Think about it. The Philippines is named after a Spanish king. Its current sovereign territory was one defined by its Spanish colonial masters. Its current state religion is an imperial legacy of the Spanish Inquisition — an epic geno-“evangelisation” of an entire native culture by colonial forces.
Then the “Philippines” became an American colony at the close of the 19th Century. Modern-day philosophers can spin that episode in Philippine history as a narrative about how a “revolution” was stolen by the United States ’til the cows come home. But the reality is Filipino natives where outside of the loop when the deal was done between Spain and the United States to cede the islands over to the victors of the Spanish-American War. America merely proceeded to secure its loot much the same way as one would steam-clean the carpet of a newly-purchased apartment before moving in.
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The next round of deals was between colonial master and the native oligarchs. That’s a work-in-progress that continues to this day. The Philippine government as we know it today is just a third party in this lucrative business triage that includes foreign capitalists and local industrialists.
The only real thing that makes Filipinos feel like they “own” the Philippines is their so-called “democracy”. Democracy is sort of like a convoluted contract. Filipinos sign “X” on the dotted line but routinely fail to read the contract stipulations. One of these stipulations is that voters need to use their brains before choosing their next leaders and representatives. Not doing so when filling their ballots does not, in any way, diminish the consent they inadvertently give the winning politicians to rule the Philippines and “represent” their interests in the legislature.
So when Filipinos lament how they “made a mistake” supporting and voting for one politician or another, it may make a quaint story about an instance of voter’s remorse. But, ultimately, that mistake cannot be undone. Unlike the retail industry, there is no return policy in the business of politics. Indeed, No Return No Exchange is the order of the day in democracy, Pinoy-style.
As an observer who’s always seen past “vice president” Leni Robredo’s idiotic Tsinelas rhetoric from the very beginning, it is often tempting to take on board with a warm heart news of someone who once supported Robredo changing his or her mind. But then I recall just how obvious and readily-evident the Yellow Camp’s bullshittery was during the campaign and the abject phoniness of Robredo herself and that warmness quickly dissipates. It is stuff that an otherwise lucid mind would have caught. Sadly, this is not the case. If Filipinos routinely take the trouble to apply a bit more modern thinking and less of the medieval superstition and quickness to embrace hearsay to the task of deciding who to support when it matters, we’d see less bozos like Leni Robredo in government and less of the pointless voters’ remorse being bandied around today.
In this sense, Filipinos do not really own their country. So it is really not that surprising that others — both foreign and local — are able to take from Filipinos with impunity. This has been a centuries-long tradition. The natives work the land whilst capitalists and imperialists reap and sell the harvest. To make it up the ladder from labourer to capitalist, you need thinking, not just hard work and subservience. And this goes as well for the way Filipinos regard their politics. To get truly great leaders in this “democracy”, Filipinos need to think of the ideas at stake and not regard the exercise as a mere decision on who to follow.
Unfortunately not much has changed despite all the technology and information at everyone’s disposal. Filipinos are still divided on the basis of who they follow. It does not seem to matter to most that many of the principles at stake transcend personalities and partisan lines. For most Filipinos, personal affiliations and loyalties take precedence over principles.
This seems to be the reason that political and activist alliances rarely persist on a big enough scale — because these alliances (whether in the form of political parties or more informal social media cliques) never endure without succumbing to in-fighting and eventually breaking into fragments and factions. More importantly, it is the reason Filipinos struggle to take their leaders to account — because they lack the context to do so (no stable set of principles and ideologies against which said leaders could be evaluated point-by-point).
To be able to build a country they could truly be proud of and feel a sense of ownership over, Filipinos need to take control of their thinking faculties and stop delegating this to personalities and ancient belief systems. The time is now for Filipinos to unite around principles and wean themselves off personality politics.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.