Centrist Democracy Political Institute - Items filtered by date: May 2024
Wednesday, 29 May 2024 02:43

Duterte end times?

Last of four parts

MY previous columns, particularly the penultimate part discussing the realignment of Philippine political forces leading toward the midterm elections, reach culmination with this column. Part 4 depicts the conceivable beginnings of the eclipse of the Dutertes, whose rise started way back when the pater familia, out of the ruins of the Marcos dictatorship, a child of the Cory Aquino Yellow Friday Movement in Davao, was propelled eventually to the heights of politics as president of the Philippines in 2016. Now that Duterte has done his part resurrecting the Marcoses, BBM and his camp now proceed to repay Duterte's magnanimity by writing finis to the vainglorious political career of Davao's best contribution to the national political stage.

What is tragic is that this state of affairs was precipitated by hubris, the family male members themselves misjudging the nuances of the uses of power, its abuse, its misuse and even non-use — all straddling the limits and discretion of political ascendancy. As succinctly enunciated in the vernacular, "pana-panahon lang 'yan." Perhaps we all underestimated too the moves of the young Marcos and his powerful consort. They must have learned a thing or two from Makoy the patriarch. And with the conjugal presidency comfortably ensconced in Malacañang and the Dutertes blindsided by overconfidence — the couple did their moves.

The Senate coup

Thus, the game is afoot with an alibi presented by the naïve Senator de la Rosa, who in defense of his Davao mentor who made him, conducted a half-cooked Senate cum-grandstanding hearing on PDEA, complete with an actress in a cast of characters designed to expose BBM as a cokehead — bangag! This scheme backfired and culminated in the eventual ouster of an equally guileless Senate president, Juan Miguel Zubiri, by the newly minted Escudero-Jinggoy faction, including the totally clueless and complicit Senator Bato pining with tears, histrionics and inanities, "I failed the war for you (Zubiri)" and promptly stabbed his friend's back even after the deed is done. And a b-s of a statement justifying his role in a mumbled interview that his vote with the new Senate majority was irrelevant. Indeed!

This nincompoop is putty in the hands of Senators Chiz and Jinggoy. And having shamelessly retained his chairmanship of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, the very same committee that was reportedly the cause of Zubiri's ouster, will he now have to drop the hearing — declaring it terminated? This senator has always been incapable of thinking things through — from the time he was a Duterte lackey as police chief and implementor of the war on drugs and the dreaded "Oplan Tokhang."

We will now find a new Senate profile fractured with the remnants — the disinherited, who pompously and incongruously labeled themselves as the "principled magic seven." A belligerent Senate in cahoots, perhaps with the real minority opposition — Pimentel and Hontiveros — will be useless in addressing the legitimate Philippine issues that could disrupt BBM's legislative agenda. But knowing the nature of political patronage underpinning our governance — greed has a way of mitigating these developments.

Local level

Another riveting development is the unfolding drama at the local level, reminding the adolescent-thinking Davao City Mayor Baste of his indiscretions — agitating for the resignation of the most powerful person in the political totem pole, deriding him as "weak!"

It may be recalled that the young Duterte — seeking to etch his reputation as a strong-willed local executive with no qualms mimicking the Deegong's signature "I will kill you, if..." conducted several lethal operations, his own "war on drugs 2.0," exploiting the discredited Oplan Tokhang which the Deegong authored and now meriting him an investigation by the ICC.

Thus, this week, 35 policemen who participated in the anti-drug operations conducted from March 23 to 26 this year, where seven drug-related suspects surrendered, died or were killed, were themselves relieved ("35 Davao City police sacked," The Manila Times, May 26, 2024).

Reading between the lines, this "weak president" has bared his fangs and performed a political surgery — a move that even the Deegong in his heyday couldn't have done better. BBM has caused the sacking of the Davao City police chief (DCPO), Richard Bad-ang, and 11 station commanders and their deputies. Under the Local Government Code, these are all under the supervision of Mayor Baste but under the direct chain of command of the regional director of Police Regional Office 11 (PRO 11), Brig. Gen. Aligre Martinez.

