Revitalizing democracy in the Philippines


Democracy in the Philippines has lost its sheen, grappling with issues that have made elections less appealing and fraught with challenges. The system exhibits multiple flaws, with voters often neglecting crucial matters, electoral processes losing credibility, and political dynasties maintaining a stronghold on the political landscape.

A crucial shift is needed in voter focus, from mere name recognition to a thorough evaluation of candidates’ competency and integrity. Citizens must scrutinize candidates based on their commitment to enacting public policies that genuinely address the well-being of the nation, both in the short and long term.

The credibility of the electronic voting system has diminished, being susceptible to manipulation and corruption. The transparency of the May 2022 elections must be staunchly defended by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) without any semblance of evasion. It is imperative to strengthen safeguards to ensure the integrity of future electoral processes, preventing unscrupulous politicians from undermining democracy.

The perpetuation of political dynasties through election results, even when their members face convictions, erodes the core principles of democratic governance. Institutions tasked with upholding democratic hygiene, such as the Comelec, the Ombudsman, and other commissions, have fallen short of their roles, leading to a shaky regulatory governance system.

Despite being the most influential figure, the President often falls short of driving significant change. The State of the Nation Address (Sona) paints an idealized picture, masking the true reality of a fragmented bureaucratic landscape and limited action.

To reinvigorate democracy, emphasis should be placed on the local level of governance, exploring innovative concepts such as mini-publics, indigenous politics, and sortition.

Mini-publics: These involve citizens’ assemblies and can promote informed decision-making and public participation. These small representative groups of citizens deliberate on specific political issues, countering the undue influence of interest groups and fostering a more engaged public.

Indigenous politics: This concept highlights self-determination, land rights, cultural preservation, and political representation. It is essential to mainstream indigenous politics in the Philippines, addressing entitlements to indigenous peoples and rectifying opaque processes that hinder ancestral domain claims.

Sortition: The random selection of representatives provides an alternative to traditional elections, reducing the dominance of political elites and promoting inclusivity. Sortition can address issues of elitism, political corruption, and the exclusion of marginalized voices from decision-making. By randomly selecting citizens to participate in political decision-making bodies, sortition aims to counteract the perpetuation of power within dynastic circles.

Change must extend to local problem-solving within a robust framework like the Sustainable Development Goals. Case studies can illuminate how knowledge transforms into policies and actions, involving local institutions, senior citizen associations, and youth organizations.

Democracy in the Philippines stands at a critical juncture. It is imperative that voters prioritize critical issues and candidates’ integrity, while institutions fulfill their roles diligently. At the local level, embracing innovative concepts like mini-publics, indigenous politics, and sortition offers a path towards a more participatory and inclusive form of governance. It’s time to ignite the spark of change, dispelling the darkness of a flawed system.


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