What is wrong with Politics in the Philippines?

By Christopher Ryan Maboloc
Ateneo de Davao University

Philippine society is ruled by political clans. While political parties present their principles in public, there is no clear direction as to how these principles are fundamentally practiced. The ultimate point there being is power. Power is above all. But this power is not meant for the common good. The reason is that many politicians hold public office based on purely material and utilitarian grounds.

Change must begin from the bottom. People need to empower themselves. This empowerment means embracing the principle of subsidiarity. Where there is a needed competence, it is not necessary to centralize. The centralization of power results to its monopolization. It borders on imperialistic tendencies. Thus, it is important that people realize what they are able to do and be.

This means that we need to prepare the youth. Education is the key. However, this will take time. As such, there must be something immediate. What can be done is to reform our electoral system. The electoral process, especially the party list system, is a sham. It is not true representation. One way of doing this, obviously, is changing the constitution. We have to empower true and principled political parties.

The basis of this is that representation must be equal. Political parties must not be controlled by landed clans or influential families. Recruitment should be based on character and competence. As such, internally, political parties can discipline its ranks. Right now, our political parties take advantage of the lack of maturity of the Filipino people. As such, during elections, the right people for the position are not elected. In the first place, the right people do not feel that they can be elected, and therefore, they opt not to join.

How do we change our basic institutions then? I think that we have to begin with the choice of the right principles. We have to anchor the design of our democratic institutions on centrist principles, i.e. human dignity, subsidiarity and the strong state. It goes without saying that the present Philippine institutions are not firmly based on any of these. First, there is no respect for human dignity. If we respect the dignity of our fellowmen, then we have to consider their interest above anything else. But more often than not, right now, the interest of the few, the rich, and those who are influential become the basis of public policies.

The big question, of course, is how? From the point of view of human dignity, we have to consider the fact that the there must an equal distribution of opportunity for public office. A poor man may not be able to run for office because he does not have the money. Poverty becomes an obstacle. And if ever a poor man gets elected, he will most likely be corrupt. Why? It is because he will be overwhelmed by the system. The way to do it then is to change the system so that it will reflect the basic respect for the dignity of persons.

Based on the principle of subsidiarity, government should begin to consider equal or regional representation. The basic point is to give to Juan what is due him. Mindanao has vast untapped resources. It should benefit from it. Manila consumes much of our government money. If there is a system that enables the equitable distribution of wealth, then there is enormous impact on people’s lives.

Subsidiarity implies that we believe in our capacities and competence. Cities and municipalities, including barangays, should enjoy autonomy and freedom in charting its destiny and the full discharge of its responsibilities in terms of fiscal management and land use and reform.

A strong state means that in times of calamities, people get the protection that the state is obliged to give. No monopoly should control the state. No interest group or party should dictate upon the state. This means that the state is governed by the values and principles of equality and social justice.

Above all, the welfare of the people should be the main motive in all state transactions. It must be willing to provide unemployment benefits to protect the public. It must invest in education and health. The preservation of the common good, in this sense, should be apparent in all state action. No single man should undermine the democratic process. Justice can only be achieved if the individual’s welfare, the basic dignity of man, is valued.

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