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Dec 21

The Long View: The platform problem

The Long View
The platform problem
By Manuel L. Quezon III
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:10:00 12/20/2009

FORMER SPEAKER NEWT GINGRICH ONCE gave a concise definition of a party platform in 1994 when he explained the difference between his proposed “Contract with America” and the Republican party platform. “A platform,” he said, “is what we believe.” In contrast, his proposed “management contract” was a 10-bill legislative agenda that he hoped voters would support in order to achieve the numbers required in Congress to pass them within 100 days of the session.

Senate President Manuel Villar Jr., interviewed by Ricky Carandang back when he was still shopping around for a vice-presidential candidate, shared an interesting opinion about party and coalition platforms. “Lahat kami iyan lang ang sasabihin,” he confided, to Carandang’s television audience, “lahat ng kandidato sasabihin iyan. We will say the same things . . . we will have the same platform.” He added, “for after all, a platform. . . dadalawang speechwriters lang iyan tatanungin ka. Anong gusto ninyo, 3-point agenda, 10-point agenda, 15-point agenda o 25-point agenda?”

Recently, on my show, UP Prof. Prospero de Vera pointed out that the backbone of Villar’s presidential campaign isn’t the NP but rather, the network of managers of Vistaland, of which Villar told Carandang he remains firmly in charge since he doesn’t intend to divest himself until he wins the presidency. Just how seriously Villar takes the NP is shown by its website, which still includes a link to the site of Teofisto Guingona III, who is now an LP candidate.

Which may explain why the Nacionalistas, who pioneered the party platform in 1935, didn’t bother with a party platform for the first presidential contest since 1969 in which the party has come out as a serious contender. The closest thing to a platform was finally produced upon the insistence of the Makabayan Coalition, to formalize its alliance with the NP at the end of the intricate maneuvering that resulted in Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s exorcism from the KBL and being born-again as an NP guest candidate to satisfy those whom Argee Guevarra once (infamously) called “Joma’s Witnesses.”

Makabayan having done the hard work of crafting a platform, Villar signed with admirable speed on Dec. 15 a “statement of shared principles”; and though Makabayan insists the statement is not the NP platform, that may be as close as its coalition ally is going to get to producing a platform-type document (Loren Legarda’s nine-sentence platform apparently having lasted as long as the newsprint in which it appeared). After all, neither the NP nor Villar’s own site bothers to reproduce the much-vaunted shared principles statement – or Legarda’s platform, which she says Villar has adopted, too.

This tokenism, however, still puts the NP ahead of the Frankenstein coalition, which is still waiting, if the scuttlebutt is true, for Alex Magno to finish fleshing out its platform for the President’s anointed tandem. This, despite the PaLaKa convention at which – after praising the President to high heavens (“dapat nating ipagmalaki ang Presidente!” he said) – the Annointed One talked of a platform remarkably similar to the President’s current 10-Point Agenda. It must really be a headache for Magno to try to accomplish the kind of makeover the Frankenstein coalition expects: it is not enough to keep the President out of sight, and therefore out of mind; the usual suspects have to be gentrified, too.

As far as platforms go, Ang Kapatiran has the oldest, unchanged for some time now; Joseph Ejercito Estrada announced the adoption of one in Tondo; Benigno Aquino III published his platform and had his slate’s candidates sign on to a “Credo” of shared principles on the day he formally filed his candidacy, while Richard Gordon has a combined manifesto and platform. All four studiously dotted their i’s and crossed their t’s, as did the Comelec-rejected Nicanor Perlas.

PaLaKa’s platform problem is, of course, uniquely theirs to wrestle with, just as the question of a platform is one the Aquino-Roxas tandem had to hammer out because, as anyone who has bothered to watch Aquino grilling officials during budget deliberations over the years knows, he’s the sort of detail-obsessed legislator who wants facts and takes a hand in deliberations on policy. (But then hardly any member of the public has observed or noticed this because budget deliberations put media and the public to sleep.)

On the other hand, Gordon, Kapatiran and Perlas have platforms that aren’t coalition documents but rather, distillations of their personal beliefs, unencumbered by coalition dynamics. The luxury of beliefs – personal or collective – is something, on the other hand, that has been calculated as inessential to the electoral bottom line of the NP’s principal. It would be interesting, if only the tight-lipped circle of corporate types surrounding Villar would talk, how much time was allocated to the “Mission/Vision” exercises of their principal’s various corporations.

