A failing state


WE are watching the sad spectacle of a failing state, 116 years after our leaders declared our archipelago an independent one. Our state is one that seems to be short of some of the basic conditions and responsibilities of a liberal democracy.

Widespread corruption in the upper echelons of governance, widespread criminality, inability to provide basic services. Involuntary movement of population abroad seeking a better life for their families and a high level of unemployment are but a few symptoms of the malaise besetting the nation and making it a failing state.

To what can we attribute these problems of governance? The most important is the lack of popular democracy or people participation, a lack that has allowed the hijacking by an unscrupulous few of the reins of government.

This has not always been the case. Under American tutelage the Commonwealth government that followed the American of the Philippines as a colony, one which was only interrupted by a Japanese puppet government, and then after the Commonwealth the Philippine Republic’s government, which was again interrupted by the euphemistically described constitutional authoritarianism of Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorship, the Philippines was a state known to have the oldest constitutional democracy in Asia. It was considered to have had a successful exercise of self-rule. Under its competitive party democracy that saw the peaceful transition of administrations this country had a pretty reasonable track record of political stability.

The destruction of the competitive party system by Marcos and its replacement by single party rule of the KBL planted the seeds of a democratic system gone awry. Cory Aquino did not restore the competitive party democracy and her constitution, which provided for a multi-party system created a political tower of Babel.

Today we have governments elected not by voters following an ideology or supporting a program of government but, since the Edsa People Power revolt, are governments that are captives of the politically entrenched economic elite. These are government headed by popular personalities drawn from the movies and the world of entertainment and from the popular clans. Sans party platforms that elected officials pledged to carry out, our leaders are freed from the responsibility of managing the state for the well-being of the majority of its citizens.

Today we have the sad spectacle of former heads of ruling parties convicted of malfeasance in public office. In other countries these officials are dismissed from their parties forthwith, if they do not resign first. Today the people are still waiting for the major parties to hold accountable their leaders now convicted in court.

This is not surprising given that so-called political parties today are simply groupings of traditional politicians that surround popular (read “winnable”) candidates that are bankrolled by opportunistic businessmen and moneymen out to perpetuate their erected monopolies and preserving their rentier class. With media captive also of vested interest, the voting population is merely served with a short list of favorite candidates of the power structures above.

Under these conditions the rule of the oligarchy is preserved as they indulge in the game of musical chairs. One day a set of plutocrats are on the top and another day the other set is elected to office.

The question is why the Filipino people allow this to happen. One explanation is that our people have a penchant for instant gratification. A thousand peso bill (or less money) in exchange for a vote is better than a promise by other politicians for a better life. Another is that our extended family system supported by subsidies and reinforced by patronage politics is an accepted informal social security system oiled by the pork barrel system and other congressional spoils.

Treated by high profile projects with dramatic impact in rural areas that have little socio-economic productivity like basketball courts and public plazas, the electorates become unwitting victims if not willing accomplices of the system.

What will it take to bring about the politics of principle and the demise of personality politics?

A long, rugged and tortuous route is accelerated growths that can fast track higher levels of productivity, incomes and employment! Indeed economic security makes for a less dependent and independent voting population.

But who knows? The power of prayer plus the increase of social networking triggered by the communications revolution might do the trick!


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  1. I agree with you that our country is a failed state, the only solution to it is revolution as suggested by Rey Gamboa. Let us get going!

  2. Forget prayers they wont help you. Its actions by the common people. These people ought to know when the run the country if they steal they will be killed. Now you make excuses for the people that keep this system going this way. I dont, the government wants the people to be not well educated as they are easier to control. The filipino likes laws but when they apply to them, ive noticed that since i moved here. From a very low level in our subdivision hoa they are scared to be to strict or in fact to actullay enforce any rules they bring in as the know the filipino will hold a grudge against them & who know what they might do, like smash your house windows whilst you are asleep, damage your car whilst you are asleep. They know they do things wrong but they dont care, thats how they want it. You see it every single day when you go to a store & a filipino comes up behind you he will walk straight to the front like you are not waiting & make his order. I never see another filipino say wait your turn, but i know every single foreigner on my subdivision tells them to wait their turn, & they dont like it. Its like getting on a bus they will all try & push in front of you, but im just as cheeky as they are & i push them back out of the way.

  3. Yes, in the end all actions withuot prayers are useless.
    I have a complaint about Dr. Romero’s article: Other Manila Times writers have been very concrete in their condemnation of Philippine governance. Why doesn’t he cite specific instances of stupid decisions, incompetent work and actual crimes of bribery, theft of the people’s money committed by the Aquno administration that have contributed to making the Philippines a failing state?