Tag Archives: GMA

A New Politics

As the 2010 election campaign period continues to drag on with all of the mudslinging, cheap gimmickry, and sometimes outright violence that comes with every Philippine election, I find myself thinking back to the presidential campaign of American president Barack Obama in 2008 and imagining how much good a campaign like his could do in the Philippines.

During the 2008 election campaign, I must admit that I was not an avid Obama fan. I thought that his lack of experience was a big issue, and his stances on certain issues were a bit too ambiguous for a serious presidential campaign. I supported him, but not wholeheartedly.

Today, I am in the process of reading The Audacity to Win, a fascinating read by David Plouffe (Obama’s campaign manager) which gives an inside look into the campaign from the exploratory committee days before the primaries all the way to Election Day on November 4, 2008. It is a must-read for the member of any political campaign across the world.

In Audacity, Plouffe shows how the Obama campaign grew from a small, idealistic group of supporters to a colossal campaign machine that never lost its authenticity and dedication to its original vision.

For me, how a politician and his team runs their campaign is a strong indicator of how they will serve in their official capacity if elected to office. Looking back on the Obama campaign after the fact, it is striking at how the Obama team was able to stay true to their dedication of putting people first before vested political interests. From the junior staff all the way up to Obama himself, the Obama campaign sincerely appreciated the efforts of their loyal volunteers and made sure they included them in the campaign as much as possible. This was not a ploy in order to keep volunteers content and working their hearts out for little or no compensation – it was a sincere strategy to make the volunteers truly included in the campaign, because they, and not the big donors or incumbent elected officials, were the true drivers of the campaign.

I can see that the Obama campaign was not necessarily groundbreaking in the ideas its proposed, but it was completely revolutionary in the way it ran itself. It put people first, the way that all campaigns, and all public servants, should.

On the night he was officially nominated the Democratic nominee for president, Obama stood before hundreds of thousands of people in packed Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado and said to the people:  “You have stood up, one by one, and said enough to the politics of the past. You understand that in this election, the greatest risk we can take is to try the same old politics with the same old players and expect a different result.”
Hopefully, some time very soon, us Filipinos will say no to the broken politics of the past and create a new kind of politics where people, not politicians, come first. Let us create a new politics where our neighbors speaking to us about the issues are more effective campaigners than celebrities giving endorsements on the television. Let us create a new politics where roaming cars blasting cheesy campaign jingles have no place. Let us create a new politics where the sweat and toil of unpaid campaign volunteers is worth more than the money of fake political kingmakers with vested interests.

Otherwise, the politics of the past used until today will simply produce the same poor results from yesteryear.

Mob Rule in the Philippines

Since President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972, the Philippines has been ruled by an unelected leader for 23 of the past 36 years – Marcos (1972-1986), Corazon Aquino (1986-1992), and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (2001-2004). The past 36 years of Philippine “democracy” have been rife with controversy, scandal, and chaos. Stable democracy in the Philippines has largely been a myth.

In the Philippines, mob rule is the name of the game.

The EDSA Revolutions of 1986 and 2001 are two of the most important events in Philippine history. Both, particularly EDSA I in 1986, are hailed as glorious triumphs of democracy. In fact, neither were truly democratic.

EDSA I can be excused despite being non-democratic. There was no democratic process through which the people could choose their leaders. There was no alternative to revolution. The fact that the transition of power was largely bloodless and relatively peaceful is a large credit to the Filipinos of that time.

The problem with EDSA I is that it set a dangerous precedent for destabilization and instability in the Philippine political system. Despite its correctness at the time, EDSA I was still undeniably an exercise of mob mentality – the whims of the three million Filipinos standing along Epifanio de los Santos Avenue decided the course of a country populated by over 80 million, meaning that less than 5% of Filipinos decided to overthrow Marcos.

EDSA II has little in common with EDSA I other than the street on which the “revolution” was centered. EDSA II was the realization of all the dangers set in place by EDSA I, a complete breakdown of the due process of law and Democracy. In hindsight, EDSA II was a hasty exercise of mob rule. The overthrow of President Joseph Estrada – a properly-elected president – without even the completion of the Senate impeachment trial was questionable, despite the allegations of corruption.

The most damaging legacy of Marcos may be the severe disruption he did to the democratic process of the Philippines. The tumultuous thing we have here masquerading as “democracy” can hardly be called that. Without reliable elections and more political stability, the Philippines can never be a truly democratic country.

The rising uproar over the attempts of Administration-allied Congressmen to make a “Charter Change” (Cha-Cha), which may potentially extend their terms and that of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo beyond the 2010 term cap, calls forth all these memories of political instability in the Philippines. If Cha-Cha somehow is passed into law, public outrage coupled with the intense unpopularity of President Arroyo could very well result in yet another EDSA Revolution.

If this is the case, the road to mature democracy in the Philippines will only grow much longer.