There remains some confusion about what a platform is or supposed to contain. A “declaration of the principles upon which a person, a sect, or a party proposes to stand,” is one such definition; a document “stating the aims and principles of a political party” is another. Yet there are voters who want nothing less than either a full legislative agenda (which puts the cart before the horse, as a party or coalition standing for election cannot plan without knowing what its numbers – and therefore, what is realistic – will be after the elections) or a sneak peek into a budget (when, aside from the administration candidate, other candidates won’t know the real score of the budget or the state of the bureaucracy until it enters office, particularly since so much has been kept secret by the present dispensation). Still, there’s been a healthy interest in political platforms this time around, much more so than in 2004.

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  1. BongV

    There remains some confusion about what a platform is or supposed to contain. A “declaration of the principles upon which a person, a sect, or a party proposes to stand,” is one such definition; a document “stating the aims and principles of a political party” is another.

    That’s where the political parties pull a bait and switch. Leveraging the fallacies of equivocation to the hilt. They refer to a set of platitudes as a “platform” when it isn’t.

    Yet there are voters who want nothing less than either a full legislative agenda (which puts the cart before the horse, as a party or coalition standing for election cannot plan without knowing what its numbers—and therefore, what is realistic—will be after the elections) or a sneak peek into a budget (when, aside from the administration candidate, other candidates won’t know the real score of the budget or the state of the bureaucracy until it enters office, particularly since so much has been kept secret by the present dispensation).

    On the contrary, voting for a candidate without knowing the platform – puts the cart before the horse. The electorate has been choosing based on winnability, pedigree, name recall and not demanded platforms?

    The demand for a defined legislative does well to set a baseline under which candidates can be held accountable. The electorate demands that a candidate define himself categorically and not as a Rohrsach ink blot.

    While Villar, Aquino and the other candidates can claim they will all meet the Millenium Development Goals (MDG) the difference lies in how exactly will they achieve this?

    Where will the money come from? How much money will be used. What resources will they bring to the table? In marketing parlance, what exactly is their Unique Selling Proposition? Cross examination of the candidates will identify the goat from the sheep.

    Which of them will advocate charter change? Who has the balls to categorically say the 1987 Constitution is flawed, pro-oligarch, and needs to be changed to allow a liberalization of the property ownership clauses of the Constitution? How will this change be achieved? What is a proposed timeline?

    What is their policy on the MoA-AD? What makes one candidates approach different from one or the other?

    Or are we accepting that Philippine society is so bankrupt that it has only one set of solution that all the other politicans subscribe to? Is that how pathetic it has become?

    Still, there’s been a healthy interest in political platforms this time around, much more so than in 2004.

    It’s about time. Can’t keep doing the same old “vote based on gut” and expect different results.

  2. The Cusp

    “aside from the administration candidate, other candidates won’t know the real score of the budget or the state of the bureaucracy until it enters office, particularly since so much has been kept secret by the present dispensation” – MLQ3
    *****************
    Wouldn’t the inclusion of Ralph Recto in the LP ticket allow Aquino-Roxas to know what the true state of the budget is, given that the NEDA chief sits on the DBCC (Development-Budget Coordinating Council)?

    Agree with your observations about the NP website/platform.

    Most people regard Villar as the pro-business candidate. This is not necessarily so, given that he probably has his own business interests in mind, not the business community’s in general which is why he may have had no qualms with Makabayan’s nationalist economic agenda. He has also used the “poor v rich” narrative, although in reality, it is probably more of a “new rich v old rich” thing.

  3. Bruce in Iloilo

    Platforms are not going to develop until they matter to voters, volunteers, and funders. Platforms won’t matter to voters until parties matter to voters and parties will not matter until the parties’ names are printed on the ballots next to the candidates’ names. And that can’t happen until the Philippines finally adopts printed ballots. The last may finally happen this year. May be the rest will happen in the following elections.

  4. Bert

    “Platforms are not going to develop until they matter to voters, volunteers, and funders.”-Bruce

    Why should platforms matters to voters when those are just promises by candidates meant to hoodwink the naive, to attract their votes? The voters are fed up with candidates’ promises, written or spoken. Wouldn’t everyone be?

  5. Mark

    my question is, which side is being echoed/sold here Mr Explainer? too good for a stealthy sales talk for Noynoy. the making of a good press secretary, eh.xD

  6. mlq3

    Or if they restore, as I’ve been proposing for some time, bloc voting, where voters can select/write in the name of the party to credit all the party’s candidates with a vote.

  7. The Real Expert

    MLQ3,

    Don’t you think that a shift from the Presidential System to the Parliamentary System would actually change the whole dynamics of elections so that instead of looking at Individuals’ Personalities/Faces/Backgrounds, the electorate would be forced to look more at Partys’ Platforms?

