The Filipino-Style of Democracy Today
…inept and disastrous, enjoyed only by the few!
By Apolinario Villalobos
During the American regime, particularly under the Harrison administration, Filipinization of the government gained momentum. The effort of Harrison was criticized by the Americans who perceived the Filipinos as ill-prepared, hence, needed more “training” but the kind of a “hands off” not “hands on”, which means that they should not be given direct responsibilities, to give them time to better absorb the essence of democracy. Despite the criticisms, however, Harrison, allowed the Filipinos to have a taste of self-rule, though, with lesser control, until finally, they were left on their own.
The American Constitution was the basis of the country’s own. Except for the federal form of the American government, all other aspects of the democratic system were copied. Clearly now, while practically, the American democracy was embraced by the Filipinos, its essence was not absorbed suitably. The freedom granted by the Americans nurtured the much-abused Filipino-style of democracy which, in time, became deeply-rooted, making the resulting corruption, very difficult to eradicate.
Today, the result is devastating, as such kind of democracy, is replete with abuse, being founded on kinship, gratitude and friendship. The traditional practice which had been going on since the colonial days, was never eradicated, but just got worse during the time of Harrison. It was more prevalent, though, in the lower rungs of the political system, yet. Such practice was strongly observed by the Americans in general, that is why, the freedom given to the Filipinos was perceived by them to be “unripe” and untimely.
Overly nationalistic Filipinos proudly declare that it is better to be ruled by a corrupt Filipino leader than by a foreigner. Lately, at the rate that the Filipino leaders are drowning the country in the muck of never-ending foreign-granted debts, the country’s economy has become foreign-fueled, therefore dictated by them, too, to insure the return of their “investment” complete with interest! In other words, the Filipino leaders have become puppets to these foreign lenders, making the country still foreign-ruled in a way! So, where is nationalism in such kind of a situation?
No doubt, the country has entered the new era of economic colonization. And, hypocrite Filipinos play blind and dumb to this reality, pretending that the country is still enjoying the benefits of a strong democracy. That could be true, but only for those who are in control of the government, their families, kin, and friends. The present president is undoubtedly tolerant of his critics, but democracy is not just about that. Is there democracy in the uncontrolled yearly increase in tuition fees, worsening unemployment, job contractualization, illegal mining and logging behind which are politicians and favored foreigners, yearly soaring of prices of basic commodities, and pocketing of people’s money by corrupt government officials?
A suggestion is changing the form of government, by decentralizing it. In other words, why not give federalism, a try? The essence of democracy is still the nucleus of this system, but grumblings from those with different culture will be eliminated, because with the decentralization, they can have the opportunity of ruling themselves, though on a controlled capacity. And, with the shrinking of covered areas, operation of the “federal states” can be controlled more efficiently, minimizing at least, the occurrence of corruption.
Along this line, the successful autonomous region of the Cordillera has shown that it can be done, followed by the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao which can be just enhanced for the sake of the Bangsamoro. A few more steps leading towards the creation of other regions throughout the country may result to the much-sought peace, albeit limited, due to the still prevailing pockets of insurgency and banditry. At the end, what the country will enjoy would indeed, be the true Filipino-style of democracy!