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The Philippine Political System

The economic elite largely controls Philippine politics. Electoral competition did not
revolve around class differences. Instead, politics was a game played within the elite
classes, who manipulated and controlled the political process. The election process is the
main mechanism where people participate to select those who will pass laws, formulate
policies and govern. Patronage politics and guns, goons and gold thwart the people.
There is no substantial peoples participation in decision-making and governance.
The unequal distribution of wealth, unequal participation in decision-making and political
power does not contribute to a stable peace and order situation. Communist rebels,
Muslim groups, Christian vigilante groups and the Armed Forces of the Philippines still
continue their armed conflicts, causing the displacement of thousands of families every
year (internal refugees). Most vulnerable in these situations of armed conflict are women,
children and elderly especially those from indigenous tribes.
Many rich people in the Philippines lack social responsibility, poor people have been
conditioned that they do not have the resources required to help themselves or that
change for the better is not possible since these are how things have been done ever since.
It has always been this way with many political administrations in the past to the present.
Limited development opportunities and options and living daily on a survival mode also
breed negative attitudes such as bahala na (fatalism), kapit sa patalim (living on the
edge), and crab mentality (pulling others down in an effort to go ahead).
The combination of low prestige, incompetence, lousy pay, and inadequate resources is
demoralizing and the opportunities for graft are many. And for that, the result of
corruption should not be surprising. For the majority of Filipino people, disasters have
become part of their normal life.
Rising complexity in the world along with increasing inequality, ecological and economic
chaos has left conventional politics reeling for so many decades. Our political institutions

cannot keep up and mass pressure groups are having little impact, and this complexity
has never been seen in history before. The Philippine state remains weak, and the
continued power of entrenched elites makes it difficult for the central government to
provide cohesive and non-corrupt leadership. Where there is poor governance, there are
greater incentives and there is more scope for corruption.
Despite all these, it goes without saying that the political leadership now is superior to
what we had before. At least the head of state understands economic issues and is doing
his best to provide decent political leadership. I can say that the political leadership now
has been the strength of the Philippine political system for the past years. Six years of
well-intentioned governance is not enough to turn the Philippines around amid opposing
corrupt officials (and groups used directly or indirectly behind individuals in sheep
clothing). We cannot deny the fact that the head of the state has done a good job.
Good governance is not limited to the high-profile prosecutions of erring officials. The
good governance imperative demands the overhaul of entire systems and institutions. The
Philippines needs to undertake systemic reforms by integrating firm anti-corruption
mechanisms in its governance structures necessary to unleash the full creative and
productive energies of Filipinos.
Good governance requires political will. It is about believing in the shared destiny of
Filipinos regardless of class. The political leadership needs to transcend its elite class
interests to engender sustainable and inclusive economic growth. The key is good
governance and that can be the historic and enduring legacy of the present administration
if it acts with decisiveness, persistence and clarity of vision.

Linette T. Guillermo