Pinoy election DNA: Forgiveness? Amnesia? Brand loyalty? Immediate gratification?
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The news is out. Our virtues shine through. Filipinos are a forgiving people.
Yes, we abhor erring politicians. We even oust them from office. But time heals all wounds. We forgive and forget.
People from other countries have taken notice. Americans, who follow politics in the Philippines, have been saying that had the popular Noynoy Aquino not run for the presidency in the 2010 Presidential Election, Former Pres. Joseph Estrada would have been elected back to the position he was deposed from.
Citizens of other nations are perplexed by the fact that after the much hailed and celebrated “People Power” (which was instrumental in ousting the Marcos family from Malacañang in 1986) they are back in power — Imelda and Imee in Congress, Bongbong in the Senate.
Recently, international news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) ran an article which illustrates the so-called “culture of impunity” in the Philippines, by presenting the cases of ten politicians who ran for office in this year’s midterm elections:
1. Imelda Marcos - the 83-year-old widow of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who was deposed in a “people power revolution” in 1986. The first couple was accused of plundering billions of dollars from state coffers and overseeing vast human rights abuses. She is also running for a second term as a member of the House of Representatives as her family makes a political comeback.
2. Joseph Estrada – An ex-president who got kicked out of office halfway through his six-year term in 2001, amid a popular uprising, triggered by allegations that he was corrupt. He was convicted in 2007 of plunder while in office, but quickly pardoned by his successor. Now 76, he is running for mayor of the capital city of Manila.
3. Gloria Arroyo – She succeeded Estrada in 2001 and served as president for nearly a decade. Her successor and current president, Benigno Aquino, has made her his top target in his government’s war against corruption, and had multiple charges laid against her. At age 66, she is seeking a second term as a congresswoman in her home province of Pampanga, while on trial and detained at a military hospital.
4. Ryan Luna - He is running for a second term as mayor of Bangued, the capital of a northern province, as an opposition candidate. He went into hiding last month, shortly after being indicted for the murder of a local political rival’s wife in the 2007 elections. He appeared in a YouTube video, denying the murder charge.
5. Rodrigo Duterte – A veteran politician known as “The Punisher” for his tough stance against crime. Rights groups accuse him of encouraging vigilante groups that summarily execute petty criminals, including children. He is running for another term as mayor of the major southern city of Davao, as an independent candidate, but is an ally to Aquino’s Liberal Party.
6. Ronald Singson – A scion of a prominent political family in northern Philippines, he was sentenced three years ago to 14 months in jail in Hong Kong for cocaine possession. He is seeking to regain his seat in the House of Representative that he vacated after the conviction. He is running in a province that for decades has been controlled by his father, Chavit, an admitted illegal gambling kingpin.
7. Clara “Fems” Reyes – Wife of Joel Reyes, the former governor of the island province of Palawan, who is accused of being the mastermind behind the murder of an environment activist in 2011. She is running for mayor of a Palawan town for the ruling Liberal Party, while her husband and brother-in-law are on the run after being charged over the murders.
8. Jose Rodriguez – He is running unopposed as mayor of San Marcelino town, 100 kilometers (60 miles) northwest of Manila. Rodriguez is on trial for the alleged rape of a 12-year-old girl in 2010. He denies the charges. He is an independent candidate who is an ally of the national opposition alliance.
9. Cipriano Violago – He is running for mayor under the ruling Liberal Party for San Rafael town, 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of the capital. He went underground last week, after being issued an arrest warrant by a judge for allegedly killing a policeman. He denies the charge, according to an aide.
10. Johaira Midtimbang Ampatuan – The mayor of Datu Hoffer town in southern Philippines, who is running for a second term under the nation’s main opposition alliance. She is the wife of Zaldy Ampatuan, one of the alleged masterminds of the Philippines’ worst political massacre — the killing of 58 people in 2009. The massacre was allegedly an attempt to prevent a rival’s election challenge. Zaldy Ampatuan, four of his brothers and their father, as well as several other relatives, are in jail while on trial for the murders.
AFP wrote: “The Philippines has long endured a corrupt and violent brand of democracy in which politicians use their influence to avoid punishment for crimes, creating a so-called ‘culture of impunity.’”
According to the “Set of Principles for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights Through Action to Combat Impunity,” submitted to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on 8 February 2005:
“Impunity arises from a failure by States to meet their obligations to investigate violations; to take appropriate measures in respect of the perpetrators, particularly in the area of justice, by ensuring that those suspected of criminal responsibility are prosecuted, tried and duly punished; to provide victims with effective remedies and to ensure that they receive reparation for the injuries suffered; to ensure the inalienable right to know the truth about violations; and to take other necessary steps to prevent a recurrence of violations.”
The AFP stated in the same article that such ”culture of impunity enrages the masses.” But then, we know that when the rage has dissipated, life and politics go on in the Philippines, as if no transgression had been committed.
The plurality, if not the majority, of the electorate would embrace (again and again) these politicos with open arms and seal their renewed faith in them through the ballot.
“Whosoever has not sinned, cast the first stone,” is their guiding bible quote. The “move on” mentality without accountability and justice.
The personalistic quality of Filipinos which puts more importance on the connection and affection between people rather than achievement and platform.
Brand loyalty. Regionalistic mindset and interest.
The power of the envelope and instant gratification. Short term gains over long term benefits.
The list goes on and on.
A culture of impunity is perpetuated, and the masses are as guilty as the corrupt politicians. Indeed we get the kind of government we deserve.
Gel Santos Relos is the anchor of ABS-CBN TFC’s “Balitang America”. This article originally appeared in the Asian Journal where she also writes op-ed pieces. The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely her own. Visit Gel's blogsite to read more Fil-AM Perspectives. Follow her on Twitter @GelSantosRelos.