Why are platforms, vision statements, and strategies still MISSING from the Philippine ‘debate’?

So, yet again, we approach another seminal presidential election and there is much bubbling and foaming on the surface of the political scene. While the attention of the public has been focused on the turbulent surface of Philippine politics, few have appreciated the underlying reason behind that turbulence. For like the way rough rapids only occur in shallow sections of a river, the Philippines’ circus-like politics reveal again the vacuousness of its substance.

But what is filling the intellectual void of Philippine politics nowadays is a lot more disturbing. Vindictiveness and bloodlust has strengthened in the last several years as key political agendas.

Small surprise. At the underbelly of Philippine politics is a stark reality: Philippine society has all but depleted its well of collective social trust. Everything everyone and anyone does nowadays is suspect. But of course it is. If there was one thing that was achieved over the last several years, it is that everyone’s been outed as a crook. Perhaps, indeed, Philippine President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III deserves a bit of credit in that department. He has imprisoned his predecessor, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on charges of electoral fraud (and other alleged crimes yet to be revealed presumably), impeached no less than a Chief Justice, and was behind the imprisonment of three popular senators, Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Bong Revilla. Earth was scorched flat in the wake of all that. The President himself, in the process of his witch hunt has implicated his own Budget Secretary Florencio ‘Butch’ Abad (and, by command responsibility, he himself) in the vast pork barrel thievery scandal that erupted around the emergence of alleged ringleader Janet Lim Napoles.

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philippine_politicsBecause of the unprecedented scope of the scandal and the wide public outrage that ensued, Philippine Congress has come to be regarded as the biggest criminal syndicate in the country, its members suspected of being motivated by the tens of millions of pesos allegedly appropriated by Malacanang to grease the decisions they made around the impeachment of former Chief Justice Renato Corona, the selective way with which they mounted “probes” on a variety of political personalities, and the manner with which they voted on critical bills and resolutions that effect deep impact on Philippine society as a whole.

Observers generally agree that President BS Aquino and trusted members of his Cabinet and inner circle of family and friends had inadvertently set themselves up for their own political persecution if the “wrong” character ascends power following the 2016 presidential elections. As such, the fight for the the coveted seat in Malacanang is increasingly becoming brutal. As if to further add insult to the injury the Senate suffers after being widely regarded by the Filipino public as a den of crooks, it is a convicted mutineer-turned-‘senator’, Antonio Trillanes IV who is currently mounting an ironically vicious campaign to demonise Vice President Jejomar Binay, currently the strongest contender for the 2016 presidential elections — going as far as the desperate measure of implicating the Vice President as his co-conspirator in the 2007 Manila Peninsula Siege that Trillanes led against then President Arroyo.

But groups loyal to President BS Aquino (who, interestingly enough, “pardoned” Trillanes’s act of treason in 2010) who have banded together to back Trillanes’s efforts to stop a Binay presidency are yet to present a credible challenger to Binay’s candidacy. Current Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas who, back in 2009, stepped back from his own candidacy to make way for Aquino’s is the most promising candidate of Binay’s future Opposition. Unfortunately this is a sad indictment of these groups’ ability to find qualified and winnable political talent among their ranks. Roxas, is an absolute political and administrative failure and an embarrassing public relations disaster. His presumed leadership role in disaster response management in the days preceding and subsequent to the havoc wrought by Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 has turned Roxas into a global laughingstock. From the onset, Roxas’s hunger for the presidency has clearly been evident, and his over-eager efforts to look good before the cameras proved to be his ultimate downfall.

The Philippine mainstream media, and the country’s top traditional opinion-shapers have been quite busy making all of the above little issues look like they are monumental national concerns of deep consequence to the average Filipino. In reality, none of the above effect any significant impact on the lives of ordinary Filipinos. For one thing, the influence any one president has on the performance of the Philippine economy has long been debated and there is much agreement amongst economists that much of the economic “achievements” trumpeted by the Aquino administration (or any past administration, for that matter), represent mere correlations. Proving true causal links between presidents and economies is really no more than Mickey Mouse science despite such “analyses” being effective fodder for propping up investors’ confidence and serving as thickeners for PR strategy.

