IF PRESIDENT Digong has asked for an extension of his emergency powers to make a dent on the hardest core of drug menace, it would probably take him a lifetime if given a chance, to break and destroy the Filipino politician’s penchant for patronage politics, which is so rooted that like a rotten tooth, rooting it out could be bloody and painful.
At the lowest rung of government service in the barangay level where the Barangay Captain wields power like the little President, one can see the real time picture of what PATRONAGE POLITICS is in the Philippine setting.
As to why our political system is seemingly endlessly hooked to this malady for years is a question so often asked but never given the answer it merits.
But the following piece I have stumbled on points to a daunting reason that no one cannot belie. An extensive analytical article posted by Michael Magcamit in a forum entitled The Enduring Curse of Patronage Politics, he wrote a thorough and insightful background on why the Philippine political system cannot extricate itself from what he calls and enduring curse on us:
“All throughout Philippine history, a small number of extremely influential families possessing vast lands and huge corporations have ruled our government. The notoriety of patronage system and oligarchic culture in the country has inspired numerous experts and scholars to coin equally notorious terms to describe the severity of conditions underpinning Philippine politics – anarchy of families, booty capitalism, non-substantive democracy, ersatz capitalism and cacique democracy, among others.
“When the US colonial regime transplanted its brand of representative democracy into our oligarch-infested economy, it virtually cleared the pathway for the systematic subjugation of the country’s democratic institutions and procedures by the ruling patrons and oligarchs. The policy of attraction introduced by then U.S. governor-general, William Howard Taft (which was originally intended to convince the landlord class to collaborate with the American forces instead of joining the revolutionary factions) had transformed the economic elites of the Spanish-colonial era into political elites. Considering that the representative institutions emerged prior to the development of a strong republic, the political parties in the Philippines according to Nathan Quimpo (2005, pp. 4-5) have become ‘convenient vehicles of patronage that can be set up, merged with others, split, reconstituted, regurgitated, resurrected, renamed, repackaged, recycled, refurbished, buffed up or flushed down the toilet anytime’.
“This strategy that was adopted by the Americans for consolidating their rule over the entire archipelago enabled the elites to exponentially expand their capital and influence through political appointments. Consequently, by the time the Americans were finally ready to erect political institutions that would facilitate electoral contestations in the Philippines, a national oligarchy – rather than a national government – had already been born. This oligarchic system has now become the playing ground of the so-called trapos. The dominance of these trapos in Philippine politics has resulted in what Rogelio Manacsa and Alexander Tan (2012) refer to as reverse accountability or the condition in which individual voters are compelled to elect their respective patrons into power in exchange for personal favours that are either provided in the past or promised to be delivered once elected. In the words of Juan Linz (1975, p. 260), the voters’ support for their patrons is largely a function of the latter’s ‘own interests, rewards for loyalty and the fear of vengeance’.”
At the barangay local government unit, so many things have yet to be affected by the genuine change President Digong has espoused for some months now. The status quo has remained in place, and dirty politics continue to prevail. It might take a lot of time yet until the people in the community are truly empowered such that they are not intimidated by the “powers” of their local leaders over local affairs.
Patronage Politics is an addiction that as we all know, the President is trying to correct. But at this early, barely 100 days at the helm making hard decisions and wielding the true powers vested on him by People who yearns for genuine peace, it is much too early to tell. He needs the GOOD citizens to help him through all these because it is a tough job to be a leader of a polarized nation.