Baste's castration commences!

But the narrative does not end here. Two battalions of the Special Action Forces (SAF) of the Philippine National Police are now stationed in Davao — approximately 2,000 men. These combat-ready troops would help hunt the Duterte media kingpin ally and spiritual confessor — the Appointed Son of God (ASOG) Pastor Quiboloy — who, through unconfirmed reports, is believed to be hiding in plain sight, doing the rounds in his helicopter. Davao's climate has truly become hotter this summer.

General Martinez, for his part, deflated the assignment of the SAF battalions as a possible "political vendetta," explaining, "...we're not strengthening any force here. The regular deployment of SAF is anchored on its mandate as a special action force ... when law enforcement is needed. It is not being done on timing for anything... the PNP leadership stands by its mandate, assuring the public that the PNP, especially Region 11 (Davao), strictly adheres to its mandates in enforcing the law, prevent and control crimes, maintain peace and order, and ensure public safety and internal security with the active support of the community."

So, okay! It doesn't have any bearing at all with Mayor Baste calling the weak President BBM to resign, the Deegong calling BBM "bangag!" and Duterte ally former speaker Pantaleon Alvarez urging "the Armed Forces (AFP) to withdraw their support from BBM — 'to attain peace and stability.'" (Philstar, April 16, 2024)


Adding fuel to the fire (in Bisaya we call this "nagpaduding"), BBM has been going around military camps giving hints of military attempts at a 'pretend coup' — heightening the drama for whatever purpose he has in mind, or as a pretext of something yet to unfold. On the other hand, former senator Trillanes, perhaps in aid of a senatorial comeback, has been tossing around morsels of 'tsismis' that "...some retired and active police officers were trying to gather recruits for the ouster plot... Trillanes, who had led rebellions against former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, said those who were hatching the plot want Vice President Sara Duterte to take over if Marcos is impeached." (TMT, May 25, 2024).

Sara's predicament

So, we come to the obvious target of the Marcos allies — Vice President Sara. Up to this point, Sara has managed to retain her popularity with the implicit help of the still-popular ex-president's father, and especially when compared to the seemingly perceived weak chief executive. Sara has managed to keep her nose clean, and in contrast to her dysfunctional family, particularly her siblings, she has managed to retain a certain politically regal poise, eliciting sympathy even after the very public snub by the first lady. Her advantage is that she is an elected official; the former is not.

Sara's own narrative is yet to be written.

Published in LML Polettiques

Third of a series

PART 2 last week ended with injecting the first lady into our conversation as an embattled, powerful consort to a weak president. But this is not a tsismis column and until new developments surface that contribute to the success or failure of BBM's administration, topics on her will be irrelevant.

To recap, Duterte is impeded from another presidential run, but his attempts to insert himself into the political fray can't be curtailed. He is compelled to safeguard his legacy, the propagation of his political dynasty through VP Sara's ascendancy to the presidency, and, to a lesser degree, prevent his incarceration — a very long shot — resulting from the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation.

'Who in the world am I?'

On the other hand, BBM still has three years to redeem the Marcos name and cement its political dynasty dominance. None in the immediate family is on the horizon to take up the cudgels, except for the House speaker whose aborted constitutional shift to a parliamentary system that he hoped would guarantee him the prime minister post, dislodging VP Sara from the presidency, has failed — "suntok sa buwan," as we say in the vernacular.