The real elephant in the crowded room of political chatter in the Philippines is thinking — or, more apporpriately, the lack of it. There are a lot of hard questions that will likely remain unanswered if we jump off from that piece of insight…

What does all of this noise mean?

What are the philosophies, ideologies, and doctrines of the competing parties in today’s politics?

Do any of these people and parties have a compelling vision for the Philippines to pitch to the Filipino voter?

Has a focus on ‘voter education’ achieved any real results?

Are the right arguments winning?

Have the real problems been identified and clearly framed in the national “debate”?

Indeed, in the answers to the above hard questions lies the key to real reform in Philippine society, governance, and culture. It is quite revealing that none of the above questions take important places in today’s political discourse. And if there is one thing that spells doom for the Philippines’ prospects of one day becoming a prosperous society, that would be it.

27 Replies to “Why are platforms, vision statements, and strategies still MISSING from the Philippine ‘debate’?”

  1. Because none of the candidates truly care about uplifting the lives of Filipinos. To them the presidency is a tool to extract more wealth while protecting their already amassed wealth. The goal for all of these candidates and their entourages is to seize the throne and milk it for what it’s worth for six years.

    Also living in a corrupt system where little is spent on education and everything is done through bribery has made both the elite and the masses dumb. Just compare b.s. Aquino to his father. the masses just want to be entertained. Elections are fiestas. Who has times for things like philosophies platforms and debate?

  2. This is pretty much what happens if Education is thrown under a bus. It hurts both the rich and the poor because even if the rich have their private universities, the people who will teach them come from a variety of educational institutions. Including the ones undercut by the government.

    This country is pretty much the movie “Idiocracy” but minus the future.

    1. I dont think the government throws education under the bus. Education has had the highest budget since 1987 due to the constitution requirements of Education having the highest budget per year. We are almost tied with Singapore at 1st/2nd place in ASEAN in terms of quantity of % college graduate in terms of adult population. Even if you compare Philippines with China in terms of college graduates in terms of adult population, we are 5-6 times greater in % than China.

      But if we become selective to comparisons, like comparing Philippines with only the first world, yes we are behind to the first world in education. Or you are just comparing per school/university ranking rather than the whole country’s education system vs ASEAN, yes Philippines would look like behind since one school doesnt account for normalizing the value for the average of the whole system.

      1. well we all know that in the Philippines the Constitution is just another piece of paper as to that education allocation guarantee in the constitution….a larger part of the current budget is still allocated to debt servicing and LGUs (to be fair education is catching up) and only trails narrowly. see link.


        but as to % of GDP allocated to education the Philippine allocation is woefully low when compared with other countries…to be fair these are 2008 figures. see link


        although 2013 figures still indicate the same meager amount as to % of gdp spent on education. see link


        lastly, the equally important but often ignored test in the philippines….the eye test…what do we see….cramped class rooms….two to three shifts at public schools…lack of equipment…teachers opting to DH in HK

        1. Sorry but all these don’t prove that education is thrown under the bus. You only proven what I have been stating that philippines isn’t at par with the first world, your stat only proves that the poorest nations on earth are the highest rather than the most advanced and richest since you got east Timor and cuba on top. That stat also proves the large population dedicate less gdp % to education since if you count the 100m or above, the nation highest among them is usa.. With regards to your unseen factor education, Are classrooms in east Timor or Cuba better than philippines, Denmark or usa? Have you been to all of these countries to see all the classrooms? Or biased Ka Lang Kasi yung Ang nakita mo sa pilipinas?

        2. sheesh we are on the same team. we both want philippine education to be better. you do think it can improve right? based on what you see right? i like to keep things simple. i see inadequacies and want to improve them.

          don’t shoot the messenger …. it was a UN ranking.

