| Photo by Roger Alcantara via Creative Commons/Flickr
A heightened state of political activity is once again brewing in the Philippines. Former political archrivals are now in uneasy alliances for political survival. Onetime political allies for convenience are now political adversaries, likewise, for convenience. Filipino voters must discern and then doubt the sincerity of their verbal attacks against one another to find the true and desirable alternative to the present order. It is political circus time once again.
With the national elections coming up in May 2022, political parties or factions and politicians are trying to overshadow and overpublicize in the media. With the filing of certificates of candidacy deadline on October 10, 2021, just a bare two weeks away, politicians declare their intentions to run for the two highest offices of the land. The choices may either be real or just part of a strategy to either court others to support them or for other more prominent candidates to offer them incentives in exchange for their withdrawal and support.
When the October dates for filing certificates of candidacy and replacement of candidates come, we will know who among those declared candidates are serious in the running. With the May 2022 elections still about eight months away, there is still a lot of time for political machinations and negotiations. Withdrawals of candidacies, either in exchange for material gain and support or self-realization of the futility of continuing a quixotic campaign, are to be reasonably and practically expected. They will and are bound to happen.
“Elections in the Philippines are not a contest and choice of ideas. Elections are decided not on the issues but the popularity based on candidates’ various external and superficial attributes”
Recent media accounts show fractious political parties or groups, opportunists, and their blind supporters in action. As of this writing, the two factions or wings of the PDP-Laban party have declared their respective candidates for president. One is a loyal long-time aide of the incumbent president running for the vice presidency, who has not formally accepted the nomination. The other is a revered world-renown boxer who is also a senator and former ally of the incumbent president.
The KBL, a political party founded by the former dictator and martial law ruler Ferdinand Marcos, has declared the founder’s namesake as its candidate for president. Curiously, neither the boxer nor the namesake of the former dictator has named a running mate. It is an indication of openness to an invitation for an alliance for expediency. Another is an incumbent mayor, a former movie actor, in Manila of a lesser-known political grouping. Still another declared candidate is a sitting senator who once ran for the presidency, with a former actor senator as running mate.
The groups are generally perceived as the real opposition because they are not affiliated with the present ruling groups, have not declared their candidates for president and vice-president, respectively. Another has not announced her intention. Her supporters have resorted to novenas, including prayers to convince her to run. A self-anointed son of God with a surprising following has threatened to run for the presidency. The ways of politicians and their respective supporters can be colorful yet irrational.
As in previous national elections, there will be more candidates whose names the voters may not have heard of and whose chances of winning are zero. It seems that to them, the lure of being on the list of official candidates is itself a distinctive achievement.
The unusual number of declared candidates in the Philippines, compared to those in other democracies, could be attributed to the absence of fundamental differences in the professed and stated objectives of the political parties. We can trace the origin and connection of all the current political parties or groups to prior political parties. They are all splinter groups from the same parties or groups. If we are to make a family tree of a sort, they are all related. They are all the results of personality conflicts, not of significant and lasting policy conflicts.
“We can trace the origin and connection of all the current political parties or groups to prior political parties. They are all splinter groups from the same parties or groups. If we are to make a family tree of a sort, they are all related.”
Elections in the Philippines are not a contest and choice of ideas. Elections are decided not on the issues but the popularity based on candidates’ various external and superficial attributes. It may account for the number of people from or in the movie and other media industries, unknowing who gets elected in the art of governance.
Philippine elections are about bombast, pomp, and glamour. Rhetoric uses words, as in curses and braggadocio, promises to solve complex and impossible problems quickly. Pomp and glamour in the political campaigns and similar events. These are what the political parties and politicians offer the voters to win. Previous elections validate that these are what the voters approve. It did not matter to them whether the voters wanted it. They participated in the exercise, but they mounted sustained and effective joint efforts to change those ways.
The submissiveness and tendency to accept a situation perceived as difficult, if not impossible or insurmountable, to change come to full display. The observation of almost 400 years in the convent, nearly 50 years in Hollywood, 21 years under a Marcos arbitrary rule, the existence of political dynasties, and six years of presidential terms that resulted not in the improvement of life, liberty, and happiness of the Filipino people reveal those Filipino characteristics.
“Philippine elections are about bombast, pomp, and glamour. Rhetoric uses words, as in curses and braggadocio, promises to solve complex and impossible problems quickly. Pomp and glamour in the political campaigns and similar events.”
In democracy Philippine-style, corruption and rule by prominent families have been recurrent and perennial issues in elections. The Philippines remains languishing at the lower bottom of the list of the most corrupt countries in the world. And where human rights abuses are more than in many other countries. Changes in officials have neither resulted in beneficial changes to the system nor the economy. Neither have they resulted in the upliftment of the moral and behavioral standards of the people.
At the risk of being accused of nostalgia of the “good old days,” and primarily because I witnessed some of them, I say some of the “good old days” have gone, as nature causes them to pass. The old ones who perpetrated and propagated the system that resulted in the current state of affairs in the Philippines may not reasonably expect to remedy it.
Elections are the peaceful and democratic way of effecting changes. As Philippine history and histories of other countries have shown, they have not co-opted the youth in the existing system that can effectively make meaningful changes. In the Philippines, the question is: how many of the youth have they not co-opted? Do they have the fire and zeal of patriotism given the system of education that seemed to have neglected to instill it among the youth? Or corrupted and resigned to adopt the ways of their elders?
And even granting that they will swarm the polling places to vote, will the voting system be resistant to or invulnerable to manipulation by the powerful and corrupt who desire to perpetuate themselves in power and protect the system that offers financial and another reward to them? What can happen if the genuine efforts to change by elections are thwarted and frustrated?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Manuel B. Quintal, ESQ., practices law in New York since 1989. He is active in the community as a member, an officer, or a legal adviser of various professional, business, and not-for-profit organizations. He was a columnist of Newstar Philippines, an English language weekly newspaper published in New York, from 2006-2009. He was Executive Editor of International Tribune, an English language weekly newspaper for the Asian community, based in New York, from 2010 to 2012. He is admitted to practice law in the Philippines and New York State. He has graduate degrees in Political Science and an LL.M. major in International Law.