“When observing Filipino friendships I thought often of the Mafia families… the boundaries of decent treatment are limited to the family or tribe” –Atty. Rodel Rodis
Credit to Ilocos Norte first district Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas for his willingness to wear elitism on his sleeve. While most politicians put on a façade of humility, he is out there campaigning for the special treatment of politicians. The former Liberal Party (LP) stalwart (who swapped for the ruling PDP-Laban party in order to become majority leader) claims elected officials are not subject to basic traffic rules and even deserve their own police force.
The call has since received the backing of Muntinlupa City Lone District Rep. Ruffy Biazon, an LP member, who characterized it as “a logical step.”
Given how politicians typically get away with doing and saying anything, now, those in elected office are admitting they think they are above the law.
US-based attorney Rodel Rodis penned a column for The Philippine Daily Inquirer entitled “The self-perpetuating elite of the Philippines,” where he quotes political science professor Julio Teehankee in describing the elitist political environment that has developed in the Philippines as “dominated by patronage, corruption, violence, and fraud.”
“This is the political system that has produced fixers like Janet Lim Napoles who conspired with the dynasts in Congress to steal taxpayer money,” he added.
The Ilocos Norte congressman believes, by making legislators exempt to traffic laws, it would allow them to arrive to session on time.
Is he under the impression only members of Congress have somewhere to be every day? Why do students wake up extra early to get to school? Why are countless numbers of average citizens running to and from modes of transportation to get to work? It has been said many times that the majority of individuals living the country are isolated in their own personal bubbles, unaware of what is going on outside of themselves, Fariñas illustrates that argument fairly plainly.
Maybe Fariñas is arguing for the ever-present “Filipino time” (especially since very few ever try to make punctuality a priority in daily life)? With the House of Representatives setting ground rules on promptness when attending session, is he admitting an inability to control his “Filipino time?” Across the country, it is well-known how bad the traffic is throughout Metro Manila – even Bacolod City is hard to navigate on any given day – it is not as if the congressman is surprised there is traffic. Most average folk know to plan ahead.
Perhaps it’s his privileged background that makes him oblivious to the plight of “the masses.” Elected office almost seems like a birthright in the Philippines, with nobody else allowed in unless part of this special circle.
As Rodis commented in his piece, when it comes to this overwhelming sectoral culture, “Decent treatment [is] limited to the family or tribe.”
Political science professor Richard Javad Heydarian wrote a piece for The Huffington Post, where he discussed how the EDSA Revolution brought forth, as he called it, an “Elite Democracy” (perhaps that is what those who bear the yellow ribbon in place of the Philippine flag mean when they say Corazon Aquino ushered in democracy – an elite democracy).
“Post-EDSA leadership has overseen a decentralization of corruption, instead of ushering in accountability and transparency,” he explained. “A fairly constant proportion of (a booming) population continues to live in abject poverty, while widespread unemployment has pushed as many as 10 million Filipinos overseas.”
“The Filipinos got rid of a despot, but in exchange they fell (once again) victim to the very oligarchy that the Marcos dictatorship tried to tame,” he added.
A report by the Agence France-Presse said the Philippines has one of “Asia’s worst rich-poor divides.”
“The tendency for the same names to dominate major industries can be partly attributed to government regulations that continue to allow near monopolies and protections for key players,” the report explained. “The path to riches for the few is also helped by a political culture that allows personal connections to easily open doors.”
In other countries, many in elected office (whether sincere or not) advocate for giving everybody an equal opportunity, offering reforms they believe would provide more mobility, and discuss issues such as job growth and wealth creation. In the Philippines, those in office are only focused on keeping themselves and their family members in office – and that’s without the empty promises, it’s merely done by flashing a last name.
“Around 178 political dynasties collectively dominate 73 out of a total of 80 provinces, with vast majority of legislators (70 percent) hailing from political dynasties; not even Latin American countries like Mexico (40 percent) and Argentina (10 percent) can match such level of oligarchic takeover,” Heydarian wrote. “The Filipino voters, one could argue, are essentially glorified spectators in this clash of titanic oligarchs” – and the elites exploit that.
One might say, if that is the case, then why not? Because, in the end, if that is what the Philippine electoral system is based on, then, no matter who is elected into office, there is no hope of seeing the country progress – despite the word “progress” being a favorite among politicians.
Incidentally, the elitist mentality, while shunned in many other cultures, it is unfortunately contagious in the Philippines. As Rodis noted regarding Filipino friendships, “The boundaries of decent treatment are limited to the family or tribe;” it is very apparent in the way basic courtesy and chivalry is eschewed among the general public; why is that? Perhaps it is the attitudes espoused by people like Fariñas and the multitudes in elected office who believe they are above the law – putting themselves above the average citizens, which gives rise to the run-of-the-mill local who is offended being lumped together with the next guy and feels compelled to assert an imaginary superiority.
This schism will only prolong the aforementioned “rich-poor divide,” which would keep “the masses” mired in stagnation; an outcome the elites would prefer – it keeps their sector intact, with the money a power remaining in their hands./WDJ