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”. Democratic Recession in the Philippines: What Went Wrong?. By Chito Gascon Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow 17 July 2007 National Endowment for Democracy

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democratic recession in the philippines what went wrong

Democratic Recession in the Philippines: What Went Wrong?

By Chito Gascon

Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow

17 July 2007

National Endowment for Democracy

Please note that the views expressed in this presentation represent the opinions and analysis of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for Democracy

presentation outline
Presentation Outline
  • Basic Facts and Context of the Situation
  • Consideration of Some Key Flashpoints
  • Assessment and Analysis
  • Prospects and Recommendations

The objective of the presentation is to describe current democratic recession in the Philippines— from the standpoint of a democracy activist — in order to explain some possible reasons for this occurrence, and to encourage constructive dialogue that can lead to the articulation of some workable solutions..

slide5
“When you have complex problems in a complex country, you are going to have complex answers to them; you are going to have complex points of view”

- Brian Joseph*

Director for South & Southeast Asia National Endowment for Democracy

*remarks made on 28 June 2007 on the occasion of his first trip to the Philippines on a NED Assessment Visit

first a quick history lesson
First, a Quick History Lesson:
  • ‘There are certain great principles of government which have been made the basis of our governmental system, which we deem essential to the rule of law and the maintenance of individual freedom . . . and that these principles and these rules of government must be established and maintained in their islands for the sake of their liberty and happiness, however much they may conflict with the customs or laws of procedure with which they are familiar’
  • President William McKinley to the
  • Philippine Commission headed by
  • William Howard Taft on 7 April 1900
  • ‘to fit the people themselves to maintain a stable and well-ordered government affording equality of right and opportunity to all citizens’
  • William Howard Taft defining the US avowed policy
  • during his address on the occasion of the
  • 1907 inauguration of the Philippine Assembly
slide7

“…our very first exercise in nation building.”

- Observation made by writer, editor, and historical researcher Kevin Baker in an essay appearing in American Heritage Magazine 54 #4

‘Prior to American colonial rule, it is important to note, the Philippines had no significant experience with national-level democratic institutions or national-level political parties… Although it is indeed true that the Philippines is the Asian country with the most enduring experience with democratic institutions, one must also conclude that its democracy got off to a decidedly inauspicious start’

- Conclusions made jointly by Joel Rocamora, PhD

and Paul Hutchcroft, PhD in an academic article

basic political facts pre 1996
Basic Political Facts (pre-1996)
  • 85M+ people in 7,100 islands in Southeast Asia
  • 350 years of Spanish rule
  • American rule during the 1st half of the 20th century
  • Prior to & immediately after WWII a political system was adopted essentially patterned after the US
  • Widespread poverty, inequality, and injustice
  • Internal armed conflicts (ideological/ethnic/religious)
  • Authoritarian rule (1972-1986)
  • 1986: democratic breakthrough, bumpy transition
  • 1986-1996: political reforms under Aquino; economic reforms under Ramos
complex in its contrasts
Complex in its Contrasts

The good news is the Economy, YET it also highlights some of the interesting dynamics of the situation:

  • Economic Stability-Political Instability, Some Growth-Little Equity, Capital In-Flow -Human Resource Out-Flow
  • General Observations by Habito:
    • The ‘half full – half empty’ Philippine economy
      • Tapering inflation / improved fiscal position of the government / surging overseas remittances / political conflict continues
      • Over 5% growth, BUT still slower than the region
      • Per capita income now over $1400; self-rated poverty is high
      • 2 out of 3 not bad: prices & income versus jobs
    • ‘Economic Tango’
      • A case of good economics taking a back seat to other considerations, in matters that profoundly affect the public welfare
      • ‘One senses here a disturbing return to Marcos-era economics’
the democratic project
The Democratic Project
  • A harbinger of democratic change on the crest of theThird Wave
  • PEOPLEPOWER as a modality for effecting transition from dictatorships
  • ‘Turning Tables in the World’ – democracies vs non-democracies
  • The challenge of consolidation; the problem of backsliding, recession, or backlash
  • A more sobering reality in Southeast Asia –

Is this trend spreading to the few ‘hold-out’ democracies in the region?

