The Failure of Democracy in the Philippines
by Apolinario Villalobos
The first abuse of freedom, perhaps, could be what is told in the legend about the Paradise. God supposedly put Adam there and later from his rib, Eve was created, so that he would not be lonely. They had free will, freedom to do what they wanted. Unfortunately, Eve abused this when she gave in to the temptation of the serpent who told her about the “tree of life” in that Paradise. As the legend goes, she partook of a fruit with which she tempted Adam who readily gave in, using his free will.
Today there are free countries, ruled with democracy which is perceived to be the best because of its principles rammed down the throat of adherents. But in reality, it has many weaknesses, as its very principle made it prone to abuse of all kinds. Because of freedom supposedly as its essence, people are left to practically do whatever they want. Of course there are laws that are supposed to curtail their acts, but because of corruption, indolence and indifference, they are not implemented – a very unfortunate reality.
In this world, when it comes to governance, man is left with either, democracy with its freedom, or socialism with its dictatorship. The character of each is not free from the taint of abuse and corruption. So, what is left is a choice for the least evil between the two.
The problem with democracy is that criminals for instance, are presumed innocent unless proved guilty, even when caught in the act or despite evidences pointing to the commission of guilt! To prove such commission, a process has to be followed in which witnesses have to issue statements under oath and lawyers must be hired… woe then to the victim who cannot afford to hire a bright lawyer! The government provides free services of its lawyers for the poor, but most often, they are not as reliable as the hired ones in view of the obvious reason.
The Philippines as a young republic seems to have been forced into “maturity”. The haste did not give time for the essence of democracy to be properly inculcated in the mind and heart of the Filipinos. Enthusiastic, after having been freed from the clutches of the Spaniards who for long subjugated the islands, the early leaders went ahead in copying the “democracy” of other countries, without giving much thought on the nature and temper of the Filipinos as an Asian race.
While cuddled by America, a country with a federal system of government, the early leaders opted for the presidential form of other countries. Today, as the diverse regional differences of the country is emphasized when the people began to protest loudly due to the unfairness in the distribution of benefits and services, some sectors realized that the Philippines may have been better off with a federal system of government than the present one that is treading on uncertainties and volatile ground.
The uncontrolled surge of corrupt practices due to lack of control and defective operating system of the government, are now blamed on the location of the central government and the dissected state of the country, being an archipelago.
Corruption has been the issue ever since the country had its first president. This reality has been stressed during the time of Diosdado Macapagal and the same was used by Ferdinand Marcos to win the sympathy of the people. His intelligent perception made him use the issue as the centerpiece of his administration, giving him an alibi to declare Martial Law. Unfortunately, instead of using the new set up for the betterment of the nation, he also abused it that eventually spelled his downfall. Instead of healing the wound of the people the dictatorship became the proverbial salt that aggravated the tingling hurt.
The Marcos dictatorship was toppled by the “People Power”, a mass movement that has become a trademark of the Filipinos in the world of politics, although, for a short period of time. It has purportedly become an embarrassment later for the Filipino people as those in the know were saying that it was a sham movement for democracy – a manipulated one, by the opportunistic people who habitually change their color to blend with whatever administration holds the reins of the government. Its sparkle waned after just four commemorations as those “originally” identified with the movement, carefully kept their distance from the people behind it, ashamed and feeling guilty that they have been part of the sham.
Today, corruption has just worsened, assuming a “free for all” semblance . The series of corrupt act starts at the time politicians campaign for position during which vote buying has shamelessly became the norm. This is followed by the blatant manipulation of budget involving non-governmental organizations, up to the point of padding of budgets for major infrastructure projects – all done by those whose seat in the government has been practically paid for in cash during the election.
While there are investigations going on, the barrage of accusations and denials that fill the airwaves and pages of print media is even made more circus-like by hearings that the Filipinos in general doubt will really achieve their goal. What the people perceive is the use of this hype in the legislative halls as tools to earn media mileage in favor of ambitious political personalities who would like to sit in the Malacaῆan Palace.
To make it short, democracy as supposedly an ideal governance failed in the Philippines.