There is still a year to go before the midterm elections, but the political maneuverings are palpable, portending tectonic shifts. For one, the UniTeam that propelled the two political dynasties may be splitting at the seams. BBM's Federal Party (PFP) recently forged an alliance with cousin Martin Romualdez's Lakas-CMD to establish the base for the administration's senatorial ticket. Lakas-CMD boasts 100 House members, while PFP claims nearly half of the provincial governorships. It will be noted that the UniTeam alliance that propelled BBM-Sara in the 2022 national polls was composed of the PFP, Lakas-CMD, VP Sara's Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP), Partido ng Masang Pilipino (PNP) and assorted guest candidates. But a deal breaker could be the proviso of Speaker Martin that only those politicians in favor of the proposed Charter change would be included in their full senatorial slate — a constitutional proposal the Dutertes vehemently oppose.


Meantime, the once formidable PDP-Laban, the party that propelled Duterte to the presidency in 2016, has since undergone various permutations. The left-of-center (to center) party founded by the Mindanao-Visayas anti-Marcos dictatorship group headed by Nene Pimentel has completely lost its bearings. On its 42nd founding anniversary, one of its major factions decided to drop "Laban" from its name — harking back to the pre-1982 Partido Demokratiko Pilipino (PDP) prior to its merger with Ninoy Aquino's Lakas ng Bayan (Laban) — but without any ideological anchorage. It has become a pathetic floating shell of a political party peopled by shady politicians and prey to opportunists who possess the wherewithal to capture the brand for nefarious ends, with one faction of the originals headed by the iconic founder's lackluster son hankering for the post-martial law days.

Polls and surveys — same old, same old

One of the diversions appearing during the election season is the employment of polls and surveys, momentary photographs of where candidates, potential candidates, wannabees, and issues and preferences are temporarily situated or pervert the process to advance the agenda of those sponsoring the surveys. These are legitimate or biased, depending on where one sits. One, therefore, must take these polls with a grain of salt.

But as political "ususeros," Pinoys love to speculate this early on rankings of their favorite name brands. Not on issues, qualifications or what they stand for. Just tired popular political names — from the Tulfo brothers to actors turned pseudo-law experts, the Padillas and Revillas, to battered boxer Pacquiao, comedians, and senatorial buffoons, the likes of de la Rosa, Lapid, convicted felon Jinggoy, et al.

But we also have some long-shot speculators advancing a numbers game — "last 2 combinations," a Marcos-Duterte tandem post-BBM. This time, Sara and Imee, two formidable women who have displayed independent thinking and a modicum of political will — rightful heiresses to strong-willed fathers and much, much better than their inadequate brothers. Sara, the female Deegong sans the dirty mouth, and Imee, who perhaps inherited the incisive mind of the father and the charisma of the regal Imelda of the 3,000 shoes.

But can they hold their partnership and sustain their close sisterhood together and weather the influences of their respective families? With these two, the saga of their respective political dynasties may prosper while negating a warped conjugal presidency and an insufferable, aberrant, misogynistic father.

Midterm elections crucial — for whom?

May 2025 is a final barometer for a change only in political personalities for the next regime. It is possible that the Marcos camp could consolidate its supremacy and may even entrench the conjugal presidency. It is possible, too, that the Duterte camp will insinuate their people back in and reinforce VP Sara's claim to the next presidency, allowing the Deegong to continue his game at "pretend presidency." There could be drastic changes in the profile of the legislature and resuscitate the "Appointed Son of God" to continue being a fake arbiter of people's souls and influence outcomes of candidacies by dispensing the cult's captive votes. But will the changes in the midterm elections portend real changes to the Philippine system of governance?

What is at stake?

The real stakes in this midterm are nothing more than a change in personalities pursuing the goals of the olipolidyns ("The oligarchy and political dynasty — impact on governance," The Manila Times, April 3, 2024) political power that will enrich their respective camps; and maybe as an afterthought also benefit the people's welfare — if consonant with their objectives. The change will be in the actors, not the play — following the same plot and tired decades-old drama. There will be no systemic alterations to the dysfunctional system of governance long immersed in political patronage (polpat).