      2. ..Yes, in terms nominal peso value, the budget for Education has been increasing, but that is only to comply with the law. That is not the complete picture. Depending on the year, the peso value increases have been ranging between 6% to 10% per annum. Considering that inflation has been running between 4 to 5%, the increases really just covers inflation. If we say then that the increases were at 1to 5%, then that may just be covering the increases in student population. I have a suspicion that in terms of peso allocated per student, the amount may even be decreasing. No wonder, they could not increase the salaries of teachers, which we haven’t added to the above. What about depreciation, deterioration of facilities, etc (What about the increasing rate of tongpats too? You know that old politicians are appalled at what s been happening. They were happy in their time with 10%, at most 30% but very seldom. Since Gloria’s time, weren’t we hearing 50, 100, even 200% coming out of Blue Ribbon investigations?)

        UN has urged developing nations to base allocations for education based on GDP, and they pegged the standard at 7% of GDP. I understand PHL could not comply with that as that would mean spending our entire budget just on education. Education budget is at Php300 to 400B, that is I believe in the region of +/- one% of GDP (which is around USD600B, if my memory serves me right). The only reason why there are years we see two% of GDP is because Bro Luistro has been busy looking for outside funding, and those are years he got lucky. This shows you that govt in general does not focus on education. Increases were just to comply with law, and that is it, no further initiative, except that coming from Luistro, all by his lonesome self.

      3. It’s not just the budget that reflects how the government values education, it’s in the design of lessons and what you teach. For example, teaching Pinoy Pride to children conditions them to just be proud without reason. So in a way, that’s under the bus.

        1. “Sorry but all you said doesn’t prove that education is thrown under the bu” – oh wait, Pinoy Pride you say? Now, we did throw PHIL. EDUCATION under the bus.

  3. Just watch what’s on local TV and that question answers itself.

    This whole country has become an insane asylum for the feeble minded.

    Through the last 30 years Filipinos have been spoon fed so much shit, no wonder their brain is full of it.

    1. @ Jim, u kno, it must be that these shit heads in the country have been spoon fed shit for so long that they have forgotten how bad that first mouthful of shit tasted ! In fact ,it appears that they not only LIKE EATING SHIT, but have become what they eat,the shitheads!

  4. ..How could any political party even begin to present a credible platform for 2016? In 2010, a vision was formulated and was presented to the public in the form of slogans. Tuwid na Daan, combined with Kung Walang Corrupt, Walang Mahirap. It caught the fancy of even those who don’t look for political platforms. It caught the imagination of even those who don’t understand how a national psyche which such fancy could eventually lead to some expected and unexpected, but desirable, transformation. It was a promise of a better future, and a good many good people embraced it. They were already seeing public servants with integrity. They were already seeing a world where honesty is a norm, and if ever there was an assault on honesty, lives will be sacrificed to protect it, for that is already their lives; they believe in people who said they were honest, but who were not. They have suffered and are suffering because of their naivete. Walang Mahirap? These incoming leaders must be compassionate. That is the picture those slogans evoked. Unfortunately, the very people who made voters dream such dreams are also the very people that pricked the balloon of those dreams. Who will now believe any platform the next time one is presented?

    No matter how many times it is repeated, it is difficult to fathom persons who can go up a stage and profess their love for the people, and yet maintain deep inside hatred for the same people. 2010 was different. The one that went up the stage was the son of a father who died because because of his dream. And, the people have since embraced the dream because there was no one individual who owned it, but that it was now a property of all. But the son promised the people the FOI and the anti-dynasty laws. To-date, there are no such laws. He said he had his hands off with regards to Hacienda Luisita, but he was willing to risk the integrity of the Supreme Court to go after a Chief Justice who was meddling with the Hacienda. He would not allow the hearing on PDAF, but only gave in because he was pressured by investigative journalists. He would again fight SC because they told him he was wrong on DAP. He fired the police director in Tacloban for telling the truth. And, the list could go on. Where is now the honesty and compassion that was dramatically promised? Can he even call himself the son of his parents?