    There has been a campaign for a long time against voting people in based on Personalities, but that’s not going to change unless the “rules” were changed. Besides, the reason why Parties are weak in the Philippines is PRECISELY because of the personality-based nature of the Presidential System.

    Do you agree that changing the electoral system can thus result in changing the electorate’s behavior as well as the behavior of those being elected?

    A Parliamentary System, for one, promotes more the discussion of POLICIES (what to do AFTER being elected), while a Presidential System promotes, well, POLITCKING (jockeying/maneuvering/positioning for power, and in a democratic system of starstruck ignoramuses, that means “politicking through popularity.”)

    What say you, MLQ3? 😉

  8. earl aries baguio

    Thanks.

    Majority of the Filipinos especially in the rural areas where poverty is rampant don’t bother to ask about platforms anymore.

  9. Brian_B

    Philippine leaders are too powerless for platform. Pinas is dependent on foreign markets, international perception, OFW and foreign aid. However, our leaders can control their greed. That’s the platform I’ll be looking for. Rebuilding broken institutions and the morale of the citizenry.

  10. Brian_B

    The sad thing is, if candidates announce a real platform (as opposed to the usual platitudes, they’ll put themselves in a very vulnerable position. Example, Noynoy’s rather premature announcement that he’ll have a population program. He immediately got hit by the church.

    Imagine something like this:

    Platform

    1. Curbing corruption

    a. restructuring Customs, LTO, etc…..

    wouldn’t that result into more enemies rather than voters?

  11. BongV

    The sad thing is, if candidates announce a real platform (as opposed to the usual platitudes, they’ll put themselves in a very vulnerable position. Example, Noynoy’s rather premature announcement that he’ll have a population program. He immediately got hit by the church.

    Imagine something like this:

    Platform

    1. Curbing corruption

    a. restructuring Customs, LTO, etc…..

    wouldn’t that result into more enemies rather than voters?

    That exactly is the gist of the matter – why platforms are important. Which candidate really has the balls to outline how he will exactly bring home the bacon.

    If Philippine politics indeed has to change – it is a change related to accountability. When people do not hold officials accountable, officials act with impunity.

    Therefore, people need to step up to the plate in order to raise the bar for prospective politicians. You can’t have excellent politicans when your electorate settles for the inept, the mediocre, the vacuous running on name recall alone.

    It is an opportunity to weed out the undesirables. Demanding a program, a platform, a baseline – something achievable within their term on which the candidate – his party, his backers, and his bankrollers can be held accountable for.

    Moreover, people have this mistaken notion that platforms are promises.

    A wisegeek article points out :

    “A political platform is a series of positions on political issues which is used to promote a particular political party or candidate. It often comes in the form of a manifesto, a carefully worded political document which appeals to voters by touching on a number of issues which are important to them. Analysis of political platforms is a topic of interest for many people, especially in presidential election years, when political parties struggle for control of a nation, and their platforms are vital tools.

    The individual topics within a political platform are sometimes referred to as “planks,” carrying the platform metaphor to its logical conclusion. Common planks in a political platform include stances on issues like education, the environment, national security, welfare, and so forth, with the positions being adjusted to meet changing cultural values and emerging global issues. In the United States, for example, after the terrorist attacks of 2001, many political parties adopted a tough stance on terrorism as part of their platform.

    Typically each political party has a platform, and individual members of that party have their own platforms which are often closely aligned with the party platform. The broad scope of the national party platform is designed to attract voters to that party, in the hopes of creating party loyalty and potentially generating voters who will automatically pick candidates associated with that party, on the strength of the national platform. Individual platforms focus more on regional issues and personal political beliefs of the candidates, with many candidates picking a pet issue such as poverty to focus on in their platforms.

    Many people associate specific parties with particular platform issues since the issues make up the cornerstone of the party’s philosophy. For example, some political parties are known for a hands-off approach to national government, with a focus on the rights of individual regions to set their own policies, while others prefer a more centrally organized government. The authors of a political platform strive to appeal to common concerns among the populace while making their party seem like the only patriotic choice for voters.

    A political platform is typically widely distributed, with journalists and commentators being encouraged to quote from it when they analyze candidates and upcoming elections. Candidates also become familiar with the platforms of their opponents so that they can identify weak points of potential attack, and you will often hear rhetoric about a candidate or party’s platform at political rallies.

    When platforms are a given in the advanced functioning democracies, to know that the word “platforms” has reached the Philippines in 2004, it is better late than never.

    Given the phalanx of bright boys under the wings of each candidate – they shouldn’t have a problem coming up with a platform. BenK provides a sample platform in http://badmannersgunclub.blogspot.com/2009/09/its-not-rocket-science-example-platform.html for example:

    ENVIRONMENT
    Ban the use of two-stroke engines in transportation vehicles.

