Saturday, May 19, 2007

Philippine Politics

Idealism without action is simply that, idealism, however cogently, articulately, and lucidly explained and proposed.

On the other hand, idealism, however compromised, dented, battered and watered down by realities, translated into action transcends from the abstract to the value-adding real and now.

Said differently, a million words thrown into the air cannot begin to compare to any one micro-ounce of sweat equity expended. Weighing more, the latter infinitesimally should be valued and desired more.

Thus, the following comments articulated in one of the arguably most revered political blogs in the old homeland, best expressed my own insipient attitudes about politics and political punditry.

A commenter carrying the handle of devilsadvc8 had the following to say initially and following further are his replies to rebuttal issues brought against his initial statements, in the blog of Mr. Manuel L. Quezon III.
(Quoted verbatim, except for some cosmetic edits):

I am assuming that devilsadvc8 authors this blog.

The biggest thing this election has proven is this:

You can’t save a nation who doesn’t want or isn’t yet ready to be saved, and that people like Dr. Martin Bautista are more of a hero and a person to be idolized than intellectuals and “talkers” like MLQ3.

Don’t get me wrong, Manolo. I idolize you. From the way you present your views, to how erudite you seem to be. But “genius” talk with no action is shown up to be just lame when people like Martin and Fr. Ed (who are nowhere near Manolo’s intellectual capacity) show and step up to the plate with nothing more than the genuine desire to “take action” and bet on the people.

We have multitudes spewing rhetoric, only a genuine few taking the hard path. The hardest thing of all is to “walk the talk.”

We have no shortage of honest people with good intentions. Only a shortage of them wanting to sacrifice their private lives to serve the public.

The real problem is that the Filipino people are not given many “good” options. If they are, we see them proving that they are more than up to the task of being “wise” voters.

“How can a Christian fundamentalist who spent 20 years abroad be a hero?”

The same way Rizal did. It isn’t the spending abroad that defines a person’s “unhero-ability” (as Rizal proved when the larger part of his life was spent abroad) but the coming back and offering oneself to his nation that proves his heroism (as Rizal proved when he decided to come back, even though he knew he’d be prosecuted and probably killed for his “advocacies”)

“Bautista has disillusioned a lot of people.”

I don’t know where you got that “lot of people,” but if I and the others I read about are any indication, then Bautista inspired more than he disillusioned. In fact, Bautista’s action got me into thinking: reklamo tayo ng reklamo sa masamang pagpapalakad sa atin, pero wala naman tayong ginagawa. (we whine constantly about the bad things happening, yet we do nothing.) Why don’t we start by involving ourselves actively? Perhaps come next elections, we’ll see less of those “unopposed candidacies” and see more “ordinary individuals” challenging the trapos running for office.

“I’m not sure if guilt-tripping Manolo into running for public office will be more effective than Edwin Lacierda’s proposed guerilla campaign the other day. Mlq3’s entry into the Senate (or any political office) would be a great boon for representative democracy but will also be a loss for direct democracy (i.e. his blogging and other advocacies) so I’m not sure if it would be a net gain or loss.”

I’m not guilt-tripping Manolo. I’m guilt-tripping everyone. And I don’t think his entry into public office would signal the demise of his advocacies. It doesn’t follow that if you become a public official, you have to give up your advocacy. You are even more in a position to strengthen it, and spread the word when you are elected into office.

And btw, I don’t think Manolo would be sufficiently effective in the Senate (or the House). The framework of our government is such that collective idiocies (like the senate and the house) do little to make an impact in the everyday life of Filipinos. After all, what is there to lawmaking if the laws aren’t being enforced? The power, as always, resides in the local gov’t. A good and honest politician who is determined to improve his city will be able to (as proven by Robredo), regardless of who sits in Malacanang. In fact, the focus of the “other” opposition (those outside Erap’s circle) should’ve been to field local candidates to all cities nationwide, and I’m sure we would’ve seen the people vote them all into office. That would’ve rendered GMA a sure lame duck. As she and her cohorts would then have lost that vaunted “grass-roots” they keep talking about.

If even just enough cities start having politicians like Robredo, then the people would slowly realize that their dream of being lifted out of poverty lies in public officials who don’t only patronize through money, but in public officials who will be exemplary ones, in thought, action, and example. There would be a domino effect, as people in neighboring cities would see the good things happening near their fence, and envy that city for having that kind of mayor. They would then aspire to have the same kind of thing, and sooner than you know, would demand the same thing from their leaders.

