Perhaps rightly so, Opposition partisans in the Philippines lament the way “democracy” is working for them nowadays. They lost an entire nation in the 2016 elections that catapulted former Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte to the presidency today and botched a chance to gain a foothold into Congress when they suffered a catastrophic loss in the 2019 national elections. Indeed, it is not that big a stretch to perceive Philippine “democracy” to be quite sick when you are at its losing end.
The trouble with this thinking is that it lacks perspective. If Opposition “thought leaders” step back for a minute and regard the complete picture, they will find that Philippine democracy is working as it should be; that is, according to how the 1987 Constitution intended it to. Leaders in the executive branch and representatives in the legislature are elected by popular vote within their respective jurisdictions. Worse, the Vice President is elected separately to the President — very likely a decision made by the framers of the Constitution informed by the paranoia over a possible “return to tyranny” that marked the period following the EDSA “revolution” of 1986.
In short, the Opposition led by a rabidly partisan bloc loyal to the Aquino-Cojuangco feudal clan (a.k.a. the Yellowtards) made their own bed when they signed up to the 1987 Yellowtard Constitution. This was a charter, after all, that put a premium on popularity over qualifications. The thinking at the time is that the “will of the people”, read the majority, rules. As it turns out, this was all just a euphemism for the oxymoron on exhibit today, that popularity makes it right.
How then do you “fix” democracy, seeing that democracy is, by its very nature, a popularity-makes-it-right ideology?
This is a question that haunts today’s democrats and liberals. When the very system you championed suddenly turns you into a loser, the natural recourse is to discredit this system. That’s coming in a bit late to the party. Back in mid-2015, I had already pointed out Filipinos’ rather retarded approach to participating in the democratic process…
Coming back closer to home, to the Philippine setting, we see the way Filipinos have also retarded themselves to using democracy as a mere toy rather than a real tool for modern governance. We can see in the Philippine national “debate” in the lead-up to the 2016 national elections that there is hardly any trace of intellectual substance in the rhetoric dished out by the Philippines’ so-called “thought leaders” and opinion shapers. The candidates being evaluated all fall far short of the bar set by real statesmen of a calibre that makes real sovereigns and real national leaders. Yet the national obsession remains fixated on the three- to four-odd bozos vying for that lucrative seat in Malacanang.
Nothing much has changed. Today’s Opposition, though boasting a who’s-who of chi chi private Catholic school educated partisans, “activists”, “thought leaders”, and “media practitioners”, has contributed very little to the uplift of the national “debate”. This is hardly surprising considering that an environment in which popularity holds primary currency does not provide fertile ground for intellectual conversation to thrive. This is also the reason mainstream media community had consistently failed to contribute to building a more intelligent society. This is because its members’ business models constrain them to channeling the bulk of their investment funds and resources towards delivering the lowest common denominator content to their audience — low-brow mass entertainment.
Democracy per se cannot be fixed. What can be fixed, however, is the quality of its participants. If Filipinos want to remain a democracy, they will need to participate in its processes more intelligently. It is quite evident that the Opposition are not up to the task of leading such an initiative. They remain fixated to a bad habit of negative campaigning — seeking to tear down rather than propose compelling alternatives to move forward. And as to that other big institution that presumes to “guide” Filipino thinking, the Roman Catholic Church, well, there is something to be said about an organisation that continues to uphold doctrines that its own officials deem exempt from critical scrutiny and challenge. The Yellowtards, mainstream media, and the Roman Catholic Church — institutions that exert strong influence over Filipinos — are all inherently incapable of evolving.
Filipinos should start their long-overdue evolution into smart participants in a modern democracy by rejecting the perverted leadership of the Yellowtards, mainstream media, and the Church. We could start by embracing independent thinking and turn our backs towards the obsolete tradition of idolatry — to self-appointed “thought leaders” and heroes, to credentials of dubious substance, and to medieval robes and sceptres — that characterises today’s political discourse. Only then can we begin a march to true democratic maturity.
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