Beyond the Dictates of the Ballots: What to Expect Post-Elections
“There may be distinctions and promises of change among some presidentiables, but looking at the trend of past presidents whose class interests were for the ‘landowning, commercial, and industrial oligarchy,’ their distinctions are symptoms of factionalism among the same breed of ruling oppressors…”
Similar to our democratic and republican statehood, the electoral institution of the Philippines is modeled after the West, specifically by American colonialism (Republic of the Philippines, 1987; Teehankee, 2002). Despite being a colonial legacy, this institution remains an integral element of our processes of democracy, accountability, and policy-making. As of writing, we will elect our seventeenth president three months from now; and whoever will be seated in the highest office has the means to direct the future of the country. There may be distinctions and promises of change among some presidentiables, but looking at the trend of past presidents whose class interests were for the “landowning, commercial, and industrial oligarchy,” their distinctions are symptoms of factionalism among the same breed of ruling oppressors; their promises of change are mere campaign tactics to woo voters unaware of the “clientelist, coercive, and monetary inducements and pressures” rampant behind the scenes (Hedman, 2010). Hence, in analyzing the future of the Philippines after the coming national elections, the continuity of our semi-colonial and semi-feudal status quo is highly expected.
To elaborate, the National Democratic line categorizes our status quo as such due to the exploitative coexistence of imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucrat capitalism in our country (Sison, 1971). Due to these three “historical evils” as emphasized by Sison, a myriad of decades-old social ills concerning various sectors, industries, and institutions exist until now and surely in the future, too. First, neoliberal policies paved by decades of privatization, deregulation, and liberalization will continue to make public utilities and social services inaccessible to us, and balloon the profits of local capitalists and foreign compradors (Balisacan & Hill, 2003; San Juan, 2016). On top of the soaring utility bills amidst the pandemic-induced widespread unemployment, was the soaring number of COVID-19 cases and student drop-outs — a warning on the dangers of commodifying our rights to health and education. Moreover, aside from being commodified, the K-12 education system will continue to be anti-democratic and colonialized in orientation due to its underlying purpose of turning schools into mere diploma mills — promoting the diaspora of Filipino students and reducing us as exportable products to meet the employment demands abroad (Riep, 2017).
Second, our past economic campaigns towards low tariffs and free trade — although meant for the Philippine industries to catch up with other export-oriented countries — will continue to hurt our economy through the flooding of cheap imported goods and local branching of multinational corporations; which will then kill our local industries (Bello, 2009). Meanwhile, deregulation as the cornerstone of the aforementioned campaigns will continue to lower employment rates as companies with the goal of reducing costs will likewise reduce the number of full-time employees, in favor of short-term contractual workers; and weaken unions and worker rights as many employees are choosing job security rather than better benefits won in strikes, unions, and collective bargaining agreements (Siwa & Viliran, 2016).
Lastly, neoliberal agricultural policies like the Agreement on Agriculture — implemented in line with the Philippines’ membership in the World Trade Organization — will continue to subjugate our farmers under further exploitation (Bello, 2007). According to Pascual & Glipo (2001), such policies caused local prices of agricultural products to fall due to surplus; agricultural export earnings to decline due to free-trade agreements and the lack of control of prices; and food insecurity and self-insufficiency due to heavy importation — compared to the pre-WTO Philippines when local farmers were protected by tariffs and quotas to ensure that imported goods do not compete with their products. The Philippines joined the WTO in 1995 and pursued policy changes with the goal of integrating the country into the global economy but instead, we caused our farmers to experience a steady decline in agricultural productivity, which then led to lower harvests and income (Quimba et. al, 2020).
In a semi-feudal and semi-colonial society like the Philippines, the future of us Filipinos seems to be bleak. However, our fight towards a future where public utilities and social services are accessible, students are molded as the vanguards of tomorrow, our economy is independent of foreign interventions, workers are provided with dignified wages and conditions, and farmers are given the lands that they till: it all goes beyond the dictates of the ballots. The process of treating the systemic problems discussed earlier with equally systemic solutions is an excruciating one, but we can start by recognizing the ballots as the playground of the ruling elite; and ours, as history has proven time and time again — from Bonifacio to Edjop — is the streets. A future dependent on the needs of the nation is not easily given by those in power, but struggled for by none other than us.
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Written by Allen John Dela Cruz on February 2022 for HUMSS Culminating Activity