I read with some interest Jaime Garchitorena’s “End of Year Thoughts: If there’s a good time to initiate change I think that good time is now”, and I found it intriguing in that it echoes in many ways my own understanding of the futility of ‘ideal democracy’: That rules many times are nothing more than obstacles to getting things done, which Garchitorena summarizes in this way:
Given the poor traction of the “ideal” democracy in the Philippines and the inability of its “care takers” for the last 25 years to use democracy to uplift the country, The President and his team cannot make the decision to take action based purely on what is obviously legal.
I have no argument with that general premise, because authoritarian subversion of “ideal” democracy is backed by the evidence of successful experience in a few places; Singapore and Davao (notwithstanding Mayor Duterte’s shameful beating of the sheriff earlier this year), which Garchitorena mentions, and my favorite example, the several decades of excellent results achieved by Chicago Mayors Daley Senior and Junior. But for Garchitorena to try to shoehorn President N/A into the same category is either a lie, or a gross deficit of comprehension on the writer’s part.
In benign0’s earlier review of Garchitorena’s article, he neatly describes how N/A fails to even meet the criteria Garchitorena sets for ‘acceptable subversion’ of the legal framework of democracy, which by itself is enough to scuttle Garchitorena’s apologism for the Big Yellow Brat. I believe, however, that Garchitorena fails in his objective before he hardly got started, because he builds his case on a premise that N/A is doing something different than what he actually is. And that’s surprising, because the one thing – perhaps the only thing – that N/A has been consistent about from the moment he became even a presumptive candidate for the presidency is that he acts on a deep-seated belief that the democratic ideal – as defined by what most (or at least enough) Filipinos believe Mother Cory bequeathed the nation – would work just fine, if only it were not corrupted (which, it should be said, is not an absolute definition, but what N/A thinks corruption is). That is a far different perspective than “the system itself is preventing us from accomplishing what we need to do.” In that sense, N/A is if anything nothing more than a weird amalgamation of the two groups “trying to preserve the system” that Garchitorena derides; not an innovator, not an agent of change, but the ultimate expression of the Philippine system’s flaws.
Of course, some might argue that what N/A is “doing” – i.e., hunting down and tormenting political “enemies” – is exactly what the people want him to do; Garchitorena implies as much when he cites the cooperation of a representative Legislature and the anecdotal evidence of glowing opinion polls. If that were so, then the very obvious examples of Davao, Singapore, and Chicago should have never been possible. Why did the people of Singapore accept a mockery of democracy under Lee, and why did the people of Chicago and Davao accept iron-handed family dynasties in lieu of the ideal “rule of the people”? Because Lee, the Daleys, and the Dutertes kept the lights on, got the trash picked up, put people to work and put the hoodlums in jail (or worse). So while the Filipino people – or enough of them – might have been willing to give N/A the benefit of the doubt at first, there will come a point when even the most idealistic among them will realize there’s no nutritional value in “hope”, and that the only meaningful “change” is the stuff one has in his own pocket.
Jaime Garchitorena is absolutely correct that the ideal of democracy as this country understands it is a broken system that doesn’t work. But all he’s managed to do by trying to convince us that N/A is working to give the country a better system is reveal that N/A is exactly the wrong guy for that job. You want real change? Start at the top.