Neoliberals like Richard Javad Heydarian are the first to put the blame for the Philippines’ troubles on the so-called “bobotantes“. In his Inquirer column “The foolish myth of ‘bobotante’ voters”, he points out that “authoritarian nostalgists shouldn’t forget that their idols wouldn’t have made it to Malacañang without the support of a plurality of urban poor and marginalized Filipinos, who constitute the majority of the electorate.” He then goes on to justify the “victory” of Leni Robredo, Vico Sotto and Isko Moreno to these very same bobotantes.
Step back from all that and the bigger, more important question comes to light: Can any one of the latter really be capable of the kind of leadership demanded of a President? Just the other day, former Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile shared his thoughts about Constitutional amendments. The Malolos Congress established a parliamentary form of government. This was short-lived because of the Philippine-American War. The Philippine Assembly during the American colonial period was also parliamentary in nature because it was a unicameral body. It was amended later to become a bicameral body which is what the country found itself with after “independence” in 1946. Former President Ferdinand Marcos couldn’t get his agenda through Congress so he convened the 1971 Constitutional Convention. We switched to a parliamentary form of government but Marcos could still enact laws by Presidential Decree.
In itself, the problem is both structural and cultural. The plantation-style democracy was still in place because power was held by the rich who had their politician subordinates do their dirty work for them. Marcos didn’t have the provenance of the typical politician then. Imelda had more provenance being a member of the Romualdez clan of Pandacan and Tacloban. The global political order saw the rise of populists because of the failure of neoliberalism and its policies. We are the only Asian country with a political structure patterned after America.
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It’s high time that we finally take our identity as Asians rather than the false belief that we are “Americans.” We also need to rid ourselves of our present colonizers, the oligarchs who continue to exercise control over politics and the economy. Marcos tried but failed to establish our national identity. The coming election will be an opportunity to vote for a candidate who is undoubtedly Pro-Filipino and not just a lackey of oligarchs and foreign interests. But we definitely need to change the political structure if we are to improve the social conditions where we as Filipinos exist.
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