Why Are We Where We Are Now?

By Nandy Pacheco
Ang Kapatiran Party

The answer to this burning question was summarized in the 1997 Pastoral Exhortation on Philippine Politics by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines which said:

“If we are what we are today – a country with a great number of poor and powerless people – one reason is the way we have allowed politics to be debased and prostituted to the lowest level it is in now.”

Over the 11 years since that was written, the Philippine political situation has gone from bad to worse.

Several political cancer cells have to be excised. They include a lack of understanding of what politics is all about; an absence of responsible and accountable political parties; and a loss of the sense of the common good.

Politics are not necessarily dirty. They can be good. But bad politicians defile them and the people allow it. Politics have a moral dimension which can lead us either to good or evil.

“A just society must be the achievement of politics, not of the Church. The direct duty to work for a just ordering of society is proper to the lay faithful,” says Pope Benedict XVI.

For the voters, politics often means voting on the basis of personality. That leads to wholesale failure of the people to vote their collective aspirations and to vote responsibly.

Voters don’t bother to look into the moral character of the candidates or the political platforms of the parties. Voters do not realize that voting is a creative act of participating in the building of a just and civil society.

People fail to grasp the full impact and meaning of the Constitutional provision that says: “Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.”

A post-evaluation of EDSA I and EDSA II shows that while we have succeeded in throwing the undesirables out of power, we have failed to give the successors a “list of our clear aspirations” that we would like them to achieve for us. We should be like the good master who gives his servant money and a list of things to buy before sending him or her to the market.

People power should have twin objectives: to replace a regime and to provide the replacement with a laundry list, so to speak, of what the people want. We have attained the first objective but abjectly failed in the second.

For traditional politicians (trapos), politics are a means of enrichment and a source of influence and power for self and family interests. They look at public office as some sort of private property to be passed from one generation to the next. It becomes a family political dynasty.

Trapo politics come into play during election and off-election periods. Trapo politics are made of “big money” politics, the politics of guns and goons, the politics of pork barrels, political patronage and pay-offs, vote buying, deception, hypocrisy, immoral compromises, unliquidated cash advances, electoral chicanery, and other political shenanigans.

The absence of responsible political parties was very evident in the 2007 elections when senatorial candidates ran under either “Team Unity” or “GO”, neither of which are political parties. The frequent absence of a quorum in the House of Representatives is another example of party irresponsibility. Political parties have failed to discipline erring members, just as they have failed to interpret the aspirations of civil society and orient them towards the common good.

We have lost our sense of the common good. We have become too individualistic. We forget that by pursuing the community’s interests we benefit the individuals within it, including ourselves. We must now develop a sense of community where people are committed to the welfare of each other.

We would do well to remember the moral principle that men individually are responsible for what they make of themselves but collectively they are responsible for the world in which they live. All these are major contributory factors to the political problems that the Philippines now faces.

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