Of course, all sides will pay lip service to the following: poverty alleviation, the economy, corruption, peace and order and in foreign relations, China's bullying, and America's neocolonialism.

So, we go through the "moro-moro," a theater of the absurd, subjecting the incumbent government to whether the electorate is satisfied or not.

Publicus Asia Inc. pronounced dissatisfaction with the BBM administration: "Economic concerns, rising inflation, joblessness, low wages and a perceived lack of productivity are some of the emerging factors behind the drop in pro-administration support. The survey also noted that the 'Duterte effect' still persists, with opposition parties grappling with the discreditation of the previous administration."

On the other hand, OCTA Research survey "... found that fewer Filipino families rated themselves poor and hungry in the first quarter of 2024 ... the country's self-rated poverty is at 42 percent, which is 3 percent lower compared to 45 percent recorded in a similar survey held in the fourth quarter of 2023 ... It must be noted that self-rated poverty has been going down at a modest rate for the last five quarters starting July 2023."

The former found BBM's performance a dismal failure. The latter declares it's an unmitigated success. Go figure!

And on foreign relations, the usual motherhood statements, laced with a little arrogance, "We shall not surrender even an inch of our territory" — the helpless looking up to America for deliverance — in case!

To be continued

Published in LML Polettiques

Second of a series

THE specter of the Deegong hovers over the Philippine political scene, a major factor in the confluence of events leading to the midterm elections, considering his still high popularity rating and his family's hold on their bailiwick in the south and among the Bisaya-speaking voters.

This state of affairs is perhaps a nostalgic offshoot of the Duterte years that painted him as a strong leader verging on the authoritarian, an iconoclastic politician, an outsider, an unsophisticated, dirty-mouthed, uncultured "probinsyano" never before seen among the heavily Luzon-centric rarified womb of presidents.

The Deegong, inured to the pomp and adoration of the masses, can't help being a political cynosure after his presidential stint but is now facing the consequences of his brutal presidential acts, haunted by the possibility of incarceration through the sanctions of the International Criminal Court (ICC). In a similar fashion, Duterte's predecessor, ex-president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, spent time under hospital arrest until exonerated by the Supreme Court. To defend herself and her tattered legacy, she ran and was reelected to Congress.

Duterte, too, threatens to run for Senate. In the latest Publicus Asia survey, he maintains a high ranking — a veritable shoo-in. But the way he has been seen in public lately, with his cane, a shuffled walk, a tottering old man with a stooped body, he can barely climb the steps. His coterie has to bodily carry him up to the "entablado," where he revives and commands an audience of partisans. But the vitriol spewing out of his mouth remains undiminished.

It is doubtful he can survive the rigors of an election campaign. In the latest prayer meeting in Bacolod — a euphemism for a political rally, cloaked as a religious gathering — he again called for President Marcos to resign, a recurring theme. And the Deegong has been doing the rounds in the country, starting in Davao two months ago when the rift between two political dynasties opened up. He is on the warpath!

The chasm between the Marcoses and Dutertes has widened, and the stakes are high — the eventual dominance of the political dynasty emerging after the midterm elections in May of 2025. What triggered this conflict was as innocuous as VP Sara being deprived of her status as the prima inter pares in this administration.


It is a fact that the Dutertes helped immensely in the Marcoses repairing their image after their years in the political wilderness. Mayor Baste Duterte reminded the Marcoses that it was his father who allowed the burial of the late dictator's cadaver at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani, the initial steps toward the Marcoses' rehabilitation. It is a general belief, too, that Sara could have taken the presidency but gave way to BBM — a decision the Deegong had gone ballistic over.

The conflicts surfaced at the onset of BBM's administration. Sara was refused the coveted defense portfolio that she wanted. She got the Department of Education instead, where subsequently, her intelligence fund — a source for political manna — was gutted. On top of this, the ICC investigation of Duterte's alleged crimes during the war on drugs has prospered. And Duterte's powerful religious fanatic ally, a deluded "Appointed Son of God" and his propaganda machinery — a necessary tool in the Dutertes' preeminence — the Sonshine Media Network (SMNI) was to be disenfranchised and castrated in Congress by BBM's allies.

