On Representative Democracy
On the recent events at the House of Representatives, someone on one of my social networks commented:
These representatives sure don’t seem to be representing us the way they’re voting in the congress these days. When was the last time your congressman actually too the time to ask his constituents what they needed or wanted?
I think they do represent us, but not in the sense that they represent our best interests. They represent us in the sense that they are reflections of our values and attitudes. They are products of our political culture.
One of my mentors at my university explained it this way: “It is convenient to blame all this on the rapacity and moral turpitude of our politicians. But, is it not that politicians merely play by the unwritten rules of this sordid game? How much of this corruption is due to popular complicity? Is not the craving for pork partly driven by the electorate’s own insistence that their congressmen always bring home the bacon, so to speak? [You can’t have bacon without pork, can you?] There is a seemingly benign Tagalog expression whose implications for political and public life I have only recently discerned. It goes something like this: Walang hindi nadada-an sa magandang usapan. This wonderful formula belongs to everyday life, does it not?”
I certainly don’t disagree with you. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone say “Tatakbo na lang ako sa Kongreso para yumaman ako” implicitly agreeing to the corruption that’s been going on.
Yet on another level I can’t agree as well. I can’t quite put myself to believe that all of us would think that way… course if that’s the case, we’re pretty much doomed as a nation, cha-cha or no cha-cha.
I’m not saying all of us think that way. I’m saying that has been our prevailing culture. But I don’t think we’re doomed. The fact that we have a growing pool of outstanding local government executives shows that Philippine political culture is changing.
There are numerous examples of well-run communities in the country. Marikina, Naga (which was recognized by the World Bank in 2003 as one of the world’s model cities), Davao and Puerto Princesa are just some of the more famous examples. Less famous examples would include Lanuza Bay municipalities in Mindanao, Pandan in Antique and Iriga in Camarines Sur. Examining these cases should give us a more nuanced view of Philippine society and the potential for genuine democratic politics.