ANATOMY OF PHILIPPINE POLITICS


(Originally published in the October 26, 1968 issue of The
Philippine Collegian, official student newspaper of the
University of the Philippines.)

Economic Power Makes Political Power

IT IS beyond doubt that economic power makes political power. A
political system is possible and can last only because it is
based on an economic foundation, on the mode of production that
gives sustenance to the political ideas and institutions in the
superstructure of a society. With this basic assumption, we may
start to make a comprehensive presentation of the anatomy of
Philippine politics.

However, we cannot really make a profound critique of Philippine
politics if we do not grasp the historical principle that the
masses of our people in a semi-colonial and semi-feudal country
can build up their own political power in the countrywide in the
course of a struggle entailing the area-by-area and step-by-step
elimination of the political and economic power of the local
exploiters and local bullies, without as yet being in full
control of the national economy. We keep this principle in mind
even as our topic is the anatomy of Philippine politics as it is
now.

To know well a political system or a particular form of society,
it is necessary to comprehend the basic political contradictions
that are at work, emerging from basic contradictions of socio-
economic classes even if these should at first appear as being in
equilibrium. If we try to make a presentation of the Philippine
political system without considering its basic socio-economic
contradictions, then we would be merely trying to depict a
lifeless skeleton seeming to have the quality of permanence. It
is the relentless conflict of classes in our society that keeps
our politics dynamic and impermanent. The very existence of class
exploitation gives away the fact of class struggle, no matter how
suppressed or obscured by one means or another, and also gives
away the prospect of social revolution, no matter how much it is
restricted by the state power of the ruling classes.

If we are interested in the anatomy of Philippine politics as if
it were a dead or passive structure, all that we have to do now
is to read and reread the Philippine Constitution. So, we would
just say that we have a republican and presidential form of
government which has three basic branches-executive, legislative
and judicial-in equilibrium under a rule of check and balance;
that the Filipino electorate has the democratic right to vote in
and vote out men in the government; that electoral choice is
mainly provided by a two-party system ensured by a constitutional
provision on electoral inspectors; and that in-between and during
elections, the Filipino people are formally gifted with a bill of
rights which is supposed to allow them to act in and speak out
their interests collectively and individually.

But, in these turbulent times, we cannot afford to be naive and
superficial. We cannot refer dogmatically to formal rights and
say that sure enough we have democracy in this country. We have
to investigate the national and social reality. Especially at a
time that more and more people are getting dissatisfied with the
political system and its political processes, it becomes more
compelling in our part to look into the most vital struggles that
are now severely straining the ability of the system to contain.
In other words, we have now to see Philippine politics in the
light of fundamental issues and demands that divide social
classes and political aggrupations daily driven on the course of
irreconcilable disagreement or conflict.

THE CLASS BASIS OF POLITICAL TENDENCIES AND TRENDS

We have to have a clear perception and knowledge of the economic
classes within our semi-colonial and semi-feudal society. Their
basic demands are of a political character, involving relations
of members within the same class, relations between classes,
relations within the nation as a whole and relations with other
nations. Political tendencies, trends, issues and possibilities
are founded on these classes existing and operating within
Philippine society. What can sustain a political movement or a
political system is a definite economic class or an alliance of
economic classes that have certain interests or that have certain
aspirations and demands.

It is not possible, in a class-divided society like that of the
Philippines, for all classes to have common or similar interests
to protect and advance. The fact is that some classes are united
against other classes because of a basic contradiction of
interests. Thus, the diametrical opposition of basic political
standpoints.

With regard to the basic struggle for national democracy to which
all patriotic Filipinos should be committed, the entire range of
social classes in the Philippines is divided into two camps.
There is the camp of those classes who wish to achieve the
completion of the national-democratic revolution and there is the
opposite camp of those classes interested in the perpetuation of
imperialist and feudal power in this country.

The masses of workers and peasants, the intelligentsia, the petty
property-owners and nationalist businessmen are interested in the
success of the struggle for national democracy.

On the other hand, the imperialists, their comprador agents,
their landlord and corrupt bureaucrat allies would rather have
semi-colonial and semi-feudal Philippines which they can easily
exploit.

The Filipino workers who are enlightened with the most advanced
ideas of this era are interested in a national democracy in the
Philippines because this rejects and supplants the political
power of foreign monopoly capitalism and landlordism. Because
this means actual sovereignty and genuine independence, Filipino-
owned industrialization, a thoroughgoing land reform and the
opportunity of the working class to establish and build up the
democratic power of the people and lead in the march to social
revolution and progress.

The Filipino peasants are interested in national democracy in the
same way that the workers are, but they are most interested in
national democracy because it breaks feudal chains and provides
them the substance of freedom.

