RIP, noble aspirations for democracy in the Philippines
Philippine democracy never had a chance. The idea was noble, but it was hatched by an intelligent few who misjudged the nation’s character. They were misled by their aspirations which were in conflict with the ambitions of way too many.
Aspirations are generally positive, a dream or hope for a better future. Ambitions can be good or bad depending on the principles of the person pursuing them. They can be self-motivational and lead to knowledge and development of skills or they can descend into greed and self-interest and result in a lot of “little people” getting trampled by the entitled.
The Philippines had more ambition than aspiration, and it had the wrong kind of ambition, for the success of democracy.
Democracy can succeed only if the people are aware of their accountability to others, and take pride in that ownership and what they build. It can succeed only if:
- Citizens accept a multitude of views, without bitterness. This allows diverse peoples – where diversity can be race or heritage or physical condition or geographic location or different personally developed ideals and opinions – to live in harmony. Democracy gives them all a voice, through elected representatives and freedom of speech.
- Citizens are informed as to the issues and vote according to knowledge, reason and their own personal ideals and opinions. They don’t roll dice or use their vote to “get even”. They cherish their vote as a way thay can participate in the building of the nation.
- Citizens also cherish the foundation of laws that codify good behavior for the community as a whole. They seek to obey those laws. They respect the values enshrined in the constitution, of checks and balances and majority rule. They protect the idea that each individual is granted important rights, like security and the presumption of innocence and equality.
Furthermore, democratic institutions . . . from government agencies to schools to churches to businesses and professional organizations . . . also aspire to live up to these ideals. They develop ethical principles that hold leaders and members to high standards of behavior. This minimizes cheating or abuse of the other institutions and the citizens of the democracy. It requires sacrifice, and sometimes even bravery.
Both citizens and institutions operate under a well-developed sense of accountability to the nation and a willingness to sacrifice one’s own convenience for the betterment of all. From many, one. Democracy is a giving form of government. It drives toward the large middle ground in search of unity, and encourages extreme elements to participate in the mechanisms of governance.
With the election of President Duterte, the failings of Philippine democracy are as clear as day. Or, for those who believe democracy is a kind and productive form of government . . . as stark as the dark of night.
But it is not just President Duterte’s doing. His election only turned over the rock. It was the bugs themselves who became plainly visible as they crawled out from under that rock that did the damage. These bugs revealed a complete lack of democratic character across the board, inside government and out. The leaders and the followers . . . all have contributed . . . or are today still contributing . . . to the unfortunate demise of a government of, for and by the people.
- The 16 million voters who voted for President Duterte voted with their emotions, for personal need, not for principles or knowledge or reason. They were led down this path by a skilled propaganda campaign that is continuing even post-election. A great many of these voters have no knowledge of what democracy is about.
- Democracy does not require the deceits of propaganda. It requires communication and information and honest, earnest dealings. It requires three branches of government each respecting why the other exists. The last thing it needs is Executive Branch running a campaign to diminish and disparage a senator who only wants to do her job by gathering information about excessive killings. This is not a respect of checks and balances, the way democracy always finds the healthy center ground. It is a blatant abuse of the founding ideals, of respect for diversity of views. BY THE PRESIDENT of the nation.
- The Duterte campaign ideals of “change” and “discipline” are not being carried out WITHIN the framework of democracy, but are being achieved by abusing all that democracy stands for. Democracy stands for fairness and compassion. It stands for fair trials and the presumption of innocence, not killing those who resist because they don’t want to be killed.
- The Supreme Court is hopelessly bound by the politics of privilege, entitlement and favors, rather than law. Decisions time and time again are based on the personal allegiances of the justices. Not law. The simple concept of “speedy trial” is completely missing in these great minds. So fairness is missing. And compassion.
- The Senate refuses to chair an ethics committee even as its members are marched off to jail on charges of plunder. The body (as an accumulated mindset of the inclinations of most members) has no sense of accountability to the people. Members are accountable to the favored, the entitled.
- The House membership is largely self-dealing. Unprincipled. Most of its members have no comprehension of what it means to live up to democratic ideals. They go where they can personally gain the most. And right now, that is with a strong-man. So they become enablers of the destruction of Philippine democracy.
- Educated Filipinos, very generally speaking, are not passionate about democracy or the Philippines. They prefer typing in Facebook and letting someone else deal with it. Like the legislators, they view democracy as an opportunity to take rather than give. They, too, lead with emotions and politics and favor. They, as a collective, represent one big master crab that has no qualms taking to the streets because President Aquino did not visit the arrival of the coffins, but does nothing but grow quiet as nearly 1,000 Filipinos are shot, many by official
policestate stormtroopers. Vulnerable citizens of the land are being disenfranchised from LIFE. But someone else can deal with it. Not my job.
- The nation has no legitimate “Fourth Estate”, or popular media founded on journalism ethics. It is a sensationalist press, favoring the favored and driving always toward conflict and emotional take-aways. Thus, it undermines the union, promoting division, rather than uniting it with knowledge and healthy pride (shared ownership of achievements by the nation).
- Social media are individualistic, the antithesis of democracy, as each person enters the various engagements with the goal of showing off or winning arguments. There is a lot of speak, very little honest listening, and precious little fact-based information. It is a place where divisions crystallize, not where the national union grows stronger. It is the place where the great dumbing down and emotionalizing of discussion occurs. Even principled democracies such as America are failing to adapt to this phenomenon.
The Philippines never had a chance.
Ye were interesting for 30 years and great for the last six.
I’ll give you that.
But adios, amigo! RIP, o’ noble aspirations . . .
I suggest you take up a new national motto.
“Duck and cover” comes to mind.