Why Filipino politicians routinely get away with incompetence and criminality

There are no consequences — not for the Philippines’ most popular celebrity, boxing champion Manny Pacquiao who is also a House representative in Congress. Despite holding the dubious distinction of being the top no-show in House sessions held in 2014, he remains a Filipino favourite.

It may be just as well that Pacquiao has been a consistent absentee legislator. As Joshua Keating writing for Slate more than likely rightly stated, Manny Pacquiao is a terrible congressman. Good thing he never shows up for work.

When asked by reporters about his record in February, Pacquiao pointed out that he was training for two fights last year. “I don’t want to boast about what I have done in my district, but you can see my accomplishments in my district. It’s important that you help your constituents and not just sit in Congress,” he said. “[In Congress] all you do is file bills, but the bills have no benefits to the people.”

…leading Keating to opine: “the comments suggest that perhaps legislative work isn’t for him, and that he may not understand exactly what it is.” Indeed, Pacquiao’s idea of serving his constituents seems more in line with the responsibilities of a government official in the executive rather than the legislative branch of the Philippine government. What Pacquiao considers to be “accomplishments” better suits that of a mayor or governor than that of a House representative. That is, of course, if he will not be the same absentee-official he proved to be as a legislator.

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That’s expecting quite a bit. The author also observed that “the fact that his political career is more of a hobby than a job doesn’t appear to bother the majority of people in the Philippines.” For that matter, Filipinos do not seem to be bothered by politicians who use their powerful positions to perpetrate crimes against their own constituents.

Indeed, mediocre lawmaking and absenteeism are the least of the evils plaguing Philippine Congress. Filipinos regard their nation’s legislative body as the country’s biggest criminal syndicate. This is remarkable considering that every one of its members is elected by popular vote — which says something about the thinking applied by Filipinos to making their choices during elections.

And this is why there are no consequences; not for Pacquiao, not for any legislator or any top government official in the Philippines that fails to deliver what is expected of him or her. Filipinos have long exhibited an astounding tolerance for the banal dereliction of duty and abject mediocrity shown by their elected officials. The whole idea of holding an official accountable for his or her actions (or non-actions, as the case may be) seems to be a concept that is alien to the Filipino mind.

This is what emboldens incompetent and even downright stupid people to pursue a career in politics in the Philippines — which is why Filipinos can expect to be stuck with these crooks leading and representing them over the foreseeable future. Failure — even deliberate failure — attracts no consequences in the Philippines. You’d think that government officials whose actions and decisions affect millions of lives would be held to the highest standard by the country’s voters and its justice system.

Not in the Philippines.

We see, even now, the sorts of men and women vying for the chance to rule the country as its next president in this year’s elections. Do any of these people measure up to the standards required of a people who truly deserve a prosperous future? This is a question Filipinos need to ask themselves. They should apply a critical mind to the task of evaluating their presidential candidates.

In that light, however, it becomes easy to see how huge a challenge transforming the way Filipinos regard their politicians is. We see it in the way popular celebrities like Manny Pacquiao are able to put in mediocre performance with impunity while in office and remain celebrated “heroes” just the same. Filipino voters simply cannot tell the difference between a good government official and a bad one.

How then can Filipinos be taught this critical skill that will enable them to progressively improve the service delivered to them by their government over the course of future elections?

“Voter education” is a concept regularly thrown around come election time. However, it is not just a How-To-Vote lesson Filipinos need. Filipinos need to learn how to think. In order for good and modern thinking to carve out enough head space in Filipinos to make a significant difference, distractions need to be removed. It is unfortunate, as such, that serious political discourse and discussions on important issues that impact Filipino lives have to compete with the mind-numbing entertainment products delivered by the Philippines’ mainstream media industry.

This is where policymakers’ and thought leaders’ assertions that uplifting the thinking applied by Filipinos to their politics is a “serious” initiative that is long-overdue should be tested. Hard decisions need to be made and long-held traditions and ideas on what “freedom” means for Filipinos need to be challenged. The path to enlightenment is not easy nor straight, contrary to what certain people say.

[Photo courtesy Asia Society.]

9 Replies to “Why Filipino politicians routinely get away with incompetence and criminality”

  1. Bobotantes have this erroneous belief that congressman’s role is to provide basketball courts, scholarships, cash for medicines or burials, be the ninong/ ninang sa binyag o kasal.

    basically a feudal peon-lord relationship…

    they complain that bills filed by congress doesnt affect them (economically) because they vote for people who have no idea on how to legislate

  2. I am following Manny on FB (as a boxing fan), and just recently, he posted a housing project “from my (Manny’s) own pocket”, where he also complains that his critics also critisize him when he does good deeds like these. Though the post in itself is pretty stupid in my book, what’s even more appalling is the people backing him up and commending him for being such a good christian (of course with bible quotes to assert the christian POV. Made me think about an advertisement in the radio while listening to a local station in the Philippines, wherein people are advised to check in a certain website? whether or not a certain candidate meet some so-called christian standards. I’m not surprised if some people only have these standards as reference for their choices. God save the Philippines.

  3. IDC what anyone has to say about Paquiao. The Pac-Man has helped a lot of people. Paquiao recently built 1,000 homes in Saragani province, out of his own pocket, for poor people to live in. That alone sets him apart from the rest of the scumbags that are politicians in the Banana republico that is the Fail-ippines.
    As for his boxing credentials, he could not beat Floyd Mayweather, BUT that is no big deal….no one else could either.
    IF the rest of the scumbag politicians had not stolen everything for themselves over the last 50 years? WOW, the country would look a lot different today.

    This is why I laugh at people who want to make the Fails into the next Singapore, LOL !!! It will take 50 years to do, and every day the start doesn’t happen……..

      1. Yo Sid, I did not say it did. BUT , at least he gives something to the people he serves, even if its from his own pocket. The country needs more people like him who are willing to help the ‘massa’ get educated,clothed and fed. Instead of stealing everything and then tricking the idiot ‘massa’ into worshipping them.

  4. He could donate houses and stuff without being a politician. His winnings as a boxer are enough for that.

    The problem when politicians give out stuff is that they could be bribes or simply political patronage. Indeed, it’s the peasant-lord relationship as Monakh described. The constituents are willing to be peasants because of the palamunin nature of Filipinos.

  5. Pacquiao is an uneducated Congressman. He cannot understand legislatures. He is a boxer/entertainer.

    It is sad that the Filipino cannot even understand, their duties as good citizens. They elect these absentee lawmakers, time and time again. These people are paid by our taxes.

    Unless, some program will be taken to educate voters…we will continue our decline, as the basket case of Asia.

    1. Who needs education when you are a true man of God, sent to be a good example for all politicians to follow? Wait!…being a lousy office holder, who’s only qualification is being famous and self-proclaimed righteousness…never seen that before 😉

  6. The trouble with the laws in the Failippines for Failipinos is that criminals know their rights better than their wrongs.

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