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In Culture, Economics, History, Philippine Issues, Political Economy, Political Theory, Politics on June 24, 2009 at 12:17 pm

An Analysis of Local Government Units’ Role in the Current Politico-Economic Crisis and How To Mobilize Against an Arroyo-sponsored Con-Ass

(First of a series)

by Hansley A. Juliano

Leon Trotsky once mentioned how, despite the growing apathy of many people towards political processes, the complexities of political participation loom above everyone and are desirous of including them in it. In a liberal-democratic situation such as which the Philippines possesses, there is this desire to stay away from being involved in governmental undertakings in the desire to undermine the intrusion to their private and personal prospects, unknowingly alienating themselves to the ideal of communal activity and, in a way, an affirmation of themselves. It is no surprise, therefore, that repressive regimes have done well in preserving this order of assemblages in order to perpetuate themselves into power and, therefore, maintain their definite advantage over the majority of the population of the country, recalling to mind the Thrasymachean doctrine of justice being the advantage of the stronger.

In this light, we can somehow understand why there is a growing feeling of distance, if not outright disdain, for participation in issues of national importance. With the current train of thought and ethic of living tending towards selfishness (historian Teodoro Agoncillo would lament that “ang mga tao pag gumawa ang iniisip lagi, sikmura” [they only think of work for sating themselves]), it is noticeable that concern or dependence on the government manifest somewhat solely on the issue of dole-outs and influence-peddling. Former Representative of the 1st District of Tarlac, now Secretary for National Defense, Gilbert Teodoro would share how his fellow citizens, being tampurista or sensitive, should be “give[n] importance… Personal attention means a lot… Normally I am asked for job recommendations, there are a lot of people without jobs. But sometimes they even ask me to talk to teachers to pass their children who failed in school.” (Coronel 2, 2004, 114). That our institutions are experiencing severe cases of red tape, bringing out disproportionate results, produce and ill-implemented policies, shows how it is somewhat necessary to get to the root of the current political culture, if at least in order to pave a way to temper down the negative effects and improve such cases.

Inasmuch as the socialist view of political engagement dissuades any fetish for the analysis of what can be conveniently termed, for this elementary writing, as “micro-politics,” taking into account the necessity of dissecting the miniscule units of the political order is imperative in our analysis of the Philippine state. With this, it is good and worthy to consider and review the proposition of Michel Foucault with regards to the peculiarities and pervasive nature of power in the post-modern societies characterized by diffused centers of power, which follows a

…micro-physics presupposes that the power exercised on the body is conceived not as a property, but as a strategy, that its effects of domination are attributed not to ‘appropriation’, but to dispositions, manoeuvres, tactics, techniques, functionings; that one should decipher in it a network of relations, constantly in tension, in activity, rather than a privilege that one might possess; that one should take as its model a perpetual battle rather than a contract regulating a transaction or the conquest of a territory. (Foucault 1978, 26)

The disciplinary model being the dominant paradigm in postmodern societies, it is a useful tool in studying and, through this brief overview, dissecting the Philippine nation-state apparatus which is alleged to be composed of “feudal institutions, modern economies and post-modern perspectives.” Having a historical background of living as various petty kingdoms, with a paltry few analogies to the European fiefdoms prior to the centralized Spanish colonial government, they have been resurrected and inaugurated through the new provisions of the current constitution as Local Government Units (LGUs) starting from the provincial board headed by a Governor to the level of the traditional barangay. We might think of this public structures as created for efficiency and viability, but recent case studies (which will be shown in detail below) will show us that they have become highly infected, still, by the traditional modes of sovereign power due to the inherently sovereign means of governance practiced by local officials. That political patronage is still the norm in current modes of public administration shows us how our so-called “democratic institutions” have failed the desire and aspirations of the Filipino people for a truly representative, efficient and empowering nation-state.

In the recently-inaugurated desperate attempt of the current administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (through the machinations of their allies in the House of Representatives) to alter the Philippine Constitution through a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass), various sectors, both private and public, have voiced out their dissent and indignation against this blatant disregard to legality and the will of the people. However, it cannot be denied that the uproar is still mobilized in the centralized urban areas where political participation at least has ground. Rural and recently-urbanized areas have yet to express such dissatisfaction, more so they seem to be beholden to the administration due in part to favours given and developmental practices “initiated” in shady and dubious means, mostly even detrimental to the national economy but such information withheld from the people.

We therefore have to acknowledge the fact that despite claims to the contrary and the countless compromises made, the government has been traditionally composed of the Filipino elite sectors, specifically the legislature where they are usually composed of select “male, middle aged, and college educated, most likely with a degree in law. [They have] previously held a local government post and is a member of a political family, with a sibling, father or a grandfather who has been voted into public office. There is one chance in two [they are] related to a former legislator… The typical representative therefore is not the typical Filipino, who is likely to be below 35, with a few years of high-school education and annual family income of about P 150,000.” [Italics mine.] (Coronel 2, 2004, 4). That it is already general knowledge how the phenomenon of elite exclusivity in the House of Representatives has seeped to the roots of local public administration demands a thorough survey of these various cases and thus, formulate means for action from and for the people to combat it and, if opportunities would allow it, overthrow such systems.

It is therefore our desire in this brief study to analyze the nature of Local Government Units and pinpoint their role in the current dysfunctional model of political patronage, nepotistic rule and inefficiently-sovereign systems. The issue on Con-Ass is an advantageous starting point from which we can begin making and propagating new modes of organization to assert democratic processes. Through striking at the root of the problematic patronizing tree, we can see how to exterminate extraneous non-democratic processes from our institutions yet still promote working and effective systems of governance.

(to be continued)

References:Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Translated from the French by Alan Sheridan. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1977).

Coronel, Shiela S. “Houses of Privilege” in The Rulemakers: How the Wealthy and Well-born Dominate Congress. By Shiela S. Coronel, Yvonne T. Chua, Luz Rimban, Booma B. Cruz. Quezon City: PCIJ, 2004, 3-43. (cited as Coronel 1).

_____________. “Born to Rule” in The Rulemakers: How the Wealthy and Well-born Dominate Congress. By Shiela S. Coronel, Yvonne T. Chua, Luz Rimban, Booma B. Cruz. Quezon City: PCIJ, 2004, 44-117. (cited as Coronel 2).

  1. Very promising piece. Intelligent and engaging. Specially because that this is youth writing. I look forward to the next part.

    Just a question though, from which is this — dissecting the Philippine nation-state apparatus which is alleged to be composed of “feudal institutions, modern economies and post-modern perspectives.” — quoted from? Or is the use of quotation marks for emphasis? Just curious.

  2. Thanks for the appreciation sir.

    Now on that note, the statement on “feudal institutions, modern economies and post-modern perspectives” are, I believe, already given descriptions for the Philippine setting for quite a long time, the same way Ben Anderson’s “Imagined Communities” have been overused. Though yes, it was marked that way for emphasis.

    We’ll be working on the sequel soon!

    – H. Juliano

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