Lack of a strong national identity makes for dog-eat-dog Philippine politics

For a political and social scientist, Professor Antonio Contreras surely is naive. But he can also be pragmatic when it comes to his own self-promotion. Borderline personality disorder? Maybe. In his Manila Times piece he rails against the “dirty politics” of these times…

Popular culture has reinforced the image of politics as devoid of virtue. From “Scandal” to “House of Cards” to “Game of Thrones,” what we see are representations of politics as a world full of ambitious and greedy men and women deploying the art of power to serve their interests as they indulge in revenge, backstabbing and betrayal. Alliances are no longer emanating from trust but from convenient realignments ruled by the principle that the enemy of your enemy is your friend.

But if there is one corrosive element that is now pervasive in politics, it is that of betrayal, where former allies become new enemies simply because of ambition. This is precisely dangerous because it violates the very foundation of a body politic, which is built on trust. Social contract subsists on trust. Political representation is founded on the idea of trust. This is why betrayal of public trust rises to the same level as a high crime that warrants impeachment.

History is replete with the stories of how empires came about. The Roman Catholic Church evolved out of the Holy Roman Empire. Religion was the excuse for hegemony. There was royalty and there was the masses. America was supposed to be the land of the free. But look at how divided it is now. These divisions have been there since the British came. Up to now, there has been no justice for the American Indians but black lives matter, Asian lives matter, Hispanic lives matter and so on and so forth.

Contreras has no love lost for populists and conservatives but embraces the leftist-liberal-militant progressives. They too have their own power base. It’s not like they’re pure as driven snow. Has Contreras been face-to-face with a veteran politician like say, Danding Cojuangco? I doubt it. The Professor is limited to academic and therefore theoretical constructs.

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My theory is politicos without provenance like former President Ferdinand Marcos suffer from the psychological dysfunction of proving something to themselves or for themselves. Marcos was a brilliant student but he wasn’t beyond the pragmatism of politics. Look at how he risked it all by shooting Julio Nalundasan. What did he and Danding have in common? It might have been the fact that Danding saw how his branch of the family was marginalized by Doña Ysidra. That drove him to succeed and go past what his forebears achieved. It’s interesting to note that Danding never retired. Of the Cojuangco family’s branches, it’s only Danding and his cousin Ramon’s branches which still have both money and power. The Cory branch has lost both. Theirs was the favorite of Doña Ysidra.

If you think about it carefully, President Rodrigo Duterte’s generation is the last vestige of the established power blocs which ruled the country beginning in the 50s through the 70s. Most of the progenies of the powerful politicos then weren’t able to make the transition. Marcos is most successful because his two children have made it as far as the Senate. Juan Ponce Enrile ends with JPE. Ramon Mitra’s children have only made it as far as Congress. Doy Laurel has none. Ninoy Aquino produced his wife Cory and Noynoy. But Noynoy doesn’t have the gravitas to continue having a say. The same is true with Gerry Roxas. The greed for power and money is what has kept the Philippines from becoming as progressive as its Asian neighbors.

The average Pinoy doesn’t identify as Asian. Most political scientists like Contreras suffer from the same malaise. The culprit has always been the lack of a national identity. It is not about political ideology as the Professor claims when he puts it all on the shoulders of Niccolo Machiavelli, writing;

If there is any irony, Machiavelli may have provided us a weapon. We the masses just have to keep fighting the corrupt political “nobility,” even as we yearn for a leader who will check their power and fight for us.

Contreras will never admit it but it was Duterte who broke the political template. He has gone beyond party politics. He doesn’t draw most of his support from oligarchs but from the people. Maybe this is why the National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose stated that Duterte could be recognized by history as one of the greatest, if not the greatest President ever, in the history of the country. This is why I believe that the 2022 election will not only be transformational but also cathartical.

8 Replies to “Lack of a strong national identity makes for dog-eat-dog Philippine politics”

  1. Any self-serving idiot can accumulate wealth for himself. Yet we pretend they can’t be above the law and rule over the so-called less fortunate.

  2. Seems like a very negative policy to make some great at the expense of another … especially of allies. It really is election time.

    This finally gave hint to the author’s rather unusual frequency of submissions … to soft sell someone as being the GOAT. Indeed, outright dirty and very DISHONEST!

  3. Well, it looks like Get Real Philippines still DOES. NOT. GET. IT. The Philippines doesn’t need a new president – it needs to shift from presidential to parliamentary. You may want to read this one:

    Real Talk: It’s The Presidential System That Results In Dog-Eat-Dog Politics In The Philippines

    I hope you can see that the presidential system is only pasikatan. That’s why dog-eat-dog politics happen. A parliamentary system will force people to prove how credible they are during the weekly question hours.


      If Pinoys, outside of a parliamentary system, don’t “force people to prove how credible they are during the weekly question hours”, what makes you think they will do so while in it? What makes you think Pinoys won’t play with their new system…to look exactly like their old system!!!

      Your fatal flaw is assuming that politics and political systems are algorithmic rather than dynamic in nature. Maybe it’s you people who still don’t get it.

      1. @Amir Al Bahr

        Why don’t you take notice that the TOP TEN COUNTRIES in the world ar parliamentary? Coincidence? I guess you’re too busy subscribing to Benign0’s clueless ideas about politics and economics. It doesn’t matter how many times the Philippines changes leaders whether it’s PDP or Liberal – the SYSTEM is a much bigger issue!

        1. Correlation does not imply causation – and don’t give me any of that ceteris paribus bullshit because, in a real life setting, all other things simply aren’t equal..

          Put the same old people/culture in a new system, guess what – you get the old system! So we spend a lot of money to revert to the status quo!

          What part of that is hard to understand?

      2. Parliament-governed countries HAPPEN to be more prosperous than the Philippines. But that does not mean a parliamentary system CAUSES prosperity. Perhaps the better way is to propose that a parliamentary system improves the PROBABILITY that a country will progress just like, say, an “Ateneo education” sets one up for success in life.

        But, see, there are a lot of Ateneans who went on to be losers later in life. That’s because some people simply lack the character to be winners. Thus we cannot discount the Philippines falling into that latter category. If your “parliamentary system” is the equivalent of an Ateneo education in the realm of governance, well and good, spend the money to enroll the little squirt there. But let’s not discount the possibility that not all people benefit from any amount of chi chi education thrown at them, so to speak.

        First we thought “freedom” will make Pinoys a better people. History since 1986 had proven that assumption wrong and resulted in the downfall of the Yellowtards. Perhaps we can replace “freedom” with your “parliamentary system” in that theory template this time. And then history will determine whether or not it was really the presidential system that kept Filipinos in the stone age. By all means, let’s test it again.

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