After a simple survey, just among the people I know, I found it quite unsettling to learn that many Filipinos do not know of or care about Democracy Day. Celebrated by the international community every 15th of September, the day is usually commemorated with conjoined affirmations by democracy advocates from all walks of life, emphasizing in their messages the importance of participatory governance and constitutionalism. At times, leaders of democratic countries even congregate in forums and Democracy Day events sponsored by the United Nations, in a campaign to promote and strengthen the popular system of governance that has been so successful in managing diverse cultures.
The Philippines, as of the time of this writing, still declares itself to be a democratic country. However, in recent years, International Democracy Day has been treated with lesser and lesser importance by the country's leaders. One could say that it is almost being snubbed.
Some may argue that this is because Filipinos celebrate their democracy every February 25, the anniversary of EDSA Revolution when a nonviolent uprising ousted the Marcos dictatorship in 1986. And it's a good argument. EDSA Revolution anniversaries have been colorfully celebrated in the past, lustrous with the moral fiber of true democratic champions and the alacrity of people power. But the hoopla has dwindled and the revelry has turned to groans. This lends credence to the next argument. Democracy is not celebrated in the Philippines, whether on September or February, because the government has ceased to be one.
The Corrupt Elite
The Philippine government today is far from egalitarian. It is not people-oriented either. It is inflexible, exclusive, myopic to the point of being dictatorial. It isn't pressed by the need to address corruption or the fact that it's become perpetually dysfunctional, inept and unable to deliver basic public services. Democratic institutions and elections are only maintained for the semblance of democracy, but it does not have its essence. Power does not rest on the public, but is rather cartelized by a ruling elite.
"There is no more dangerous menace to civilization than a government of incompetent, corrupt, or vile men."
A persistent oligarchical cabal controls the state, its policies and resources. This cabal consists of political families that have united to consolidate their power for a common end: to plunder the nation with impunity. Riding on a platform of corruption and deceit, this group of kleptocrats have taken over congress, the courts, various government agencies, the police and military, and even the electoral process. And there is no legal way to stop it.
Holding key positions throughout the bureaucracy, members of the cabal insulate each other from prosecution so that they cannot be investigated, prosecuted, impeached or arrested. They operate above the law. On the other hand, they weaponize the law against the political opposition, dissenters, critics, independent media, anti-corruption watchdogs and human rights advocates Any challenge to the cabal can easily be deemed a rebellion, against which the full power of the government can be used.
Philippine democracy seems weak, not because it is young or undeveloped or faulty or constantly sabotaged by leftists, but because it is completely overrun, dismantled by kleptocrats who erected in its place a soulless mimic. A fake democracy. A kleptocracy masquerading as a democracy. More than any foreign invading country, more than the supposed communist insurgency or any Islamic terror group––these corrupt officials who have betrayed the trust of their countrymen are the killers of democracy, destroying it from within.
The Inexorable Upheaval
Renowned Austrian economist and social philosopher Ludwig von Mises warned, "There is no more dangerous menace to civilization than a government of incompetent, corrupt, or vile men." French economist and educator Frederic Bastiat wrote, "When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it." And it doesn't get any more simple than the words of Tsakhiagiin Elebegdorj, Mongolia's icon of democracy: "I see corruption as a mortal enemy for young democracy." More Filipinos should take these wise words to heart.
Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It's bad enough to give people with integrity total authority minus accountability, as such a condition often leads to corruption. How much worse it would be if we install convicted plunderers and unscrupulous characters to the seats of power? Criminals in government will certainly not uphold democratic principles, but undermine them. Fair elections; liberal constitutionalism; human rights; rule of law; transparency; accountability; equal opportunity; and the government's obligation to provide basic goods and services to the citizenry––we can throw these all out the window, if we entrust our democracy to people who are most likely to work against it.
One would have to be insane, a moron or an accomplice to insist corrupt people should be in the government. As a matter of fact, the only outcome to expect here are things inconceivable in a genuine democracy. Plunderers will be exonerated and even elected to the presidency. Drug traffickers will be appointed as the drug czars. Illegal loggers and miners will be the environmental guards. Murderous criminals will be the police generals. And because these corrupt people are not afraid of protesters who only gather in the streets to hoist placards and dance under confettis, it will, by design, become a stubborn kakistocracy in which there will be no foreseeable end but bankruptcy, chaos, ruin...and eventually a violent reset.
John F. Kennedy said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable." It's only a matter of time before we realize that some people will fight for freedom, and more people will fight for their beliefs, but all people will fight for their survival. And...historically speaking, violent revolutions are remembered deeper, with more meaning, than nonviolent ones.