2016, Our Challenging Year Unfolding

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2016, Our Challenging Year Unfolding

Topic |  

boholano-thumbLooking back first. Globally, “2015, was “a year of both despair and hope” according to The Huffington Post. The despair: “Americans died tragically, from Baltimore to San Bernardino, California. In Paris, a deadly shooting devastated the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in January, and a series of terror attacks, for which the self-described Islamic State claimed credit, killed at least 130 in November. Civil wars and terrorist campaigns plagued the Middle East and North Africa, driving many to flee their homes in search of safety.”

“But 2015 was also a year of hope. The people of Ireland voted to legalize same-sex marriage, and international leaders adopted a watershed agreement to try to mitigate climate change. In July, Iran and six world powers reached a historic deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for lighter economic sanctions. And while European countries disagreed on how to resolve the ongoing migrant and refugee crisis, many individual Europeans stepped up to show solidarity with and support for the newcomers.”

“More than 1 million refugees and migrants fleeing the global disorder of civil war, poverty and persecution in 2015 landed on Europe’s doorstep. It is the largest crisis of displaced people since world war ravaged the European continent seven decades ago.”

China’s official vision and dream, and her oppression of small neighbors. “Internationally, China will do its best to embrace peace and shared prosperity, growing together with its neighbors and beyond to achieve better standards of living. xxx For its own self-interest, China will develop and maintain a good neighbor policy….”


In fact, China continues to dominate, militarize, and exploit the seas and islands belonging neighboring Indonesia, Brunei, Vietnam, and the Philippines. Ignoring the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, of which she is a signatory, China ignores the Philippines’ recourse to the U.N. Permanent Arbitration Court in the Hague for the settlement of the dispute.

We are hopeful that the favorable judgment of the U.N. Court will strengthen our side in our conflict with China. As well as the other ASEAN countries victimized by China.

We must understand our 2016 elections and candidates in the context of our constitutional vision of our society and democracy. In the Preamble of our 1987 Constitution, the fundamental law of our land, we Filipinos are committed to build: (1)  “a just and humane society” and (2) “a democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace.”

Sa wikang Filipino, sabi ng Preamble ng ating 1987 Konstitusyon: Nais nating “itatag ang lipunang makatarungan at makatao.” At “ang demokrasya sa ilalim ng batas at ng rehimen ng katutuhanan, hustisya, kalayaan, pagibig, pagkapantay-pantay, at kalinaw.”

Knowing and evaluating our national and local candidates. Ideally, therefore, as good citizens and with our constitutional vision in mind, we should evaluate our national and local candidates on: (1) the relevance of their campaign promises, party or alliance platform to our national problems of poverty, exploitation, and injustice; and (2) on their individual character, abilities, and experience as leaders.

One of our many serious political problems is the lack of an authentic political party platform or program of government of some presidential candidates. In fact some of them have no established political party accredited by the Commission on Elections. Some presidential candidates depend mostly on their celebrity and personal popularity, and their perceived win-ability.


Senator Grace Poe is a very popular, party-less presidential candidate. She was a foundling baby in Iloilo with no known parentage. She popularized herself as the adopted daughter of the late movie king and failed presidential candidate, Fernando Poe and his also well-known wife and movie queen, Susan Roces.


Performing well as Senator, Poe has been disqualified by the Commission on Elections in her presidential candidacy for not being a natural-born Philippine citizen and her lack of ten years of residency in the Philippines. Once a naturalized U.S. citizen she gave up that citizenship. On her appeal the Supreme Court may rule on the finality of her disqualification.

Poe’s running mate for VP is Chiz Escudero, the leading candidate. He glories on his glib tongue and personal popularity; and on his beauteous second wife, Heart Evangelista as campaign attraction. He left his first wife and took with him their two children.

The Nationalist Alliance Party candidate is Vice-President Jejomar Binay, a known loyalist to Ninoy and Cory Aquino, and the veteran Mayor of Makati. He has been tried and convicted of corruption and plunder charges but has avoided imprisonment. Projecting himself as the champion of the poor, he has travelled continually and campaigned vigorously, thus projecting himself as the nation’s known champion of the many who are poor. He defeated Mar Roxas as the Liberal Party VP candidate of BS Aquino III in 2010. Binay is leader of his family dynasty: successive mayors of Makati and a senator. Congress has not passed the law required by our 1987 Constitution to abolish family dynasties. What kind of a democracy do we have? 


