There is now slightly less than a year until the 2016 Presidential elections in the Philippines which falls on May 9, 2016. I am not optimistic. As usual, the ridiculous electoral system in this country is throwing up a poor selection of potential presidents. Although I am quite protected here on my island, far from the capital, I still do like going into Makati, etc. to eat at a good restaurant every now and then. And I do want to see this country progress, and the people to get a better leader. The current bullishness in the business sector has lulled some Filipinos into thinking that all is well, and that they are on the right path at least. From my experience as an economic analyst in the region, I have serious doubts (Note to self: this deserves a separate blog post).
Anyway, everything comes to a head with these elections. Filipinos should look at the experiences of India and Indonesia and see how those countries’ last elections have introduced new hopes for change. Modi (India) and Widodo (Indonesia) at least “get it”, they both realize what is needed for their countries to move forward; their only enemy now is the entrenched interests and structural obstacles in their respective countries. Sad to say, the Philippine presidential race is not offering up anyone close to a Modi or Widodo. Binay is seen as corrupt, Poe has questionable experience and credentials, Roxas (probably the most technically competent among the top three) is unpopular and lacks charisma with the people. If the elections were held today, with a three-way race among the above names, Binay would win easily because Poe and Roxas both appeal to the same “yellow” constituency i.e. the same people who voted for Aquino, and they would cannibalize each others votes. Look at the 2010 elections link here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippine_presidential_election,_2010
My frustration stems exactly from this, that nobody seems to realize that the political system will always produce these poor candidates. The electoral system, by allowing anyone with a pulse and Philippine passport to run, will always guarantee that nobody comes out as a majority-elected president. For that matter, the stupid rule that allows a President and a Vice President from separate parties to win is also a befuddlement. To paraphrase Einstein, it is idiotic to expect a different result when you keep on doing the same thing. Unless you change the system, which relies on personalities and celebrity rather than real parties that run on platforms and issues, you will always get lousy results.
What to do? Middle class Filipinos, which I believe are dwindling in number either because they are emigrating or falling into the lower classes, supposedly make up the “yellow” faction. They have historically been at the forefront of political change in the Philippines. (Incidentally, I was in the Philippines in 1983 when Aquino-the-father got shot, and again in 1986 when the People Power revolution happened. I have since followed this middle class force-for-change with anthropological curiosity).
Sadly, the middle class political fervor in the Philippines is dwindling. Part of it is fatigue, the result of one too many street revolutions that failed to produce any good leader (e.g. ouster of Estrada, which ushered in the even more corrupt Arroyo). Part of it is disappointment with Aquino-the-son, the reluctant president, who has been a big letdown by many measures. In other words, the forces for change and reform are in disarray. There is no clear leader to rally behind and a lack of direction to take. Instead, the middle class, which is vehemently anti-Binay (who represents the apex of traditional politics), has been hoping against hope that sufficient malodorous scandals will come out to diminish his chance of winning once and for all. That hope is slim, at least I would not bet on it and just stay passive, because the Binay constituency precisely does not care about corruption–they only care about what they see as “results”. If he and his cohort skim off the top, well that is politics, isn’t it?
Instead of being passive, what the middle class should be doing is changing the rules of the game. That is the lasting change that really matters. There are clear, concrete steps to be taken. First, they have to organize and petition COMELEC for electoral reform. That is easy enough.
Ah, but more on this later.