Only The People Can Save Philippine Politics

by Jose Ma. Montelibano


We witness today the suicide of party politics as a tool for transforming the political understanding of people towards democratic maturity.

Just last week, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brilliantes uttered a simply but powerful remark – “Party list system is a joke!” The power behind the words is truth, that our party list system is truly a joke. In fact, it is more than a joke, it is a tragedy. But the worst is yet to come.

Just days later, like a movie preview, the worst is, indeed, coming. The pre-positioning and actual positioning of politicians facing the 2013 elections is both comic and tragic. It is as though the meaning of Principle was changed to the definition of Practical. It is horrible seeing the merging victory of what is lower over what is higher, the ascendancy of victory beyond all, the return to darker ages when might was right. What makes it even more pitiful is that it happens when the moment of change is upon us, when a sacred opportunity unfolds for the liberation of a people and nation from corruption to nobility.

Inside me, I know it is my fault for succumbing to serious disappointment. Despite my life-long exposure to Philippine politics, I had allowed myself to embrace the path of hope. I could not, for the life of me, find motivation to wake up each day without the thought that the world can truly be better, that the poor can find relief, then opportunity, that the nobility of serving the public will cleanse the pattern of using government position for personal gain. How could I just approach the winter of my life with the greater probability that the legacy of my generation will be discolored with a corrupt value system gripping not just governance but strangulating the future generations?

I could not, of course. I just could not agree to  bequeath my children and grandchildren a legacy of apathy or despair because it had to be one or the other.  Worse, since we belong to the sector that has much more access to wealth and power, I did not want to encourage my children and grandchildren to continue the path of exploitation as their individual comfortable way out of a Philippine collective mess. I chose instead to find clearings in the forest, to seek foot paths made by heroes and widen them with my own contribution and intelligence. I tried to push open one window here, another window there, so that more little rays of light can provide glimpses of something so much more beautiful ahead. But in doing so, I had to allow a generous portion of hope to penetrate my heart and my world view.

Hope and optimism, propelled all the more by a single-mindedness pursuit of the better things that can be, are powerful ingredients for disappointment and frustration. That is the risk that one must take – to dare hope, to approach life with optimism – if change is the purpose and letting change begin in oneself the preferred methodology. After the horrible descent to political depravity when demi-gods in power backed up by robots in uniform decided that the right of people to freedom is less valuable than the personal desire of an outgoing president wanting to be an incoming dictator, the democratic principle of public service warped into the public serving their dictator. It was not a new dictum. Governance under colonizers did establish a deep pattern of a people serving masters and not those who govern serving the people. A Marcos dictatorship was not a hard idea to understand. Filipinos still remembered how it was for over 300 years and Marcos took advantage of it. That dictatorship aborted the emergence and acceptance of democracy as the new experiment of Philippine governance. To this day, we pay the price of a man’s lust for power and the absolute corruption born from that absolute power.

Re-introducing democracy via people power was the only way that democracy could be felt and understood. People have to put in their share to build democracy. That is the ONLY way democracy can work. People, strange as it may sound and look, are the Boss. P-Noy used his intuition and had the courage to articulate the principle – that in a democracy, people are the Boss. He said, “Kayo ang boss ko.”

We cannot expect that others in power think and believe like P-Noy, not even those who hold positions of power around him. In the reintroduction of democracy as our great political experiment, P-Noy is virtually alone from the side of government. The dictatorial, the elitist, the power-hungry still dominate, and all of them together hold P-Noy hostage until a moment of destiny, like stopping Gloria Arroyo from leaving the country, like leading the charge for the removal of Rene Corona, confronts him. I know other moments of destiny await P-Noy, but the principle politics, ideological party systems, these have not found unavoidable confrontation with him yet. Till then, only we as a people can condemn the political prostitution overwhelming our homeland. We may not be marching in the streets, but we must be rejecting it in our hearts. We have to realize that how we think and act to institutionalize principled politics is the contribution we make for democracy to persist – and that no other, not P-Noy, not the politicians, can make that contribution for us.

On the road to real freedom where citizens can thrive in an atmosphere of greater equality in opportunity, where the majority poor are released from the clutches of historical and inherited poverty, where public service is a privilege and a position of honor, where integrity and honesty are again fundamental standards and not only for heroes, ordinary Filipinos must endure an extraordinary journey. The shift from shame and scandal to dignity and pride is generational; it will not happen in a day.

I myself will throw in the towel with the political prostitution and betrayal laying the foundation of the 2013 elections if not for the other view that I also see, the noble one, the courageous one, the ideal one that dominates the spirit of our young. I know trapo politics, despite its primacy today and its assumption that it may live forever, will find its Achilles heel in the emerging generation, including many of their own children who will be their poison pills.

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