All other patriotic segments of the population are interested in
national democracy because they are adversely affected by the ill
state of the nation and principally by the prevailing interests
of the big foreign businessmen, the compradors, the landlords and
the corrupt bureaucrats.

The State as an Instrument of Ruling Class Interests

The present state in the Philippines signifies the long-drawn
rule of certain classes over other classes. The class interests
that today dictate the state are those of the imperialists,
compradors and the landlords. The theory is bandied about that it
is the “ordinary citizens” who have created the present state and
who can use it as their own instrument. But this is contrary to
the fact that the state is merely the executor of the will and
interests of those exploitative classes ruling our society today.

A time has yet to come when the nature and character of the state
is changed by the national-democratic movement. The present state
is an instrument of the ruling classes to command order and
submission to the existing class relations in Philippine society
even if these are disadvantageous and antagonistic to the class
interests of the vast majority of the people. The power of the
state to command lies in its essence as an institution of
violence. What does the state have the armed forces, the police,
courts and prisons for, if not to keep the peace and order that
preserves a particular social order? When all suasive means have
failed to mislead or appease the oppressed people, the coercive
power of the state is ruthlessly used by the exploiting classes
to pacify the national and social unrest that arises.

The nature and character of the present state in the Philippines
can easily be seen also in the regular operations of its civil
bureaucracy, its executive, legislative and judicial branches.
Look at the unfair executive agreements and treaties made with
the U.S. government. Look at the programme of the government and
the kind of contracts it expedites. Look at the prevailing
interests of congressmen and senators in their legislative
deliberations. Look at the pitiful common man who cannot afford
the cost of litigation in courts. There are many more things we
can bring up that can expose which classes are the subject of the
pacifactory or concessionary efforts of the state which is
primarily interested in the preservation of the ruling classes.

We have today a state that serves imperialist and feudal interest
and opposes the national democratic interests of the Filipino
people. And yet it is still pontificated that the Philippine
government is a government of the people, by the people and for
the people.

The Elections and Political Parties

The elections are supposed to be a decisive process or measure by
which the Philippine political system is to be established and
preserved. Elections are supposed to allow the people to choose
their representatives democratically. But the question that
should be propounded by serious students of the Philippine
political system is this: Is the electorate actually allowed to
make a real and fundamental choice, say, a choice between
political parties and candidates who stand for national democracy
and those who stand for opposite interests?

It is superficial to say that a basic political choice is made
possible to the electorate with the mere existence of two
parties. A study of the platforms and the principal driving
forces behind the Nacionalista Party and the Liberal Party shows
that they are basically the same.

Political campaigns require heavy financial support. It is
standard operating procedure for the two parties to collect from
moneyed interests, imperialist comprador and landlord.
Nationalist businessmen give modest financial support to the
political parties and candidates but they are not as hard-driving
a force as the imperialists and the compradors who have the
greater capability for financing electoral campaigns.

The basic similarity of standpoint of the two parties is such
that big vested interests play it safe by giving financial
support to both parties and all candidates. Whoever wins, it is
still the vested interests that prevail.

It is not only the fact that the electors go through the motion
of voting for their candidates that create the illusion that a
free and democratic choice of leadership is possible in this
country. It is also the fact that there are so many politicians
who style themselves as men of humble origins and as men of the
masses. And yet it is clear that they run for public offices
because they themselves are members or running dogs of the
exploiting classes.

A percipient study of the Philippine politics would reveal that
to become a mayor in a municipality, one must ordinarily have the
support of the landowners who dictate blocs of passive tenant
votes and that of the municipal bourgeoisie which includes the
town professionals and the barrio captains who are usually rich
peasants as ward leaders.

To run for congressman or governor, one has to get the same kind
of classes support that a mayoralty candidate gets on a smaller
scale. Within the province, the issues fought out skirt the
problem of land although the basic class demand of the majority
peasant population in the province is land reform. If it is ever
mentioned in electoral campaign, what is skirted is the necessity
for the poor peasants or the sharecroppers to band themselves
together as a political force independent of the political
control by rich peasants and the landlords themselves.

On the national scale, the politicians play it safe by not
antagonizing the big vested interests who are potential or tested
campaign contributors or partners in business. The big
conservative politicians play to the tune of the ruling class
interests. They often do not mind when they discover that certain
corporations and business groups put money on both sides of the
electoral campaign unless the disparity of support amounts to
“non-neutrality”.

The interests of the Filipino “middle class” may at times be
orated upon by certain politicians and this would make them
appear “progressive”. But all their words are meant to
“reconcile” opposing class interests.