    Ban the outdoor burning of non-organic refuse.
    Offer tax incentives and government-backed financing to encourage development of the following:

    1. Alternative energy (solar, wind, geothermal).
    2. Water treatment facilities, in an effort to reduce the use of septic systems and open “gray water” drainage systems.
    3. Environmentally-responsible solid waste management – recycling centres, waste incinerators, properly-located and constructed landfills.

    INFRASTRUCTURE
    Nationalise electrical power generation and distribution under a single government corporation, with 70% of shareholdings to be equally divided amongst the Department of Health, the Department of Education, the Department of Trade & Industry, and the Department of Transportation and Communications, and with the remaining 30% to be proportionally divided among the provincial governments.

    Cancel the Northrail project, and shift funding to the completion of the light rail system around Metro Manila.
    End funding for the Philippine National Railway and liquidate its property and equipment.

    Prioritise expansion and improvements to the Manila North Port.
    Initiate a program to progressively extend the North Luzon Expressway to Aparri, and the South Luzon Expressway to Sorsogon.

    Increase funding for the construction and maintenance of roads at the provincial level.
    Seek German government participation in negotiations to amicably resolve the issue of NAIA Terminal 3 with PIATCO and Fraport AG.

    NATIONAL SECURITY
    Implement the MOA-AD, with the proviso that the Bangsamoro Authority shall have the responsibility of neutralising the ASG and other terrorist elements within their borders, with assistance from the AFP if requested, or upon review if terrorist activity occurs elsewhere within the RP.

    Given that many, if not all, of the practical concerns on the well-being and livelihood of the Philippine people that have been publicly expressed by the rebellious NDF are resolved by other points in this platform, offer the CPP legal status as a political party provided the NPA is immediately disarmed and disbanded, with all destructive criminal activity halted at once. Refusal of this proposal will result in all members of the NDF being declared outlaws, and subject to arrest or military neutralisation as appropriate.

    Close the Philippine Military Academy, and shift officer training to agencies set up within each branch of the service according to the US model. Continue to take advantage of foreign military training that is available to promising officers.
    Implement a basic law enforcement and conflict resolution training program for barangay tanods and leaders.

    GOVERNANCE
    Charter Change:
    Convene a Constitutional Convention within one year of taking office, with three representatives from each province (cities within those provinces to be included in the provincial vote) being elected by popular vote. The aspects of the Constitution to be changed are:

    1. Form of government: A unicameral Parliament with a Prime Minister as Head of Government and a popularly-elected President as Head of State.
    2. Such changes as are necessary to fully implement the points in this platform.

    Review all government agencies and eliminate those that are redundant. Some particular examples have already been given in this platform; others will be determined as a result of careful analysis.
    Any person under criminal charge shall be barred from running for public office until such charge is resolved. Any person formally and finally convicted of a criminal offense shall be barred from holding public office.

    For all the speeches and nobelas that all the candidates have written, they can’t even come up with a platform? Or they don’t want to come up with one?

    Because the pinoy politician (as well as his legion) do not want to be painted into a corner, do not want to be held accountable, for short – they want to win with impunity. Same ole crap, different day – and the frontrunners have to gall to proclaim they are the candidate of change?

    Change.. let the masa eat loose change, they will vote without platforms anyways. If name recall will do, why bother?

  12. mlq3

    it would be interesting to see platforms in other asian countries or in other countries. a fairer comparison is between actual political platforms. and then how the platforms are implemented once in office. in a previous entry i showed how the 1935 platform was fleshed out if you look at the 1936, 1937 and 1938 sonas. a similar process can be seen with the admin platform of 2004 and subsequent sonas. i don’t know how practicable it is to demand “baselines” in a corporate manner when its apples and oranges. you can have concrete deliverables in many respects in a corporate environment where everyone is subordinate to the corporate authority but this is not the case in government where for example a closer analogy might be trying to hammer out partnerships among rival corporations.

    you’re wlecome to visit my scribd where the platforms iv’e encountered are reproduced. the only candidate still to publish his platform is teodoro, francis manglapus on my show said they hope to have it out after the holidays.

    so you have various models if you want to go beyond the platforms produced domestically (where the public may not consider platforms as much as as they should, but if you did a study of the parties i think you just might discover they stuck to their platforms more often than not; the president for one has pretty much pursued the platform points she’s been putting forward since 2001).

    would the famous labor party manifesto of 1945 which galvanized the country and ousted churchill meet your requirements?

    http://www.labour-party.org.uk/manifestos/1945/1945-labour-manifesto.shtml

    would that of india’s congress party?

    http://aicc.org.in/new/home-layout-manifesto.php

    or that of a fully industrialized country like the usa?

    http://www.democrats.org/a/party/platform.html

    or what would you make of singapore’s ruling party which seems happy enough with a circular chart to explain what it wants to do?

    http://www.pap.org.sg/corevalues.php

    but what they have in common is something you may be overlooking: they are expressions of belief with an aim to convincing the electorate; the question then is, on the lines of the specific kind of platform -down to the format- you insist on, are you the electorate any party, domestic or foreign, has in mind?

