as potent mind candy as they were back in 1998 (when Erap was elected president) and 2004 (when FPJ was allegedly “cheated” out of the presidency) respectively.
As the old Tagalog dialect saying goes: Maraming namamatay sa akala.
That the Philippines is a “democracy” is perhaps the akalas to end all akalas.
One only needs to look a mere three years back to understand that Filipino voters do not really know the issues, nor care to understand them even if thrust before their faces. The current president Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III prevailed in 2010 against highly-qualified and experienced people propelled by nothing more than slogans written around nebulous notions of what good and peachy things Filipinos are entitled to while gliding on the hot air of his illustrious parents’ heroic pedigrees. Coming in a close second in the 2010 results was none other than Erap himself.
Is there really a system that works for the Filipino? The late Teodoro “Teddy” Benigno in his seminal 2003 piece Parliamentary system not for Philippines: The wherefores explains within the context of the flawed notion that a “change in system of government” guarantees a great future for a long-wretched people. Benigno cites what, for now, is an insurmountable cultural flaw that has consistently thwarted any effort to “reform” Philippine society at its roots.
Actually, the system of government varied in ritual from country to country [in East Asia]. But even as the ritual varied, the orders always originated from above where the “leader” dictated the agenda and program of government. Disciplined work brigades vied with each other to break performance records, and the best were amply rewarded with decorations and even material awards. Parliaments and congresses existed in some countries, but they were largely docile, toothless rubber stamps whose membership was decided by the government. In all instances, they were one-party organizations. This did away with unnecessary, time-consuming debates and florid discussions. The road ahead was cleared by skilled bureaucrats.
It was this full-fisted, no-nonsense government that brought about change in Asia. Democracy and the parliamentary system were of no concern to Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew, China’s Deng Xiaoping, Japan’s dynamic Meiji elite, Malaysia’s Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, South Korea’s Park Chung-hee, Thailand’s first ruling crop of nationalist and entrepreneurial generals, Taiwan’s Chiang Ching-Kuo. It was they, and their culture wrapped in Asian values that changed their way of life for the better. And changed Asia.
The voice that mattered was that of the respected leader ‘ strong intrepid, highly intelligent, compelling, commanding. Lee Kuan Yew is the archetype. The issues that mattered were cocooned in ideas and concepts that, however, innovative, stuck to party ideology. The ethic that mattered most was unrelenting work. The emotion that overrode everything else was love of country. They had to succeed, catch up with the West.
An obsession to succeed through unrelenting work and consistent application of real skill and intelligence.
Do the popularly-elected leaders and representatives of Filipinos today embody these virtues? Think again. Truly this is a democracy of the very few and a tyranny of the vastly numerous.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.