    Does it still baffle the mind that people would now prefer the most corrupt, the one with unli-greed, as a protest to those who say they are honest. At the very least, this guy is a known quantity. So, the hell with visions, ideology, and platforms, let the country go on without direction. People are tired of the same surprises, they now want a different kind of surprise. Who said these people are stupid; it seems they know what they are doing.

    1. I kind of liken Philippine politics to the younger teams in a soccer league. In the younger teams, the players basically just all chase the ball all over the field and run to wherever it goes. More mature teams, on the other hand, have players taking their designated positions and contributing to the overall team play generally from those positions and move as a cohesive force towards the common objective of scoring a goal.

      The Philippines, even after several decades of ‘democracy’ still behaves like the earlier. It’s politicians doing nothing more than chasing their moving target, the fickle and feckless Filipino Voter, all over the field.

  5. It seems that our present-day leaders just fit themselves with the existing government needed to be governed not for the sake of changing anything but for retaining everything (that interdependence). Firm grip on pork barrel, old solutions for old problems (energy crisis, territorial dispute, traffic, Muslim war, unemployment, more OFWs, flooded Metro…). So I think the reason why platforms, vision, innovative ideas sit nowhere is because for them those are already given. They only have to continue what they haven’t finished (or still haven’t started but are in the program with corresponding budget). Since they will be facing the same problems for the next electorate, all they have to do is talk about the same problem, provide the same solutions and give the same old worn-out speeches. Perhaps, if they are not smug, it’s just that change is too risky for them. So they will continue to accept the money that’s not supposed to be at their disposal if their job is to promulgate or better an existing law. They will continue to have more issues with their colleagues than the national issues they should be addressing because their budget at hand was spent in a corruptible manner since their job is not to enforce a program (that’s up to the President and his Departments) but to oversee that what they pass in congress or senate is being enforced. You have leaders who adopt for themselves a number of supporters that could be labeled their extended family because once in position, they have to provide for them with their budget (coming from the taxpayer’s pocket) and list it down as government unaudited expenditures, progress allotted for a certain number of people only otherwise the masses would have seen or felt it.

  6. The last guy that won the presidency ran on an anti-corruption campaign platform , and most can figure out how that went. For those who can not figure it out: Well,the corruption got worse !
    Does it really need to be pointed out that the people running for office are full of shit? They will say or do anything to get elected and that once they are elected will just steal everything they can get their filthy thieving hands on ?
    Something needs to be changed alright and it is not the way the elections are campaigned in.

  7. At the risk of summing it up too neatly, let’s say we Pinoys aren’t too big on the vision thing — but the thing is, you need to know where you are right now and why you are where you are right now to plan for the future, and we’re not too big on history or education either. It’s real hard to transcend when you don’t have a clue.

  8. Since I can remember; political candidates came to our Province during elections. They do not have any Platforms; or any plans to better the lives of everybody.

    They come with an entourage of :entertainers, comedians, show biz personalities, etc…it was like a fiesta atmosphere. Song and dances were featured. Then, came the prepared speeches of the candidates. Along with promises, that will never be fulfilled.

    After the election, you cannot even see their shadows…you only hear them from the radio; or read them in the newspapers…

  9. Filipino culture is all about personality, not platforms. Thus, we bring up Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote again:

    Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.

  10. Education comes out not in number of graduates but what those graduates do with the education. The answer in this country is not much. Jim Rohn said the market place is reality. The reality is this country is baduy. The line between entertainment and politics is so blurred and both use baduy as the hook to entice and seduce the people. Like I said many times in my own space here in GRP “It works” . So proud to be pinoy guys.

  11. There is no use for a debate because the deceptive corrupt politicians are still in power. The time for good debates are when everybody are being truthful and critically intelligent.

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