Our country is headed to plutocracy


SOME will contend that the Philippines today is already a plutocracy. But we will assume here that we are still a democracy, or at least we are trying our damnedest to become one.

A plutocracy, by definition, is, 1. The rule of society by the wealthy; 2. A state or government characterized by the rule of the wealthy; 3. A class that exercises power by virtue of its wealth.

The election campaign, which reached its denouement on Election Day yesterday, has brought out the issue of plutocracy in a big way, because of the role that the country’s business titans and moneyed families have played in the election.

In an enterprising analysis of the 2016 elections, Agence France-Presse (AFP) brought international focus on the fact that business titans exert a shadowy grip on our national politics.

It traced the problem to the fact that the country has one of “the biggest rich-poor divides in Asia, with poverty rates remaining stuck in recent years despite strong economic growth.” One key reason for the inequality is the debt that politicians owe their secret backers and which they repay through the distortion of laws and public management.

The big problem of the Philippines is that under its current campaign financing laws, there are no caps on how much people or companies can give to candidates.

Although there are strict rules prohibiting companies from making campaign contributions, they are hardly enforced.

Candidates can get as much contributions as they like or need because there are no limits to what can be contributed. Candidates also do not have to reveal their backers until a month after polling day.

The issue was dramatized in the case of candidate Rodrigo Duterte, when he was hit with allegations that millions of dollars had been poured into secret bank accounts in his name.

Although he initially denied the charges, he was forced to admit the existence of the bank accounts. He admitted that about $4.2 million was deposited into the accounts on his birthday two years ago, an amount that is nearly 10 times his declared assets.

To be fair, his presidential opponents were not forthcoming either in disclosing who their business backers are, let alone how much they have been paid by them.

The problem sticks out with all the presidential campaigns, because all the candidates, except for Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, are in the running because of major contributions from business titans and entrenched families. Without sizable campaign donations, they cannot mount a credible campaign. They won‘t be able to buy costly radio-TV advertising, which is now a sine qua non for electoral victory in our country.

Under our election laws, campaign spending is supposed to be capped at P10 per voter, which this year means that a presidential candidate can have a maximum budget of about $11 million.

That is nowhere close to what the real contenders for the top prize have in their budgets and are actually spending.

In contrasting the Philippines’ policies on campaign spending and those of other democracies, AFP acutely observes:

“In some advanced Western democracies the donations are typically limited to relatively small sums to encourage a larger section of the population to put their representative into office.

“However in the Philippines the uncapped donations mean the funding can be provided by big-money donors in hopes of currying favors with an entire government.”

The porous election finance safeguards in the Philippines make the economy vulnerable to being held captive by the personal interests of business titans, who seek control or protection of their interests in the economy.

Because only a few can give large financial contributions to candidates, the candidates become more accountable to the people who finance campaigns, than to the people who actually vote them into office.

It is in this light that we believe the time has surely come for our country to pass a serious campaign finance law, that will set real and enforceable limits on campaign finance donations, and severely punish violators.

In a similar vein, the country, through Congress, needs to take a long, hard look at the way public funds have been used to finance the campaigns of administration candidates through clever budgeting and the exploitation of loopholes in the law.

Business titans now treat their campaign donations in the same way they treat their investments in start-up business ventures. They fully expect to recoup their investments when their horse wins in the elections.

The system must be stopped. Otherwise, we Filipinos must recognize that we live in a plutocracy, and that there is no use pretending that we live in a democracy.