  13. Bert

    “Change.. let the masa eat loose change, they will vote without platforms anyways. If name recall will do, why bother?”-bongV

    This is a myth. The masa are/were being bombarded left and right with candidates’ plans during campaign periods. The masa is not an ignorant lot. Most of them don’t read blogs, or go to websites, but they read newspapers, listen to radios, watch tv, go to miting de avances, read candidates advertisements/plan of actions…if elected. Those are media that pester the voters with the candidates’ promises and platforms making them inured to repetitive promises that mostly remain as such…promises.

    This incessant clamor for platform is a redundant call magnified so many times and is all air because the platforms are always there every election campaign periods.

  14. pilipino

    “That exactly is the gist of the matter – why platforms are important. Which candidate really has the balls to outline how he will exactly bring home the bacon.

    If Philippine politics indeed has to change – it is a change related to accountability. When people do not hold officials accountable, officials act with impunity.

    Therefore, people need to step up to the plate in order to raise the bar for prospective politicians. You can’t have excellent politicans when your electorate settles for the inept, the mediocre, the vacuous running on name recall alone.”…..BONg

    Exactly!

    If we want candidates with BALLS, the electorate should have BALLS of their own. Kinda like walk the talk applicable on both sides of the equation, candidates and voters.

  15. benign0

    it would be interesting to see platforms in other asian countries or in other countries. a fairer comparison is between actual political platforms. and then how the platforms are implemented once in office. in a previous entry i showed how the 1935 platform was fleshed out if you look at the 1936, 1937 and 1938 sonas. a similar process can be seen with the admin platform of 2004 and subsequent sonas.

    Why do we need to rely on precedents or “models” for us to appreciate what real platforms can do for us?

    Our implementation of American-style “democracy” was itself a massive implementation of a foreign model — one that was seen to have a successful precedent. And yet it FAILED miserably in its implementation in Da Pinas.

    We keep complaining that the Filipino lacks the courage to be truly original. Yet here is the opportunity staring us in the face.

    What is being proposed here is quite straightforward. Voters should DEMAND a detailed platform from their candidates, and candidates should DELIVER one that (1) describes their position on RELEVANT matters in categorical terms and (2) describes clearly what the Philippines of 2016 that they envision would look like.

    Voters should then use that platform as a BASELINE for evaluating the person who wins the election over the length of his/her term.

    If there is no precedent elsewhere, then that’s Da Pinoy’s chance to show how original he truly is and that he has the COURAGE to be original. There’s nothing like the REAL DEAL to separate the men from the boys here.

    Same with the candidates. Each one’s all-too-familiar tagline is that he/she is more ballsy than the other. Well, prove it then. Show us a DETAILED plan of how you bring the Philippines a few steps forward between 2010 and 2016. Show us you have the COURAGE not only to make truly bold visions but to actually ARTICULATE these visions clearly.

    Do we see now why no amount of “heroes” changes the perception of Pinoys as no more than a bunch of flaccid mongrels? That’s because we focus on the wrong thing. There is a big target staring us in the face. Are we gonna at least try to aim for it? Or do we prefer to continue muddling along in MEDIOCRITY for the next 20 years again?

  16. Abe N. Margallo

    “i don’t know how practicable it is to demand ‘baselines’ in a corporate manner when it’s apples and oranges. you can have concrete deliverables in many respects in a corporate environment where everyone is subordinate to the corporate authority but this is not the case in government where for example a closer analogy might be trying to hammer out partnerships among rival corporations.” – mlq3

    I think you hit the nail on the head, Manolo. For, in the end, democracy rests on compromises. Look at the health care reform initiative that Obama promised during the campaign. After more than half a billion dollars of lobby money from the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries, and the intransigence (or tyranny) of a few of Obama’s own party mates, the final product could look more of a breach than fulfillment of the promise. Yet, all the efforts are forward steps toward meaningful change.

    BongV and co. seem to think that a political platform is something of a presentation paper for some college work roundtable discussion.