the downturn the last 10 years
The Downturn: The Last 10 Years
  • Asian financial crisis in 1997
  • Attempts at changing the rules (CHACHA)
    • Ostensibly to guarantee continuity of reform efforts
    • Perceived as an effort to perpetuate those in power
  • Emergence of populist politics & candidates
    • 1998 Presidential Elections – ERAP phenomenon
    • Bad governance, scandals, corruption
  • Counter-reaction by the entrenched elites
    • EDSA 2 (promised reforms/urban-based/middle class)
    • Manipulation of electoral & legal processes (2004+)
  • Erosion of trust in key institutions (elections /courts)
  • Breakdown of consensual politics /public alienation
  • Resort by some to extra-constitutional efforts (Oakwood)
context of the chronic crisis a political stalemate d j vu
Context of the Chronic Crisis:A Political Stalemate (déjà vu?)
  • Crisis of Legitimacy
    • Breach in the constitutional framework
    • Unresolved Questions about 2004 Elections
  • Politics of Survival
    • Transactional politics
    • ‘Scorched earth’ tactics / authoritarian streak
    • Strong executive - weakening checks & balances
  • Polarization
    • Public demonstrations / calls for resignation
    • Resurgence of rebel activity
  • Politicization of the Security Forces
    • Involvement in partisan activity
    • Discontent within the ranks / reality of mutiny
    • Total war policy
why democracy is in danger
Why Democracy is in Danger

+ Weak rule of law (abuse of power, corruption, impunity, violence, etc)

+ Poor economic performance (poverty, inequality, injustice)

+ Ethnic & religious divisions

+ Weak & ineffective political institutions (parties, parliaments, systems of horizontal accountability)

+ Weak constraints on authoritarian leaders (civil society, international actors)

  • BAD GOVERNANCE

(Diamond)

some flashpoints for consideration
Some Flashpoints for Consideration
  • The Processes of Political Participation
    • Credibility and integrity of elections
    • Dominance of dynasties (‘bossism’)
    • Weakening of intermediary institutions
  • Rule of Law
    • Sustaining leadership within the court system
    • Fighting the hydra: combating systemic corruption
    • Culture of violence & defense of human rights
  • Armed Conflict & Security Forces
    • Rebel activity & peace efforts
    • Civilian control vs militarization of civilian authority
  • The Institutional Framework
    • Ensuring mechanisms of accountability
    • The reform agenda (what, when, why, & how?)
      • Charter change / procedural & substantive aspects
      • Possibility of hijack
catholic bishops statement cbcp january 2007

1. Some Considerations on Political Institutions

Catholic Bishops’ Statement (CBCP)January 2007

“ These coming elections in May 2007 are especially important. Many of our current political problems, which have hindered fuller economic development and social justice, especially for the poor, can be traced to unresolved questions concerning the conduct of past elections. As a nation, we cannot afford yet another controversial exercise that further aggravates social distrust and hopelessness.”