“That was Civil Society’s first attempt at taking power and governing and see where that has led us. The entry of civil society members into the State has had a double negative effect in that it has led to loss in momentum in the advocacies of those on the outside and has corrupted a lot of those remained on the inside. The people in government whom we are fighting now are the same ones who had high ideals back then.”

No. The people we are fighting now have always been the same people back then. They only shed their sheep’s clothing. If you review the actions of Arroyo et al, you would see the pattern, and would surmise they never had the same ideals as the civil society that catapulted them into power.

“Civil Society has a finite amount of energy and I believe that we were more effective in the public sphere rather than within the institutions of the State.”

This is where we disagree of course. If in fact CS has a finite amount of energy, then it seems more logical to concentrate that energy into where it won’t be wasted. GK is the perfect example. One whack of the demented Arroyo regime and everything it accomplished will be in ashes. You should read Randy David’s discourse on Volunteerism. It’s an excellent primer on why Politics and NGO/GK-like orgs can never be separated. The action of one affects the other.

“Let’s concentrate on improving our ability to discipline those who are on the inside before we dream of taking over wholesale.”

And how can we discipline them if they are the ones in power? Short of another People Power?

“Hindi ka makakapagpapasa ng bill kung walang approval ang iba. Kaya kahit sabihin mo pang independiente ka, kailangang isusuko mo pa rin ang iyong idealismo para maipapasa mo ang isang batas.” (One cannot pass laws without the cooperation of the others. Thus, even if one is very independently minded, one has to surrender one’s idealism in order to pass laws.)

Which is why I think going into Congress to effect change is senseless. Congress has morphed into a collective idiocy. It has become a herd of mindless people following the call of the pork barrel. Idealism indeed has been lost in the number of people you need to please in order to pass that law you wanted so that you could “help” the people.


  1. I FEEL this guys pain. Filipino idealists wanting real change eventually just leave, there is no alternative. The only REAL way to help the average person here is to stop the rampant corruption. That alone is the primary barrier to real economic reform. I just don't see it ever getting any better. New politicians with so-called good intentions are soon battered into line by the immense pressures of the other politicos who don't want their "good thing" messed up. Its a case of "go along to get along." Anyone who is really serious about ending corruption find themselves in real danger. Its a frustrating experience to see it in action.

  2. I hear you, Phil.

    But in my case, I have deigned to just do what I believe needs doing, without concerning myself about the bigger picture.

    My heretofore idealism has been dulled, and am now riding on feasible and defensible pragmatism.

    And at this stage, I feel I am doing sufficiently enough to placate whatever guilty feelings I may have harbored.

  3. Filipinos are happy go lucky survivors if anything... Things suck, but for the most part most everyone is happy here. Americans like me find it extremely puzzling; we who are NEVER satisfied.

  4. just to correct you amadeo, that blog you linked is not mine. i hardly know that guy from Judas. here's the correct link to my blog:

  5. Hi, DevilsAdvc8:

    Sorry for the error and thanks for the correction.

    Let me take this opportunity to commend you for the thoughts and ideas expressed which are subjects of this blog entry.

    More power!

  6. Thanks. I guess I'm the product of idealism and frustration.

    We all have to do our own part eh?
    Blogging for me is just one way of spreading my ideas and idealism. I put my ideas into constructive actions too.

  7. Hi, Devilsadvc8:

    I am gladdened to read your last sentence above.

    The primary reason why I highlighted your comments was because IMHO, the Philippines does not suffer from a dearth of good actionable ideas, but simply from a comparable number of good-intentioned people who will take those ideas and translate them into actions.

    Here in the US, I notice that a good number of people are just as predisposed to pontificating about ideals and how things should be done, except that there are also a comparable number of people who may go unheralded and unnoticed who do act on their ideas. Thus, by and large, the US as a social and political experiment generally works. Warts, flaws, and all.

    And lastly, I do not believe that as a nation or collectively, the US obsesses and loses sleep on all global issues, unless they specifically impact on its own health, whether socially, politically, or its national security and integrity. Thus, it is erroneous for other people to in turn obsess about each action or position the US takes or whether it is doing anything about certain domestic issues that other countries may be beset with. The US has more than enough domestic issues in its plate to allow it the luxury of being a global busybody.


Welcome. Your comments are appreciated.