  17. The Cusp

    The results of the recent Pulse Asia Survey seem to suggest that platforms do matter with the results for Loren Legarda showing a discrete jump in her ratings with the environment as her signature issue. In a recent global survey, Philippine and Indonesian respondents registered the highest concerns over climate change.

  18. BongV

    indeed, the AS-IS STATE is exactly ” a closer analogy might be trying to hammer out partnerships among rival corporations” which isn’t what DEMOCRACY is all about – it isn’t about rival corporation – it is about the people. That’s where the Philippines meandered and never came back.

    “i don’t know how practicable it is to demand ‘baselines’ in a corporate manner when it’s apples and oranges. you can have concrete deliverables in many respects in a corporate environment where everyone is subordinate to the corporate authority but this is not the case in government where for example a closer analogy might be trying to hammer out partnerships among rival corporations.” – mlq3

    I think you hit the nail on the head, Manolo. For, in the end, democracy rests on compromises. Look at the health care reform initiative that Obama promised during the campaign. After more than half a billion dollars of lobby money from the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries, and the intransigence (or tyranny) of a few of Obama’s own party mates, the final product could look more of a breach than fulfillment of the promise. Yet, all the efforts are forward steps toward meaningful change.

    BongV and co. seem to think that a political platform is something of a presentation paper for some college work roundtable discussion.

  19. BongV

    Platforms wouldn’t ring a bill in a semi-feudal country like the Philippines.

    For good reason, as Manolo pointed out – it currently is a battle between factions of the same class. And as long is remains such, the Philippines will be stuck in the rut it has been in for some time now.

    Its elections are intramurals between one faction of the Maginoo – and times, a Timawa.

    BongV Reply:
    December 20th, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    To understand the contemporary Philippine power structure, we need to consider briefly the power structure prior to the Spanish occupation and how it has survived and evolved.

    Maginoo

    The term maginoo refers to the highest social class among the various cultures of the Philippines before the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th and 17th centuries. Members of this class serve as the leaders of the Barangay (tribal community), and the Datu (chief) is a member of this class. [1]

    The other two social classes almost universally observed among Filipino cultures before the arrival of Spain were: Timawa (Freeman) and Alipin (Servant). Some of the sources from the early Spanish colonial ere who observed local customs also noted the existence of another social class among the Tagalog, the Maharlika, but there is some confusion about the precise nature of the overlap between the Maginoo, Maharlika, and Timawa classes.[1]

    During the reign of the former dictator of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos, the term Maharlika was mistakenly attributed to mean ‘Royalty’. As part of his drive at promoting ‘Bagong Lipunan’ (New Society) Marcos sponsored the research into prehispanic culture of the Philippines. One of the results is the distortion of the original meaning of ‘Maharlika’. Maharlika does not actually refer to the ‘Royalty’ class as is claimed, but refers to the warrior class. They can sometimes be confused with the actual Royal class, the Maginoo, because like the vassal lords of the European medieval societies, they can also be granted land and alipin/timawa subjects in exchange for service in battle. It is also more or less unique to the Tagalog caste system and that of its neighboring tribes.

    Timawa

    The term timawa refers to an intermediate social class among the various cultures of the Philippines before the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th and 17th centuries. The most common translation for the phrase is “freeman” as opposed to Maginoo (Nobleman) or Alipin (Servant).

    As free men who were more than servants but less than nobility, members of the Timawa class were free to pick their jobs – as soldiers, merchants, etc. They were also free to pick their own wives. They could have servants (alipin), and own property such as land or houses of their own. Consequently, this was the only social class for whom tax payment was required.

    An alipin who has fulfilled his or her obligations to the person s/he serves may be freed, becoming a Timawa (‘Tinimawa’, literally “Made into Timawa”).

    Alipin

    The term alipin refers to the lowest social class among the various cultures of the Philippines before the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th and 17th centuries. The closest and most common translation of the word is “servant” or “slave”, as opposed to the higher classes of the Timawa (Freemen) and the Maginoo (Noblemen).

    Differences from the western concept of slave

    While the alipin does, indeed, serve another person, historians note that translating the term as “slave” in the western sense of the word may not be fully justifiable. Documented observations from the 17th century indicate that there may be significant differences between the Western concept of “slave” and the Pre-Hispanic Filipino concept of “alipin”.

    Subclasses

    As a social class, “alipin” had subclasses as well, documented by numerous Spanish historians, who took note of the local social norms as the Spanish conquest of the Philippines began.

    * Aliping Namamahay (translated as “Servant who is housed”) refers to an alipin that has his own house, which usually sits on the property of the person whom he serves.

    * Aliping Sagigilid (translated as “Servant in the corners [of the master’s house]“) refers to an alipin without a house and whose existence is completely dependent on the graces of the person whom he serves.

