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Politics and Media

The victory of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in the 2022 presidential elections  — 36 years after his father was ousted from the seat of power in a popular uprising — says a lot about how Philippine politics has evolved through the years.

The return of the Marcoses to power is an interesting study on political rehabilitation, of how they used propaganda — misinformation and disinformation —through their established network in the bureaucracy combined with excellent media expertise.

The 1987 Constitution declares: “The Philippines is a democratic and republican State. Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them.” National elections are held every three years. Results of the elections — if conducted peacefully, freely and fairly — are supposed to be the expressions of the will of the people. Whereas in past elections, the people’s will had been deplorably thwarted with the use of the infamous three Gs — guns, goons and gold — Marcos’ campaign showed the potency of a savvy social media machinery.

Social media has become the top source of news for Filipinos, overtaking television which for many, many years was the sure way to be exposed to voters.

ABS-CBN, the biggest TV network in the country until Duterte caused its shutdown in 2020, has produced a vice president (Noli de Castro), a senator (Loren Legarda), and a member of the House of Representatives (Ted Failon) among its news anchors.

Much earlier, more television personalities (Eddie Ilarde and Orlando Mercado) parlayed their TV popularity into political careers.

The popularity of televised basketball games has also facilitated the transition of some basketball stars to politics.

With almost a quarter of the population considered as poor —  income is not sufficient to meet their basic food and non-food needs — voters fall prey to the candidates’ promises of lower prices of basic consumer goods and more job opportunities. Vote buying is still rampant and no one has been punished for violation of such election prohibition.

The Philippines has adopted a presidential form of government in which power is equally divided among three branches: executive, legislative and judiciary. 

The separation is designed to provide check and balance but is distorted by patronage politics, which is dominant in the country. 

Under the existing multi-party system, it is easy for politicians to shift party membership to the party of whoever is in power.

Political dynasty is another sad reality in the Philippines which is anathema to a functioning democracy because it limits political competition, which usually leads to abuse of power and stunts economic growth.

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