Thursday, March 20, 2008
Benedict Anderson’s “Cacique Democracy in the Philippines ” covers up to the post-EDSA period of Corazon Aquino’s administration and from that point on, our political maturity can be said to have not improved much. This can be explained by how colonial and local influences have molded the power structure in the country based on the colonial and indigenous systems that persisted over time. Throughout the periods in which the examination ran from the Spanish Colonization to the Revolutionary Government to American Era to the Commonwealth Period to the Japanese Invasion to the Postwar Republic to the Marcos Dictatorship to the EDSA Redemocratization, there has been a characteristic power structure inequality in the political process. This inequality has upheld the interests of the elite. Based on the tradition of ownership and accumulation of land, the patterns of inequality harked back during the Spanish colonial period when the principalia class dominated the control and concentration over farmlands. In addition, the right to suffrage limited to the literate and landed classes historically assured the elite domination of electoral office. With the emergence of urban economies, patronage systems have decreased but elites now resort to other means like force to secure their position.
The consolidation of a national oligarchy in the government continues to create a perfect adaptation of the ambitions of the mestizo nouveau riche in the legislative and executive systems. If before, these caciques enjoyed control only of their respective local political fiefdoms, now they enjoyed national-level access and exposure. This is most evident with the creation of political dynasties across the archipelago, with family members holding key political positions in their bailiwick areas of responsibility. Thinking of their relative predecessors’ electoral posts as political inheritance, they deepen their consciousness as a ruling class. As they exploit the opportunities presented to them by their privileged position, their relationship with the country gets defined as cacique parasitical.
Since our political institutions are weak, the different leadership styles of the four post-Marcos presidents have a tremendous impact on political results, all of which cannot be said to contribute to a much-desired political maturity. Aquino can be characterized as an elite restorationist, since she was able to rebuild the elite-dominated democratic structures weakened by authoritarian Ferdinand Marcos during her 1986-1992 administration. Meanwhile, former military general Fidel Ramos’ rule from 1992-1998 can be characterized by his skillful manipulation of traditional patronage politics, relatively successful in effecting economic reform. On the other hand, the self-proclaimed populist former movie star, Joseph Estrada, built a strong following from the masses and then made a redistribution of wealth in favor of his family and cronies before being ousted from office in the January 2001 EDSA II Revolution.
Presently, economist president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo can be characterized as a great compromiser because of her willingness to accommodate anybody with the ability to help her keep the presidency. The patterns of elite domination remained the same even in contemporary times because of efforts of democratization wherein an elite democracy rules the country today. The following liberties characterizing the post-EDSA cacique democracy have become apparent: the manipulation of exchange rates, the sale of monopolies, huge central bank loans, pork barrel legislation, and family-ruled bureaucracy.