    ***

    Modern Filipino Society and the Legacy of the Caste System

    The modern-day Maginoo refers to the national and local elite (landowners, big business owners).

    The Timawa refers to the Professional. Managerial and Small Entrepreneurs.

    The Aliping Namamahay and Aliping Sagigilid are the modern-day maids, laborers, and blue-collar workers.
    Each cluster of Maginoos its own network of Timawa and Alipin.

    The power structure has not changed much. Each foreign occupation force dealt with the Maginoo, and the command was issued through the chain – from Maginoo to Timawa to Alipin.

    Today the Maginoos have come to their own, each with their own “army” of Timawa and Alipin. The Maginoos have also gamed the democratic system by virtue of their vote farms. Consider the Lopez machinery, the Zobel/Ayala machinery, the Cojuangco Machinery, the Lucio Tan machinery – all the companies, the Timawas and the Alipins that are beholden to the companies owned by the Maginoo.

    What is wrong with this picture?

    Nothing. If the Philippines weren’t a democracy, a republic.

    I know, the caste system is “gone”. But is it? Really?

    Otherwise, here’s what’s wrong – the Timawas and the Alipins, should realize that in a democracy their vote is just as powerful as the vote of the Maginoo. The Alipins and Timawas vote for their individial preferences. The Maginoo votes for his personal preference. The Maginoo may campaign but so too can the the Timawas and Alipins. What the Maginoo says Alipins and Timawas should vote no longer has the power of a command but one of civil persuasion.

    Will voting for the Maginoo’s choice provide real benefits to the Alipins and Timawas or will it allow the Maginoos more room for impunity?

  20. The Cusp

    Without turning this into an exercise in college anthropology, perhaps we should take BongV’s point about the extraordinary concentration of wealth and influence in the Philippines with the desire for a set of realistic platforms espoused by MLQ3 and frame the debate as a question of: what can the next president practically accomplish given the constraints posed by the socio-political structure? And also, what are the areas of consensus emerging among the elite/masa?

  21. The Cusp

    Without turning this into an exercise in college anthropology, perhaps we should take BongV’s point about the extraordinary concentration of wealth and influence in the Philippines with the desire for a set of realistic platforms espoused by MLQ3 and frame the debate as a question of: what can the next president practically accomplish given the constraints posed by the socio-political structure? And also, what are the areas of consensus emerging among the elite/masa?

    For example, in 1992, it was the consensus among the business elite that opening up the economy to international trade was the right policy after decades of protectionist import substitution.

    With the problem of climate change that affects agriculture and public safety, there is an emerging consensus that the fetish for growth has to be tempered with a more sustainable approach. The LP platform for one seeks to remedy the way growth in terms of GDP per capita is measured to incorporate ecological damage as a cost to achieving such growth.

    Beyond the consensus issues, it becomes a political question of a leader’s willingness to stick his/her neck out. The population issue is one example. Tax revenue raising measures is another policy where progress could be limited.

    Then there is competition policy, do we allow for “open skies” for instance. As a foreign based Filipino, I have noticed that flights to the Philippines are much more expensive than trips to Singapore, Vietnam or Malaysia.

    I also think foreign ownership of land and corporations is a red herring as foreign chambers and investors have rated this way down their list of concerns after corruption, red tape and poor infrastructure (and given that there are ways around ownership per se). Even in an advanced country like Australia, there are restrictions on the level of foreign ownership in sensitive areas.

    Finally, with respect to agrarian reform which some prominent economists have called into question (calling it passe) and rice subsidy programs (that have been poorly targeted), should they be extended beyond their programmed life? It has been shown that other programs like conditional cash transfers CCT would work just as well or better in alleviating poverty and raising education and health.

    If we re-allocated the Php40B we spent on the grains program in CCT to support education, we would bridge the gap in spending that exists between us and our ASEAN counterparts.

  22. giancarlo

    Sir,
    I think that Noy’s lack of a comprehensive platform would be beneficial to him if he wins. Notice the disillusionment of a lot of Obama supporters even if what he is doing is actually what was encoded in his platforms. He was thought of as a transformative leader, Hope, but if you look at his platforms he is doing what he said he would do. I point you to NYT’s Paul Krugman

    here:
    http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/16/illusions-and-bitterness/

    What GMA has shown us is what can be accomplished within our systems without declaring martial law. This shows us that Character(Or Lack Of It) above platform is still the primary measuring stick of how we should vote!!!