the results of the mid term elections
The Results of the Mid-term Elections
  • No substantial improvement in administration of the election BUT a marked improvement in public vigilance
  • Election-related fraud (a legacy of cheating)
  • Election-related violence
  • Politicization of security forces
  • Paradox: virtual hegemony of the ruling coalition at the local level YET failure to deliver votes in the Senate
    • The Senate vote as a more accurate barometer of public sentiment (unequivocal victory for the opposition) Final tally: [7-2]-3
    • 80% win for the ruling parties in the House (at least 70 seats; approximately 1/3 were uncontested by the opposition)
    • Some cracks in the façade of unity (LAKAS vs KAMPI) / Opposition Too
  • Emergence of a new generation of national leaders
as the dust settles
As the dust settles…
  • The Integrity of the Electoral Process
    • Electoral process continues to remain vulnerable to manipulation.
    • Unacceptable levels of election-related violence; security forces either unable or unwilling to control it
    • The COMELEC as an institution must be reformed top-to-bottom!
  • The Dominance of Political Dynasties (Bossism)
    • Political clans entrenched in the political system since 1986
    • Strengthened ties between national leadership & local clans
    • In the House, despite 49% first-term, 75% will be from dynasties
    • Over 80% of provinces controlled by dynasties
  • The Weakening of Intermediary Institutions
    • CSOs: divided & under-funded; advocacy NGOs are particularly weak
    • Political parties: underdeveloped & weak; new constraints in the PL
    • Very little aggregation, mediation, and synergy between these actors
2 rule of law
2.Rule of Law
  • Independence of the Judiciary
    • The Supreme Court is perceived as a critical last bastion for defense of democracy and has thus far (on the whole) resisted pressure
    • The last 3 Chief Justices (including the incumbent) have exercised leadership of the Court to safeguard Civil Liberties
    • Question remains for how long given the appointment process
    • Judicial independence less of a reality below the SC level
  • Fighting the Hydra: Combating Systemic Corruption
    • Institutionalized corruption has entrenched the power structure and stymied reform efforts
    • Gains in one area are lost in another
    • Anti-corruption agencies exhibit similar weaknesses as the COMELEC
  • Culture of Violence & Defense of Human Rights
    • Different forms of violence is unabated & law enforcement is weak
    • Marked increase in human rights violations (EJK & ED in particular)
slide27
The Political Context of Extra-Judicial Killings and other Human Rights Violations in the Philippines
  • No senior civilian or military official has ever been held accountable for serious human rights violations
  • There exists an aggravated culture of impunity amidst a prevailing culture of violence
  • The continuing political crisis is a backdrop for understanding the current spate of outrages against international standards
    • Politics of polarization
    • Politics of fear
3 the armed conflict security forces
3. The Armed Conflict & Security Forces
  • Some Concerns Regarding the Security Forces
    • Renewed politicization (out of barracks)
    • Militarization of civilian authority
    • A historical anti-left bias
    • Currently being exploited by ideological forces
    • Undeclared policy of ‘looking away’
    • Some cleavages but as yet not serious
    • Weak mechanisms for civilian oversight
  • Some Concerns Regarding the Armed Left
    • A long history of armed conflict (disciplined/well organized)
    • An ethic of struggling against the system rather than working within the system (politics of exclusion)
    • Existing social, economic, and political conditions are conducive to hard left-oriented politics
    • A ‘peace process’without an end (tactical rather than strategic commitment by the contending parties)
slide29
Some Concerns On the Mindanao Conflict
    • A long standing, multi-faceted conflict that requires intervention at the national & community levels
    • A communal dialogue process involving all stakeholders is essential to resolving it
  • Need for Workable Solutions to Different Conflicts
    • Without jeopardizing operational concerns at guaranteeing human security in affected areas, peace processes have to be pursued
    • Ultimately, some key questions are justice, inclusion, empowerment and participation
  • Security Sector Reform cannot be postponed
4 the institutional framework

Charter Change (Cha Cha) & the Crisis in Democratic Institutions?

4. The Institutional Framework
  • Amidst the crisis of institutions, reforms are being actively pursued across the political spectrum to the point that it will not be a matter of if but when for Cha Cha.
  • Challenge is to proceed while guaranteeing accountability
  • Cha Cha as the Panacea?
    • Real danger of hijacking for selfish ends (with precedent!)
  • Cha Cha in order to be viable:
    • At the right time, for the right reasons, thru the right process, & championed by right advocates (broad buy-in)
    • Should address the institutional weaknesses of the current political system (electoral systems, allocation of power, accountability mechanisms, central & local competencies)
possible explanations for the current democratic recession
Possible Explanations for the Current Democratic Recession
  • Conjunctural
    • Crisis of legitimation & the search for equilibrium
    • Absence of a consensus for democracy
  • Structural
    • Political economy of neo-patrimonialism
  • Behavioral (Socio-Psychological)
    • Attitudes about democracy, particularly of a key driving force: the ‘Middle’
  • A Reassertion of the Developmentalist Model
slide32

The Crisis of Legitimation

3 periods of similar crises in modern Philippine political history:

+1969-1973 – resulted in authoritarian consolidation

+1983-1986 – resulted in democratic restoration

+2001-present – currently being contested (search for / manufacturing of)

(Teehankee)

how people view democracy
How People View Democracy

Declines in the Philippines (2001 to 2005)

Democracy is always preferable - 64% to 51%

Democracy is suitable for our country - 80% to 57%

Satisfaction with way Democracy works - 54% to 39%

Reject authoritarian “strong leader” - 70% to 59%

(Diamond, 2007)

