Sugar cane truck PhilippinesFor the most part, the Philippines still seems to be an elite democracy, run by the few for the few. Inspite of two People Power uprisings, could it be that true civil society is still a long way to come, that their spirit does not translate into continuous action, allowing citizens to truly address their concerns and get them solved?

  • Media seem to be mostly bread and circuses for the masses, including a reporting that has the reputation of being for the most part sensationalist and tabloid-like.
  • Citizens seem to act just on an emotional basis, voting politicians for popularity, not for performance.
  • Various groups that want to represent Filipinos belt out tired ideologies instead of looking at real issues.

But there are some rays of hope:

  • Within the blogosphere, there are websites that are truly informative and non-partisan, like that of Raissa Robles which I have linked on this blog.
  • There are online media like Rappler and interaksyon which provide fairly good coverage, more comprehensive and informative than most Philippine newspapers.

And more of what truly constitutes civil society can already be found in the Philippines:

  • Bayanihan 2Mindanews is one of the rare examples of a truly good newspaper, possibly because it is essentially a cooperative of independent journalists.
  • Closely linked to it and partly funded by the European Union is the Citizen Action Network for Accountability, which grew out of the peranatinito initiative of the late Jesse Robredo and is composed of citizen groups monitoring politicians and local politics across the entire country. It includes enabling citizens to better understand local government concepts.
  • There is also kayanatin which looks like a mixture of some politicians and grassroots initiatives. Notably, Senator Bam Aquino is involved here. He is of course from one of the elite families, but also known for his support of small- and medium-sized businesses.
  • President Aquino’s Good Governance and Anti-Corruption Plan 2012-2016 includes strengthening the Department of Interior and Local Government’s partnership with Civil Society Organizations. A Citizen Satisfaction Index System institutionalizes citizen evaluation of Local Government Units performance.
  • The European Union is strongly promoting building Civil Society in the Philippines.

For a stable free-market democracy, a stable middle class combined with local enterpreneurship and a civil society is essential. Other possible exponents of progress may be Federalism or decentralization, to give regions and local government units more of a voice and remove the holdovers of post-colonial rule based on perceived excessive centralism from Manila. The recent economic progress in cities such as Cebu and Davao, but not only, may give this more of a push. The result may be a more modern, progressive Philippines. Let us see where this goes.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, May 13, 2015
DISCLAIMER: opinions expressed in linked articles or sources are not necessarily mine.