The Marcoses

All of these should not have come to a head were it not for the Duterte camp's arrogance that they can get away with these assaults, confronting the colorless BBM whose tolerance is being perceived as a sign of his weakness. Aside from their call for the "cokehead to resign" the presidency, their ally, former speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, has been emboldened to call for the armed forces to disregard the chain of command. A seditious challenge!

Lifting from a contemporary writer's posts, Jose Alejandrino: "Bongbong is a kid who never grew up... Bongbong inherited the sweet character of his mother Imelda and, being the only son, was naturally spoiled. But he is in the wrong job. His father, the late President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos, wrote that his son needed to 'develop character.' Being the favorite, like most spoiled children, Bongbong doted on his mother... It is also his lack of character that drove him as a young man to like coke, as it was the in-thing with the boys of his age to show he was part of the 'in-crowd.'"

And even older sister, Sen. Imee, the Marcos whose intellectual grasp and demeanor are nearest the father — and should have been the heir(ess) to Makoy's political legacy as president — confirmed in some oblique way in the movie she produced "Maid in Malacañang." She assigned her younger brother one dramatic scene with the Apo, which Ambeth Ocampo, a critic, described as "...a whimpering child of a man desperate for his father's attention and approval...." Even with literary license — the role was most degrading — the future president should not have been depicted this way.

A family rift

This could explain the disharmony between the in-laws, precipitating the fierce defense by Liza, the wife, who recently, in the Taberna interview, bared her soul and her teeth when the Deegong called her husband "bangag," while VP Sara reportedly looked on with amusement from the sidelines. In the face of BBM's inability to defend himself, as in Imee's words, "My brother is 'masyadong mabait,'" this was the last straw that broke the camel's back. Liza, the mother hen, understandably came to her brood's defense. This could be an appropriately acceptable natural behavior by an aggrieved, stronger-willed mother and a wife to a fragile president.

But she went beyond the limits of her discretion. A consort to the powerful must not go beyond the official functions of the royal court. Yet she asserted she caused the termination of no less than the executive secretary — the "little president," the second most powerful position in the executive department. And further admitted recommending the appointments of a cordon sanitaire, replacing the ones originally around the President. And when warned that there could be consequences and repercussions, her riposte, pronounced only by a sharp, savvy and New York-trained lawyer: "Bring it on!"

Now, Philippine politics has been muddled, reviving the image of Imelda 2.0, eliciting from the publisher of a revered newspaper a defense of Liza.

But the last say could be from those of the older generation who knew the Imelda Marcos of the 3,000 shoes. She was elegant, tall, gorgeous, articulate in her own peculiar way. But what was really going for her was that the original Makoy appointed her to the bureaucracy — cloaking her with the wherewithal of an official of the legitimate Cabinet — Minister of the Human Settlements and governor of Metro Manila, who presided over the uplifting of the culture of the great "bakya" masses. She later ran and was elected to the Batasang Pambasa (parliament).

I have not met Liza. She doesn't know me from Adam. But she is not Imelda 2.0 — but a professional, a lawyer, an educator, a mother and a wife, but unfortunately, an unelected adjunct to a weak presidency. But I must sympathize with her!

Published in LML Polettiques
Thursday, 09 May 2024 03:00

Two presidents — a study in contrasts

First of a series

THESE columns will depart from the usual critiques on the underlying symptoms of cultural and historical infirmities of public policies that have been bringing about the iniquities of politics that hugely impact negatively on governance. These are the oligarchy and political dynasties (olipolydyn) and political patronage (polpat) that jeopardize justice, democracy and the rule of law in the Philippines. These discussions offered "autocratic pragmatism" as an alternative system for the Philippines, a tall order or even wishful thinking at best, but worth considering for public dialogue and debate.