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  1. Jaime Dela Cruz on

    Does anyone really believe that our leaders are placed in office “elected” by the people? Perhaps in Marcos, Erap and Duterte’s case that is true because the plutocrats do not usually ignore the people’s wishes to avoid the repeat of the “storming of the Bastiile”. They let the people’s wishes win when the clamor is strong, but when things are quite, they carefully punt him/her out of office. Marcos was the first victim of this manipulation. He was not removed by (EDSA) a movement of people who were oppressed by his so called “regime”. He was removed by a carefully planned and wisely executed plan of the oligarchy. And so was Erap. Duterte will be next. And if we, the people idly stand by, this so called Plutocracy will forever grip us and slowly but surely trample us deeper into the muck of poverty. I believe that there is no country, democratic or otherwise, that is truly run/controlled by their government. Perhaps the daily affairs of their countries appear to be government run but the true “controllers/dictators” of policy are the oligarchs. According to the author, and we all know this but refuse to accept, or perhaps ignore, the oligarchy of every country control the string of their “marionettes”, the politicians. Yes, we need to put a cap on election donations, but more importantly, we need strict and proper enforcement of our laws. If we all support and protect Duterte from any planned impeachment and call him on his promise of anti corruption, perhaps we will have a chance. We failed to do it in Marcos time. We believed all the properly funded and orchestrated effort to depose him, as a result we never got out of their grip for the next 30 years after EDSA. I will say it again, it was Ninoy Aquino himself who attested to the desire and ultimate goal of Marcos “to get the Philippines out of the grip and shadow of the US and the oligarchy” I can say this because I was in the same room with many others. Marcos apparently was suppose to be our saviour but failed because his supposedly “friend” Benigno Aquino worked against him. ( He was not in plaza Miranda during the biggest meeting of LP, and they were bombed, remember?) And during martial law, Marcos’ last attempt to redirect the course of our nation, his “friends” and some family members worked against his plan to instill discipline. I will dare say that the whole country worked against him because as a people, Pilipinos work like crabs.
    Duterte, the candidate of the people will be allowed to win, but Robredo, the candidate of the yellow cult, will sit on the helm after Duterte is removed by all means. It is up to us if we allow it to happen. Pilipinas, gumising ka!

  2. The Philippines has been governed by the plutocrats since Macapagal. Until we have a president who will disavow the corrupt cronies/family members, the Philippines will never improve the big divide of rich and poor. Crime, TAX evaders/ cheaters, self serving politicians is cancer to the Philippines.

  3. arnel amador on

    we were in it since edsa 1, and the prospect for the next six years still the same. my only hope, i’m wrong this time. but….

  4. By the definition of plutocracy, we are not headed to plutocracy. THE PHILIPPINES IS NOW A PLUTOCRACY. Go, google it. The media, the pollsters are controlled by the plutocrats. They use and abuse it to control and condition the minds of the people for their selfish ends. The plutocrats and the oligarchs are behind EDSA 1 using the masses as their cannon fodder. LOOK, AFTER THIRTY YEARS, DID WE PROGRESS? OUR BIGGEST EXPORTS ARE OFWs (from DHs to professionals) AND BANANAS!!

  5. Juan T. Delacruz on

    Campaign contributions were expected as an investments and the investors always expect healthy return on their money, and one way or the other, they are going to get it.

    RexO gave the wrong information on the USA campaign finance law. Electoral campaigns on Federal Level, Campaign Finance Law is enacted by Congress and enforced by the Federal Election Commission, an independent Federal Agency.

    Races on non-federal offices are governed by states and local laws. Only four states (Missouri, Utah, Oregon and Virginia), have no limits from individual contributions.
    The Bottom Line: In the USA, the campaign finance law is ENFORCEABLE, contrary to what was said by RexO. Federal levels are President, Vice-President and U.S. Congress (Both Houses).

  6. I salute you for highlighting this fact. With the plutocrats controlling everything, I don’t know if our politicians would have the courage to make these reforms. There is hope, though, especially since the results of this election proved that the people are disgusted with the current administration and president who pleases only the plutocrats and who is one of them.

  7. Instead of stating “In some advanced Western democracies the donations are typically limited to relatively small sums to encourage a larger section of the population to put their representative into office,” the countries should have been named. In the USA, the campaign finance law is not enforceable and the political contributions do not really have a limit because the Supreme Court ruled that the limits are unconstitutional since making a political contribution is a First Amendment right.

    In the Philippines, Congress may successfully enact a law but somebody will challenge it and bring it to the Supreme Court. Who knows what will happen then? It could be a waste of Congress time and effort.