Mass media was existent even before the rise of President Rodrigo Duterte. But the clowns in public office were the offshoots of the dumbing down of the Filipino by ABS-CBN and the change in demographics brought about by uncontrolled population growth. Professor Randy David in his Inquirer piece “Politics in the age of mass media” rightly observed how politicians nowadays “spend a lot of time and resources creating personal ‘narratives’ that might appeal to a fickle voting public.” David points his finger at today’s “era of the mass media” where…
The old values of statesmanship have been replaced by the ever-shifting topics of public opinion. Today, what animates public opinion has become more difficult to pin down. We see only whom it favors, but we are left guessing what moves it at any given time.
David doesn’t name names because the Opposition would be front and center in the creation of narratives which all began with Cory Aquino, the “simple housewife who toppled Marcos”. The image of her husband Ninoy Aquino was rehabilitated from typical regional warlord to one of a Christian social democrat.
Politics in the Philippines has never been based on ideology. The Nacionalistas rose to power as advocates of self-rule during the American period. Right after the war, the priorities of America in the region changed with the geopolitical landscape. Its focus was on Japan and preventing the spread of communism. The Philippines was granted independence and Manuel Roxas became General Douglas MacArthur’s fair-haired boy. Thus was born the Liberal Party.
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From 1946 to 1969, politicians went from one to another in what could be best described as revolving door politics. It became the tradition with every election cycle similar to what migratory birds do with the changing of the season. Ferdinand Marcos’s cure for this was the parliamentary form of government. The result was the monolith that was the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL) party. There were few opposition parties in the Batasang Pambansa (national legislature) then but you could see the system working because of the emergence of the Pusyon Bisaya and the Mindanao Alliance. Without this system, we wouldn’t have seen the likes of Hilario Davide, Nene Pimentel, Bono Adaza and Reuben Canoy rise to national prominence.
If Cory hadn’t done away with the entire 1973 Constitution then we probably wouldn’t find ourselves in this quagmire of mediocrity now. But the system’s rot is beginning to show. We have recycled Senators and newbies who aren’t exactly qualified at the bare minimum. Willie Revillame at least used his head and decided not to run. But topping the surveys for this election cycle is Raffy Tulfo whose platform is to give justice to the oppressed. That’s not what we need from legislators in the time of the pandemic. This is not much different from what the Opposition’s platform is.
I don’t think they even bother to read about what has taken place in the short span of time the pandemic has caused global disruption. I glanced at an interview of Gibo Teodoro by that Pinoy expat in the Netherlands, Sass Rogando Sasot, who may be credentialed but by no means nuanced in statecraft. At least Gibo has something to offer by way of what he’s seen in the private sector with respect to digitization. However, we need more than this to cope with the pandemic-is-endemic approach which needs the whole-of-government to get behind it in conjunction with the private sector.
The present situation requires prioritisation of initiatives and programs focused on food and energy security as well as public health. We need foreign direct investments to set the economy on the path to recovery because we can’t borrow our way to it. Governments are sitting on a massive pile of debt and it will continue to grow as other countries are also spending their way out of the pandemic-induced recession. The positive sign is the public going out of their way to participate in the 2022 polls. Not even the pandemic can prevent people from registering as voters. This is why it is imperative that this election be issues-based and not the usual personality-based politics we have come to expect from candidates. From the national down to the local level, it should be about platforms of governance. An action plan not motherhood statements.
The Opposition would rather make the election about personalities; Marcos, Duterte and the usual narrative of authoritarianism, populism and damaged institutions. This is the liberals and the leftists making a mountain out of a molehill of irrelevant issues. We should hold the Opposition to a higher standard because their track record from 1986-2016 leaves much to be desired. There are still a lot of reforms needed to make government more responsive and minimize what is lost to corruption. It is not only about political personalities but government as well.
Hopefully the greater majority of Filipinos realize this. Maybe they already have if we go by their efforts to make their voice heard through the ballot come May 2022. The onus is really on the Filipino to make the decision.
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