DEMOCRACY admits of many definitions, the more famous of which is Abraham Lincoln’s “government of the people, for the people and by the people.”

This online entry encapsulates it best for me: “Democracy is government in which power and civic responsibility are exercised by all adult citizens, directly, or through their freely elected representatives. Democracy rests upon the principle of majority rule and individual rights... Fair, frequent and well-managed elections are essential in a democracy.”

By this definition, the Philippines is a sham, not a true, democracy. First, a wide swath of the population is not represented in a government that has always been in the hands of a rich and powerful elite. And second, which explains and perpetuates the first, elections are nowhere near fair or well managed. They are expensive vote-buying and advertising games that only members of the exclusive club for the big boys are free to play.

Also, by this definition democracy’s antithesis is totalitarianism of whatever variety. Fascism on the extreme right, oligarchism at mid-right, and communism on the extreme left are systems that openly, in the case of fascism and communism, or subtly, in the case of oligarchism, violate democratic principles.

There’s the rub. Only two groups, both totalitarians, are facing off for control of government and the economy. Oligarchs fight communism not to defend democracy (which does not exist anyway) but to keep their exclusive control of both politics and economy. Communists engage in a violent armed revolution against ruling oligarchs purportedly to install a dictatorship of the proletariat but actually it is the Communist Party’s elite Central Committee that imposes its will on citizens.

One devious way oligarchs defend their throne against all attacks, legitimate or otherwise, is by tagging all dissent as communist-inspired. Communists, for their part, just as deviously promote their armed revolution by accusing oligarchs of red-tagging them for doing what they claim are legitimate acts of dissent.

Red-tagging thus becomes a double-edged sword. Either way it cuts it kills the interests of ordinary citizens whose rights, in communism, are subservient to State or Communist Party rights and, in Oligarchism, to the rights of whatever oligarchic faction is in power.

No third group of any significant national prominence is advocating for a peaceful but revolutionary transition into genuine democracy. Filipinos are in a tight bind. They need true democracy to give them their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But at the moment their only choice is between oligarchism and communism both of which are the antithesis of democracy.