“Few Filipinos believe that there is democratic governance in the Philippines; the big majority nationwide (82%) is comprised by Filipinos who either acknowledge oligarchic politics or say they are uncertain about the character of the country’s political regime.” - PULSE ASIA 2006 Survey Report

slide35

The Vicious Double Cycle of ‘State Capture’

(Speaker’s Model of the Philippine Political Economy described in Hutchcroft’s ‘Booty Capitalism’ )

Political Finance

Self-aggrandizement

Accumulation

of Resources

Control of Electoral

& Political Processes

‘State

Capture’

By

Vested Interests

Concentration

of Wealth

in

EconomicElites

Concentration

of Power

in

Political Elites

Rent-Seeking

Behavior &

Transactional Politics

Marginalization

of the

Poor & Powerless

High-Risk / Low-Investment

Economic & Political Environment

The Grand Alliance of Certain Economic & Political Elites

the middle force dilemma democratic revolution versus good governance
The Middle Force Dilemma: Democratic Revolution versus Good Governance
  • Middle forces: socially coherent, culturally & intellectually dominant, politically ascendant segment of the population.
  • Democracy was restored in the Philippines through ‘democratic revolutions’ with prominent roles by middle forces
  • ‘Middle forces’ often small (about 15% of the population) BUT concentrated in the urban areas and the capital (up to 40%)
  • Those democratic rules were ‘broken’ in EDSA 2 when procedural democracy was sacrificed in the name of good governance
  • Ironically, the same discourse was earlier used to combat authoritarianism (Cause-Oriented / Moral Force)
  • What makes these powerful social movements threaten the democratic order they help create?

(Thompson’s Assessment of Recent Philippine and Thailand Experience )

the middle force trajectory
The Middle Force Trajectory
  • Democratic revolution failure of reform populist challenge renewed mobilization/insurrectionary reaction
  • Failed reformism after restoration of democracy leads to disenchantment & demobilization
  • Fear that democracy will threaten good governance leads to return to insurrectionism
  • Elections dominated by either traditional politicians or populists seen as threats to good governance
    • Neo-patrimonialism, economic & moral crisis can cause the middle force to turn against the democratic project
    • Capable of toppling dictators but not of winning elections (‘People Power’ as a viable modality to fight bad governance BUT less so to guarantee good governance)
lessons non lessons
Lessons & Non-Lessons

Other democratic developing countries that have NOT exhibited middle force insurrectionism (e.g. India & Costa Rica) have showed:

  • Integrity of electoral process (Parliamentarianism not necessarily superior to presidentialism)
  • Depoliticization of, not flirtation with, military,
  • Stable political parties (often highly dynastic)
  • Integration of poor through symbolism & social programs
  • Toleration of ‘legal left’, and decentralization and autonomy for minorities (armed groups confronted, but legal radical groups accepted in democratic process)
conclusion central question
Conclusion: Central Question

In the Philippine context, how can democratic politics further good governance and both mobilize society at the local level and attain development outcomes at a national level?

  • Where governance is effective, innovations are possible; but the spread of innovation is slow and uneven (pockets!)
  • Underdevelopment creates conditions that entrench bad governance, particularly as a result of the double phenomenon of middle class out-migration and patronage politics in the poorest areas / periphery (re: Hutchcroft, et al)
political will the essential condition
Political Will: The Essential Condition
  • Is the commitment of a country’s rulers to democratic and good governance reforms, and their readiness to incur the costs necessary to adopt and implement these reforms?
  • In badly governed states, the central challenge is to generate the political will to improve governance, control corruption, and generate real development.

(Diamond)

toward promoting full democracy
Toward Promoting Full Democracy

Some principles to inform a reform strategy:

  • Build and strengthen inclusive, empowering and sustainable institutions in the political, economic and cultural realms
  • Defend the hard-won victories of earlier democratic struggles, form consensus around democratic processes, & broaden constituencies for these
  • Deepen democracy not just in current formal but elitist character, but to one that ensures genuine popular participation
  • Any major change in political structures should not benefit those presently in power (arms length), & must involve national dialogue and public education
reflection need for political engagement
Reflection – Need for Political Engagement
  • For international actors, its important to consider Diamond’s 12 point Principles of Action
  • Within the Philippines, domestic stakeholders need to act in order to foster trust in democratic process
    • Elections and election administration
    • Democratic institutions (parties and parliaments)
    • Democratic processes (oversight and rule of law)
  • A need to renew & reinvigorate civic engagement in politics (partisan & non-partisan)
  • Defend, deepen, & widen the political space for effective participation
  • Support the emergence of democratic leaders & champions
  • Nurture and strengthen constituencies as well as energize communities for sustained advocacy of reforms
recommendation search for common ground
Recommendation - Search for Common Ground