The first part of this current series is a cursory dissection of personalities consonant with the election season, both local and foreign: the US presidential elections in November 2024 and our midterm elections in May 2025. These two events feature two former presidents, a fascinating study in contrasts.


The temptation to compare the former presidents Duterte and Trump from the time both took office is compelling. These two dynamic personalities have taken their respective countries by storm — never seen before in the annals of both countries' history. Both were initially considered non-serious presidential wannabees; one a buffoon, the other a probinsyano from a hick town. Trump came from the shady part of the real estate business, touting himself as a billionaire; Duterte was a politician running a local government (LGU) far from the center of power.

As presidents, what was common to both was their cavalier attitude toward the rule of law, which may now have caught up with them. The Donald faces 91 felony counts in four indictments and is now undergoing a criminal "porn-star-hush-money" trial in New York, while the Deegong is awaiting arrest by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Both are known for their brash and outspoken personalities, using divisive rhetoric, prone to using colorful language offensive to polite society but appealing to and relished by their base; for Trump, his "basket of deplorables"; for Duterte, his fiercely loyal marginalized masa. They speak their minds unafraid to express controversial statements contrived for their shock effect: as in Trump accusing migrants from Mexico — of "bringing drugs, bringing crime, they're rapists"; and Duterte cursing Pope Francis, calling him "p*****ina" ("son of a whore") for causing traffic jams on his visit to Manila. Both have a reputation for being unapologetic, refusing to back down or admit fault when faced with criticism or backlash and, as is wont with bullies, would instead double down. Both have been accused of authoritarian tendencies in varying degrees and criticized for their disregard for democratic norms and institutions.

In their personal lives, their sexual appetites are enormously undisciplined, engaging in open extramarital affairs, salaciously enjoying multiple mistresses, and outright sexist and misogynistic — yet almost able to get away with them. Except the Donald, the lesser sophisticate who revels in grabbing women's p***ies, now faces criminal cases, and the Deegong brags about his "extraordinarily large member" (fictitious, at best), his shenanigans just fading away.


Duterte's authoritarian proclivities were a product of being a local city mayor where, in earlier years, he gained popularity (or notoriety) by eradicating a thriving communist insurgency, effectively castrating their "sparrow units," the feared urban assassination squads that had been terrorizing the populace, murdering local police. To counter these threats, he created his own Davao Death Squad (DDS).

His success in the political periphery, far from the glare of the center of power, cloaked him with an aura of invincibility. Catapulted to the presidency, he launched a similarly brutal crackdown on drug users and dealers, resulting in thousands of deaths, both the innocent and the guilty. What worked in a city using the same formula caused havoc applied to the whole country.

The main difference between Trump and Duterte is that the former's actions, although oftentimes unhinged, pass through the sieve of the country's tested democratic structures, America's inherently strong democratic foundations. While Duterte's approach to governance was overtly authoritarian unfettered by similar structural fine-tuning. The latter's acts, within the law or extrajudicial, produced countless corpses.

America's more stable and mature institutions prevented Trump from initiating such a similar endeavor, relying instead on his tough talk and cult-like methods; his personal style, bombastic and flamboyant, seduced the "Proud Boys," fringes white supremacist and militia groups and neo-fascist militant organizations, which practically became his personal army that featured in the attack on the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

The Deegong's rise as a local government executive inured him to the frailty of Philippine patronage politics, where institutions of democracy handed down by the American colonizers were weak and alien to Filipino culture and where the rule of law exempts the powerful and the moneyed elite. He was a good lawyer and former prosecutor and made himself an expert on the bureaucracy.

The Donald's world was that of make-believe reality TV shaping his leadership style. His business acumen, although questionable, propelled him to attain the pinnacle of business, relying mostly on the "art of the deal" by gaming the system, non-payment of taxes and liberal bankruptcy laws, among others. A book illiterate, he doesn't read.

