Time for positive and responsive politics 1

Time for positive and responsive politics

Edmund Tayao

Posted at Jul 07 2021 12:49 AM

We should have had enough by now. I don’t think we can still have more of the old politics we have had for the longest time. Nothing has changed despite the many claims and rallying cries for reform of political leaders we believed in and supported, only to be disappointed. 

We’re at another cycle again, as vicious if not more than before. Reports of internal problems within the administration party once again abound, definitely not the first time as many would like to believe. But as to how more deceitful and self-interested, it’s anyone’s guess and judgement. We can start by asking who is using who, and for what? Even, how much? 

In the first place, being user-friendly is part of politics, especially the partisan kind. As I have always argued, politics, if only rightly understood and practiced, is not just partisanship; it’s more about getting policies and programs in place to address prevailing issues. Sadly, ours, our kind of politics seems to be nothing more than partisanship. What can you expect when the only handle to politics is personalities?

Any political leader would and should know this. All successful national leaders have to have a way with popularity or ensure popularity, whether by real accomplishments and recognition or by fabrication, to prop up one’s image. Up to now, for example, the medals purportedly from distinguished service as a war veteran, claimed by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos remain in question. On the other hand, many would-be Presidents have to rely on personal achievements and/or a family name that has always been identified with celebrated feats, especially if remembered in history.

Manuel L. Quezon knew the importance of being credited with an important achievement. Manuel Roxas, together with Sergio Osmena, secured the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Act in January 1933, setting a process and date for the Philippines to gain independence from the United States. This US law would have to be set aside however. Quezon would have to secure a US law himself that would pave the way for Philippine independence. Quezon was Senate President then and the US law was required to be ratified by the Philippine Senate before it could be effective. It was rejected and Quezon went on to secure the Tydings-McDuffie Act in1934, which would then be the US law leading to the country’s independence.

Note, of course, that independence was the foremost issue then, the very reason why the Nacionalista emerged as the popular political party at that time, easily drubbing its erstwhile opposition, the Federalista party. As their names imply, one espouses independence while the latter advocates that the Philippines becomes one of the states of the United States of America. This was the only time we could say that we had a 2-party system, obviously because of the overarching issue of independence. 

Unfortunately, after this period, new parties would be created by political elites or personalities and often out of existing political parties. When the issue of independence was settled, there was no longer any impetus for parties to be formed and carry on primarily guided by principles and espousing clear programs and or policies. Political parties would only be organized by political personalities and only for the purpose of winning elections.

The “liberal” faction of the Nacionalista party, for example, bolted out and formed what is now the Liberal Party just a few months before the Americans officially left the Philippines in 1946. This would be the story of Philippine politics, parties being formed mostly by political elites depending only on their purposes. The formation of parties could have stopped with three more, or perhaps one or two more formed and strengthened through time by each party’s unique principles and or advocacies. Instead, we would have more parties depending on the prevailing political situation, often driven mainly by political elites. There are existing parties now that are formed and honed by social movements and or non-elites, but these parties would not be as relevant as the big parties.

Fast forward to 1986, when finally, the dictatorship ended, we would see the same kind of politics, the same type of political parties; no distinctions in terms of programs but only in different political personalities leading each party. Do not confuse this as being the same as saying the time of the dictatorship was better, as some would argue in social media. Yes, the regime was remarkable for its infrastructure projects, including housing for the supposedly poor in society and Masagana 99 that had us producing enough grains to export. The question, however, is: in that 2-decade reign, why was it not sustained? Why, despite the supposedly many achievements, our economy deteriorated? If many of the supposed achievements were sustained in that 20-year undisputed reign, would there have been an Edsa revolution? In the first place, was there even a need to get rid of Ninoy Aquino? Note that this period was also the same period when other countries had their own dictators. There is an outstanding difference though: most of these countries are now prosperous, and their dictator before is now celebrated as an accomplished leader, even regarded as the father of the country.

If the dictatorship developed the country’s political system as the other dictators did in other countries, our country would be a lot better off now. The return of democracy in 1986 was another opportunity, however. It could have been a real revolution, that real reforms, institutional reforms, could have been put in place. Lamentably, expectations were dampened that the much-acclaimed return of democracy was nothing more than the return of politics as it was before the dictatorship. With all the powers the Presidency then had, it was another good opportunity to effect real, lasting changes. Just like many of the opportunities before though, it was again wasted.

Every Presidential election then, we hope for real change as it all depends now on that leader, that President to have the impetus and determination to bring about real, lasting change that we have long been waiting for. President Duterte was elected in 2016 precisely with that hope in the minds of the many. Some actually didn’t think he had any chance of winning, what with his lack of popularity compared to all of those he was running against. The people were really wanting change though; and as shown in many of our previous elections, there is only one theme followed by the voters--change. One who is not the same as the choices the country already had before always ends up winning. 

Without doubt, the President remains popular today, no doubt there are remarkable achievements, not only in infrastructure but with many landmark legislations that not only recognized but also gave much needed benefits to key sectors. That elusive change remains though, and I’m inclined to think, we are still waiting for that. The change we have all been waiting for is the kind that is positive, that is not divisive; and responsive, meaning, not in denial, but instead, purposely responding to the needs and many observations from the people. Hope springs eternal as they say, so let us all continue hoping but also working for that kind politics; then we can likely have the kind of government we deserve.

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Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.