Binay manages to be a leading presidential candidate in credible national public opinion surveys. What kind of political culture and presidential government do we have?  

Liberal Party candidate Mar Roxas is campaigning on his unquestioned honesty, executive ability, and the Liberal Party platform. His VP candidate is Representative Leni Robredo, the able economist-lawyer, and  widow of the veteran and admired tsinelas Mayor of Naga City, Jesse Robredo. He died in a plane crash as Secretary of the Interior and Local Government. Roxas and Robredo struggle hard and hope to overcome and win.


Davao Mayor Digong Duterte is running as veteran strong-man, law and order leader. He boasts in having lawless citizens killed for the public good. He is the only presidential candidate advocating a constitutional amendment: for federalism. His running mate is Senator Alan Peter Cayetano. They are candidates of the PDP-Laban Party. Duterte is popular and hopeful.


The veteran and voracious Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago is running again as presidential candidate. Incredibly, she picked as running-mate Senator Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos. He is the son of our country’s worst president: the plundering dictator Ferdinand Marcos in whose terms thousands of people were killed or just disappeared. His mother, Imelda, was the imperious and extravagant Governor of Metro Manila.

After 20 years as president, Ferdinand was defeated by Cory Aquino as the people’s candidate in February 1986. And he was banished to exile in Hawaii in the EDSA People Power Revolution of February 1986. Since then for long, Imelda has been a Representative, and Bongbong’s sister the Governor of Ilocos Norte. Why are so many of our people oblivious to the abuses of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos and forgiving to them and all their family members? What kind of political culture do we have!

So what is the true state of our assumed Philippine democracy? Following is a summary of

the assessment made by four leading Filipino political scientists in their great 2011 book, Chasing the Wind: Assessing Philippine Democracy.  Felipe B. Miranda,  U.P.; Temario C. Rivera, International Christian University (Tokyo); Malaya C. Ronas, U.P.; Ronald D. Holmes, De La Salle University.

“They challenge our conventional wisdom that the Philippines is a democracy. Going beyond the traditional approaches to understanding democracy, the authors offer a re-conceptualization of democracy anchored on three essential elements: (1) an expanded notion of public accountability; (2) a sensitivity to regime outcomes particularly on key indicators of human development; and (3) a definite period for assessing the effectiveness of these practices and outcomes. xxx While critical of the failed democratization process in the country, the authors do affirm the urgency of collectively struggling for a truly democratic order.

“Much of the current confusion in classifying a regime as democratic stems from an overly liberal analytical bias that permits non-democratic and even anti-democratic regimes to pass themselves off as some species of democracy albeit clearly saddled with critical deficiencies in terms of popular sovereignty, rule of law, free and competitive elections, public accountability and other bona fides of any functional democracy. Historically, this bias has benefited corrupt, anti-democratic, oligarchic ruling elites that lean on paper constitutions even as they violate these constitutions’ democratic provisions with much impunity.” Felipe B. Miranda.

“We have not had any successful transition to a democratic regime. We have failed to meet even the minimum conditions of a procedural democracy: free and fair elections. How can we even refer to our system as a “democracy” when much of its electoral contests continue to be perverted by outright violence and coercion. Moreover, powerful political clans have consistently dominated various national and local positions in the country, foreclosing the prospects of wider electoral competition and political participation.” Temario C. Rivera.

“The actual practice of the presidential form of government in the Philippines deviates from the principle of separation of powers and system of checks and balances aimed at preventing the abuse of power to protect the rights of the people. The vast power of the presidency has resulted in an executive hegemony which has weakened the legislature, judiciary, and constitutional bodies and has stalled the democratization of our country.” Malaya C. Rona

“Civil society and the decentralization process have not really propelled democratization in the country as both arenas continue to suffer from innate systemic limits and institutional and organizational weaknesses.” Ronald D. Holmes

So, on the bases of our actual leaders, citizens, and political institutions, we can best claim to be “an aspiring democracy.”

Our Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines, Partido ng Tunay na Demokrasya, offers our ideology, vision, and mission to transform our political system, leadership, and citizenship toward our vision and mission in our 1987 Constitution! (By Jose “Pepe” Abueva)

My gmail is pepevabueva@gmail.com

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