Duterte's years as a local government executive allowed him to create a network of rising people in the armed services, the bureaucracy and fledgling politicians from different political dynasties, people who came into their own in the national government holding important positions. The Deegong's Cabinet was stable through his six years in office.

Trump's Cabinet, in contrast, that was marked by chaos and hysteria. What was egregious was the Donald was clueless as to the limits of his presidency and ignorant of the workings of government. He claimed to be a stable genius, that "he alone can fix it." His incumbency was beset with high Cabinet turnover. Many of his key people were involved in crimes and imprisoned, and some were later pardoned by Trump himself. Michael Flynn, his first national security adviser, stayed only for 22 days. He was forced to resign and pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in connection with the Russia investigation. He was pardoned.

Paul Manafort, Trump's presidential campaign chairman, a lawyer, a former lobbyist and political consultant, was convicted on multiple charges, including tax and bank fraud. He was imprisoned and promptly pardoned by Trump. He is now back in Trump's 2024 presidential campaign.

Michael Cohen, Trump's personal lawyer for 12 years, served as vice president of the Trump Organization. He pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations and other charges. He was sentenced to three years in federal prison and was disbarred from practicing law in New York. He paid the pornography star Stormy Daniels $130,000 upon Trump's instructions to keep their relationship from going public during Trump's 2016 presidential run. Trump's criminal trial is ongoing.

Overall, the Donald is perceived lately to have some cognitive impairment, unable to grasp complex problems, much less nuances of governance — yet he leads the presidential poll against the senile President Biden. Trump has been pronounced by some American forensic psychiatrists as probably insane. He could be the next American president!

The Deegong, on the other hand, is now plagued by ailments and is retired. He still has a clear and incisive mind — and a dirty mouth!

To be continued
Published in LML Polettiques

Last of 3 parts

The three high-profile crimes involving former president Duterte, Pastor Quiboloy and former congressman Arnulf Teves, Jr. discussed in the first and second parts of this series form the backdrop for this third part. This concluding column examines the hypothesis that such cases, particularly as they involve powerful people and many similar ones, perfunctorily go through the wringer of our justice system impelled by political considerations, producing undesirable results inimical to the libertarian concepts we hold dear.

Drawing heavily from our Centrist Democracy (CD) literature (www.cdpi.asia), politics, in its classic but simplified definition, is a set of undertakings directed toward gaining power and authority in government for the purpose of influencing governance for the common good.
This column postulates how the practice of politics, good or bad, impacts concepts of justice, democracy and the rule of law. Simply put, our political practices distort all these.

But we will not go academically exploring in detail the classic thinkers and philosophers who gave life to these ideals: Plato in his work "The Republic"; Thomas Aquinas on the importance of natural law and the moral basis of legal authority; John Locke's social contract theory; Immanuel Kant's emphasis on the importance of rationality and universal principles in determining ethical behavior, influencing concepts of justice and the rule of law; and John Stuart Mill on the protection of individual liberties and the need for laws to promote the greatest happiness for the greatest number. These topics are best dealt with in-depth in some future columns. These original thinking titans, however, laid the groundwork for our understanding of justice and the rule of law, shaping the principles that underpin modern legal systems and ethical frameworks.

Desirable political practices

To put things in proper perspective and central to the practice of good politics, a menu of desirable ingredients should be included in our system of governance for those who seek political power through elective and appointive means. If a lawyer must pass the bar exams or dentist, doctor, engineer, chiropractor, or massage therapist needs to go through rigorous licensure processes to practice their professions, this should similarly be imposed for politicians vying for power in government — in addition to the ultimate consent of the governed through elections.