The Nacionalista Party and the Liberal P{arty today monopolize
the elections as the organizational instruments of basically the
same vested class interests. Even the Progressive Party of the
Philippines, which apparently received a great deal of financial
support from conservative sources, has shown its utter
incapability to beat the electoral machinery of the Liberal Party
and Nacionalista Party.

The stability of the two-party system will for sometime signify
the stability of the regime of the ruling classes. But let us
watch with the keenest interest the growing realization by the
people that the NP and LP are no different from each other and
are not wholesome for the masses of the people. The masses are
beginning to demand a new alternative party, truly different from
the well-established conservative political parties. They are
beginning to see the elections as a farce, as a mere occasion for
the vested interests at the top to give the electorate the false
illusion of democratic choice from among a highly limited range
of personalities who have no basic political differences but who
agree on taking personal advantage of their public offices, the
winning of which is so expensive that the normal outcome consists
of corrupt bureaucrats.

The Making of “Public Opinion” and Political Power

Outside of the party machinery and outside of the government
facilities that an incumbent government official can use to make
his political campaign, there are other instruments which can be
used to make “public opinion” and build up political power. There
are the mass media and the mass organizations that are always
dictated upon by a definite class or some definite classes. These
are intermediate instruments in the building of political power
and influence either within the established political system or
without and against it.

The mass media, newspapers, radio, TV, movies and others are
accessible mainly to political personalities and parties that can
afford to shoulder the necessary fees and are in a social
position to influence the slant of information, programmes and
opinion campaigns. The ownership of the mass media is, in the
first place, in the hands of corporations that are controlled and
influenced businesswise by imperialist and reactionary interests.

It takes not a few millions of pesos to finance an electoral
campaign under the Philippine political system. There is a
curtain of finance that shuts out the political organizations of
the working class and peasantry from having an “equal” chance to
utilize the reactionary mass media.

The big corporations are themselves organizations of the big
vested interests that can exert a great deal of political
influence, especially among their stockholders and among
employees who may not as yet be radicalized. These corporations
are in turn organized into chambers of commerce and advertisers
groups which serve as important lobby groups.

Individual big businessmen are leading members of civic clubs,
like the Rotary, Lions, Jaycees and other American-style clubs,
which include a good number of social-climbing professionals and
managers. All these seemingly harmless aggrupations serve as
contact points not only for business connections but also for
political combinations.

There are organizations of landlords, whether they are sugar and
coconut exporters or rice and corn dealers. There are also
organizations of big loggers and mining magnates. They serve as
political pressure groups on the government, political parties
and personalities. Their scope of power is both national and
local.

The “middle class” has the professionals’ organizations, highly
localized merchants’ associations and community clubs. These
serve as channels for “public opinion” from the top. Members of
the middle social strata have the special talent for echoing
opinion that they derive from the mass media. They are newspaper
subscribers, TV watchers, and radio listeners. When it comes to
opinion of national significance, they merely echo the dominant
going opinion in the mass media. Through their mass organizations
they take the initiative of adopting some collective opinion but
this opinion is usually of limited scope and, unwittingly, they
merely apply locally the “public opinion” that the big political
interests at the center of communications are trying to spread.

At the lower levels of our society, there are the trade union in
factories and mines, peasant association in farms, the official
barrio councils and neighborhood clubs. But these aggrupations of
workers and peasants have various class tendencies.

Among the barrio councils in the Philippines today, the vast
majority are still controlled by rich and upper middle peasants
who oftentimes are political agents of the landlords and the
municipal bourgeoisie. Among peasant associations, there are
those controlled by landlords themselves or by their political
agents. There are those controlled by rich and middle peasants
associations which are controlled by poor peasants and lower
middle peasants and are well-led.

In city slums and in the farms, there are special organizations
controlled by agencies of the United States government and the
Philippine government and by religious corporations. They play
the role of restraining the masses from taking part in any
serious national democratic movement.

As in the case of the mass media, class analysis must be made in
the case of mass organizations. We have to stick to class
standpoint in studying even the supposedly lower-class
organizations.

The type of mass organizations predominating in the Philippines
now is also part of the curtain alienating the true interests of
the masses from those of the native oligarchy and imperialism.
This curtain also serves to block off the political advance of
the working class and the peasantry. The predominating mass
organizations which maintain basic allegiance to the ruling class
interests are purveyors of wrong ideas misleading the masses.

For the political power of the masses to develop, the working
class and the peasantry must recognize their own class interests
and struggle for them; and establish and develop mass
organizations, a system of public-opinion making and a political
party that would genuinely struggle for their own class
interests.


One Comment on “ANATOMY OF PHILIPPINE POLITICS”

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