A lot of Filipinos have been following closely the massive pro-democracy protests that have rocked Hong Kong in recent days. After Beijing announced that it will be vetting candidates for the coming 2017 election there, Hong Kong residents have taken to the streets by the hundreds of thousands, virtually paralysing the prosperous former British colony — one of China’s economic crown jewels. As of this writing, demonstrators have occupied Hong Kong’s streets for two nights now, many setting up encampments and hunkering down ready to face police crackdowns. Many have come prepared with protective goggles, face masks, and water-resistant clothing.
So, quite understandably, Filipinos have watched with interest, likely while wistfully waxing nostalgia about their own people power “revolution” of bygone years. Indeed, while Hong Kong convulses in a spectacular fight against Beijing’s efforts to exert control over the quality of candidates making a bid in their coming election, Filipinos for their part have all but progressively painted themselves into a corner — settling for a tiny handful of the usual suspects around which the national political “debate” has revolved in the lead up to their elections in 2016. Beijing would’ve been proud of the Philippines.
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Another remarkable thing about the way Hong Kong does activism is in the way its activists conduct themselves. Much has already been said about Hong Kong activists’ courage and stoic resolve. Reports emerging from the ground over there attest to it. But most remarkable of all is how Hong Kong residents demonstrate how much they truly care about their homeland at the most fundamental levels…
As protests continue, people have been seen distributing food and water as well as cleaning up after themselves in the famously orderly city.
At the main protest site at the city’s Government headquarters, students sorted plastic bottles for recycling even as they wore goggles and plastic sheets to protect against pepper spray.
A polite note was also seen left on a vandalised police van, apologising for the damage.”Sorry, I don’t know who did this but we are not anarchists – we want democracy,” it read.
Perhaps being deprived of real choice is something a people who truly care about their land can get really angry about. And this is the lesson that Filipinos will likely have to re-learn after almost three decades of fiesta “democracy” since the so-called 1986 EDSA “Revolution”. Since that seminal event, choice in Philippine politics has become but a mere illusion. It had long ago become evident that the basket from which Filipinos were “choosing” their leaders and representatives was a disproportionately small one filled with rotten eggs.
To be fair, it may be comparatively easy for Hong Kong’s people to unite behind a common cause considering that the forces of repression they are up against are coming from an external entity, in their case, the central government in Beijing. In the case of Philippine politics, by contrast, the “enemy” is internal in origin. It comes from within.
Whilst the candidates that Beijing will endorse will very likely not be products of Hong Kong society, the crooked and dysfunctional candidates coming out of the woodwork for the 2016 elections in the Philippines are direct products of the society they seek to rule. As such, any effort to exercise real choice in Philippine politics is relatively severly handicapped.
The key, therefore, in extricating Filipinos from their decades-long political stagnation may be in showing how the crop of politicians they choose to traditionally limit their choices to every election day are not on their side; that is, if selling this notion is even possible. Ironically, most of the politicians who’ve successfully ascended power in Manila pitched themselves as for the people, but then went on to rule in a manner that was anything but. The trouble with Philippine-style democracy, unfortunately, is that popularity wins at the expense of the intelligent choice. Worse, it is evident nowadays that the intelligent choice has altogether given up the race.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.