Prior to the choice of political leadership, clear mechanisms should be put in place to weed out those who seek political power solely for their own and their families' interests. ("The Olipolidyn impact on governance," TMT, April 3, 2024.) This necessitates in our system of governance the need for real ideologically differentiated political parties vying for legitimate political power to begin with ("Political parties — what we need are real ones," TMT, July 21, 2021), and these structural corrections must all be embedded in laws ("Amendments to the Philippine Constitution," TMT, Aug. 11, 18 and 25, 2016).

All these structural adjustments are necessary preconditions for what could induce good political practices, which should include, among others, transparency in government processes impelling proper comportment of officials. Mechanisms for oversight and monitoring compel public accountability for their performance — and transgressions of the same promptly penalized. This type of scrutiny minimizes conflicts of interest, holding them to high ethical standards and acting in the best interest of the public rather than for their personal gain. Fairness plays a major part in the promulgation of policies, with decisions made with consideration for the needs and rights of all citizens, regardless of their background or circumstances, promoting equality of opportunity, protecting minority rights, and ensuring that the benefits and burdens of governance are distributed fairly.

Good practices of politics gleaned from other advanced countries are both the causes and results of democratic processes where leaders are elected through free and fair elections, and where checks and balances are in place preventing abuse of power. More important is the establishment of strong institutions, a free press, and a vibrant civil society that holds leaders accountable for their acts.

PH political practices

A conundrum arose in Philippine politics during the decades of self-governance after our American colonialists bequeathed us a legacy of democracy and republicanism, which, to some extent, may not have even worked or been similarly distorted in America. Why, then, are our practices so dysfunctional? The subsidiary questions are all-pervasive: Where did we really learn our political practices? Was it endemic to Philippine culture? Was it simply adapted, or was it imposed? Or was it self-taught? Many have suggested a myriad of elements. Our political practices in the Philippines have definitely been influenced by a combination of factors, including indigenous traditions, colonial history, and external influences. The Philippines has a long history of indigenous political systems — the barangay and the datu-sultanate — which were forms of local governance before the arrival of the Spanish colonizers. During the 300 years of Spanish colonial rule, the Philippines was governed under a centralized system with power concentrated in the hands of the Spanish authorities. This colonial experience left a lasting impact on the political structures and practices in the country. The Philippines also experienced nearly 50 years of American colonial rule, during which time the country was introduced to Western democratic principles and institutions — superimposed over that of the Spanish/datu/sultanate tutelage evolving into political patronage ("The olipolidyn-polpat genesis," TMT, April 10, 2024). The American colonial period's significant influence on the development of the Philippines' political system includes the establishment of a bicameral legislature, a system of free elections, and a strong emphasis on individual rights and freedoms — all alien to the Filipino original system of governance.

In our more recent history, the Philippines has faced periods of authoritarian rule, most notably during the martial law era under Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. This period of dictatorship had a lasting impact on the country's political culture and institutions, reverberating to the present regime — the dictator's son. Overall, the political practices in the Philippines are a complex mixture of indigenous traditions, colonial legacy, and external influences. While some aspects of the political system may have been adapted or imposed from outside, there are also elements that are endemic to Philippine culture and history. The country's political practices have evolved over time through a combination of internal and external influences.

Resolutions to the conundrum

In a series of columns in 2023, starting with the Philippines' grasp of Western concepts of justice, democracy and the rule of law, we contrasted these with alternative systems, e.g., China's totalitarianism and various permutations of benevolent and autocratic regimes of Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea — to extract the best non-contradictory practices from these countries and adapt to Philippine conditions. The analysis was more than academic as concepts and practices in these countries have also evolved influenced by their own historicities — resulting in workable and successful governments.

Our conclusion was that the distortions in our brand of politics, justice, democracy and the rule of law can best be corrected by espousing one model that best suits the temperament, culture and the evolution of three other successful Asian countries: Malaysia, South Korea and Singapore ("Autocratic pragmatism — one final act," TMT, Oct.11, 2023).

It's high time our governance metamorphoses into autocratic pragmatism!


Published in LML Polettiques