In the Immediate to Medium Term:

  • Build Foundations for the Next Government
    • An opportunity to step back from the brink & to prevent an escalation of hostilities
    • Critical to sustain economic growth and reduce public desperation
    • Initiate credible political, electoral, and administrative reforms to reduce imperfections in the political process and ensure credible elections in 2010 that will help return stability and achieve some equilibrium
  • Alternative Attitudes to the Result:
    • Best outcome
      • Administration focuses on reforms rather than survival
      • Administration agrees to compromise for the common good
    • Worst outcome
      • Administration views its partial win as endorsement of its policies
      • The rebuke of administration intensifies political hostilities
some initial steps to restore credible elections
Some Initial Steps to Restore Credible Elections
  • Clean-up the institutions and systems for election administration
  • Improve the capacity of the COMELEC
  • Complete full automation of elections ahead of 2010
  • Consider other mechanisms to further reduce opportunities for human intervention / human error in the counting & tabulation process
  • Separate election adjudication & election disputes resolution from elections management functions
  • Enforce election laws fully (particularly on campaign contribution & expenditure) coupled with a vigorous anti-corruption effort
  • Prosecute to the fullest extent all violators of election laws
  • Support civic-education and voter’s education efforts
  • Institutionalize and sustain citizen’s oversight mechanisms
  • Initiate law reform legislation (party law / political finance)
  • Rationalize the mobilization of election officers to include citizens
  • Ensure civilian control over security forces, including citizen oversight
some other necessary first steps
Some Other Necessary First Steps
  • Need to restore a consensus for democracy in the run-up to the 2010 General Elections through among others:
    • Improve mechanisms for public accountability (CHR/Senate) and a sustained effort at addressing corruption (OMB/PAGC)
    • Political party development, strengthening, and consolidation
    • Allow alternative candidates to emerge with distinct platforms and visions of governance
    • Promote mechanisms for the political representation of the marginalized and disenfranchised sectors of society in a process that is linked to the larger political transformation agenda (political reforms towards constitutional reform)
    • Sustain economic growth and spread its benefits
    • Pursue a reform agenda in social expenditure with a sharper focus on safety nets (education, health, water, food security)
    • Reduce drivers of political polarization, e.g. violence & exclusion (address impunity)
slide46
“You have spent many lives and much treasure to bring freedom to many lands that were reluctant to receive it. And here you have a people who won it by themselves and need only the help to preserve it.”

- President Corazon C. Aquino

Address to the US Congress

18 September 1986

all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing edmund burke
All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men (and women) to do nothing- Edmund Burke

* In fact it is possibly the commonest political quote you will find anywhere on the World Wide Web. It is used to warn of the encroachments of government, and to warn that governments do not do enough…It is always quoted with considerable reverence, and is made to stand as one of the unassailable truths about the need for freedom of action in democratic societies (www.tartarus.org)

much thanks
Much Thanks!
  • Marc Plattner & Sally Blair as well as the other helpful staff at the International Forum for Democratic Studies, DRC and the Journal of Democracy
  • Ryan White, my ever so patient Research Associate
  • All the wonderful people at NED & The Core Institutes
  • The input from academics: Robin Broad (AU), Paul Hutchcroft (UWis-M), Larry Diamond (Stanford), Scott Mainwaring (Notre Dame), Paolo Carozza (Notre Dame), Mark Thompson(FAU-EN), Benjie Tolosa(Ateneo), Tony La Vina (Ateneo), Julio Teehankee (DLSU), Joel Rocamora (IPD) & Mario Taguiwalo (NIPS)
  • And the many insights from the many conversations with members of the Washington DC Policy Community: at State, the Hill, DRL, USAID, Think Tanks, and NGOs