The various events happening in the country today remind me of Samuel Beckett’s play about two friends waiting for an imaginary friend who never came. They try to amuse themselves to make the wait bearable, hoping that some miracle would happen. And they wait aimlessly even if they knew this kind of waiting is sometimes worse than death.
I would compare our waiting to that of waiting to become a “nation.” Or to become a real “democracy.”
We await, amid hurdles that seem hopelessly impossible to overcome.
We look forward to the election campaign next year because it gives us a feeling of freedom, and some kind of hope that it may bring excitement, and perhaps, some change into our lives, dulled by the protracted lockdown. But as political analysts tell us, we have not even been able to satisfy the minimum conditions of a “procedural democracy such as free and fair elections, exacting accountability of public officials, institutionalizing civil liberties, establishing rule of law, and citizen participation.
While we aspire to be free of oligarchies and political dynasties, what we have however witnessed over the years is the concentration of power and privilege among these elites. While decentralization is a desirable condition for democratization, it has been subverted to serve the interests of local dynasties. As former Socio-Economic Development Secretary Arsenio Balisacan notes, the welfare of the poor tends to be lower in provinces governed by political dynasties than in provinces characterized by competitive politics. This is consistent with the view that dynasty inhibits economic performance through its negative effect on economic efficiency and restricts access of the poor to basic services.
Ideally, the political party could provide the training ground for good local governance, but at present, it still serves the interests of political dynasties. Thus, resources for employment generation and poverty reduction tend to flow toward local governments run by administrators with direct ties to the country’s ruling political party.
Felipe B. Miranda and Temario C. Rivera, co-editors of Chasing the Wind, Assessing Philippine Democracy (2011), together with eight other authors have come up with their 2nd edition in 2016 state: “We are not a democratic country now, or in recent past. We have not advanced beyond democratic trappings. But we are not giving up and will continue to explore reasons for historical failure through truth-seeking, truth-saying, and truth-acting.”
Unlike the two friends who continued to wait for their imaginary friend, we know what it takes to overcome the challenges which include a persistent culture of impunity, a politicized military, as well as having to exact public accountability, mobilize civil society participation, prevent subversion of electoral process, ending armed struggle and poverty in order to achieve economic well-being.
The path to democracy is indeed similar to chasing the wind. We have been at it for more than 60 years, but like Sisyphus,we seem to be condemned to repeatedly roll the boulder up a hill only for it to roll down. We trust, however, that unlike the myth, our task would be worth the effort we have put into it.
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