  23. mlq3

    again, consider this dilemma which i’m trying to point out.

    say there’s a specific and detailed platform (makabayan has one along the lines you want, in terms of detail and timelines even). the voters elect you: whether congressman or president.

    you are expected to deliver on the platform. you file the bill, propose the measure.

    you are either alone, or you and your partymates who share the platform are in the minority -where are you then? in turn you either have to compromise to get others to be interested in your measure or you do not compromise in which case it gets killed. or you are in the majority in one house, but not the other, same-same problem.

    at the same time you are not operating in a vacuum in which case along with your measure other measures are being filed by other groups with their own platforms and priorities and who are building their own alliances. do you cooperate? resist? abstain because someone makes a proposal that isn’t in your hyperdetailed hyperspecific platform?

    there are some innovations that make sense and others that simply reinvent the whee; there is a reason a fairly broad consensus exists among political participants and it has to do with what politics has in common regardless of specific systems. and again, since so many keep pushing corporate analogies i put forward a corresponding analogy that parties can be likened to corporations and that politics is like getting rival corporations (since critics of human-scale politics keep wanting to introduce corporate jargon and methods, not realizing the command, control and consensus structures if any of corporations can be very different from that of a political system, not least because proponents of corporate models forget that government can’t be akin to a single corporation but rather many different ones what with the three branches of government, and groups within groups).

    but even if one were to engage in corporate style scenarios, what you put forward is the list of deliverables you expect of middle to lower level management and not what the ceo does; the ceo sets broad policy and strategies, the underlings implement.

  24. mlq3

    public opinion has been clear: gma and her style, her legacy of impunity and disregard for public opinion and any other moderating influence, whether formal or informal.

  25. John Caromago

    Kapatiran, a platform? Let’s see what they have for national defense: turn swords into plowshares. Hahaha. Gunless society. Tell that to the Ampatuans.

  26. rbv reyes

    What a joke this Katipiran Party: presidential candidate 5 million in the hock. Get your finances in order first chump before you start lecturing us on how we we conduct our sex lives. Platform is plagiarism from Catholic website plus a few tidbits from gunless lobby. Perlas is a more credible candidate than these losers.

  27. The Cusp

    Manolo, It is the multiplicity of agendas that allows a sitting president to strike side deals with solons in order to secure their support for his agenda even if his coalition is a minority in Congress (btw, I wouldn’t worry about the lower house, since it always tows the line in exchange for PDAF – it is in the Senate where partisan obstructionism occurs).

    The problem that I see with the platform as an “airy fairy” set of principles is that anyone can sign up to it (even GMA would have no conflict with most of the LP’s platform for instance). It is only when a platform contains an alternate set of policies and programs that we begin to see real differentiation among candidates.

    And besides, most laws do not contain specificity, so that its “principles” can be contravened once the Implementing Rules and Regulations or IRR come out. For this reason, a president and his cabinet can be prone to intense lobbying resulting in perverse regulations.

    I am not suggesting that candidates develop detailed policies right down to their IRR, nor am I suggesting that they produce a proposed budget. Perhaps a general policy direction on certain issues and an indication as to which programs would be maintained, expanded or discarded would be sufficient.

  28. betterphilippines

    i guess the main point here is for us to just settle with the status quo. how progressive.

    ayaw sa platform pero gusto sa celebrity endorser. kahangahanga.

  29. apanfilo

    As I recall, platforms have been as old as my approaching mid-life crisis. In pre-cable, pre-Internet days, politicians would thunder on various miting de avances about their ‘plataporma de govierno’ in a fiery mix of bombastic English and flowery Tagalog. Miriam’s bellicose speechifying is somewhat a throwback to those days — thus she was able to singlehandedly tranform the EDSA 3 crowd into cannon fodder. Platforms then were rallying points that an audience could sympathize with.

    The current call for manual-like governance agendas for platforms is just one of the offshoots of the Filipino diaspora. Filipino expats armed with spreadsheets and powerpoint presentations hanker for change in what they see as a static Philippine landscape. In this transforming society, Miriam is increasingly becoming an anachronism even as Lito Lapid happily makes his way to the Senate without the benefit of oratory. Truly, less is more.

    And so Villar is happy to make do without one, in fact it’s impossible to have one in a curious coalition of the right and left. Pacquiao’s entry into the NP then represents the party’s apostasy of its ideologically-rich heritage as it embraces the pragmatic present where every mega-buck fight is ‘para sa bayan.’

    Noynoy’s platform, seen in this light, represents the rationalizations of an amorphous movement that is trying to outgrow the outdated mores of post-EDSA society but still unable to make sense of its destiny. The movement rails against corruption and at the same time embraces education reform, forgetting that it is the hypereducated classes that have been alternatively rapacious or dangerously apathetic. It seeks to discard the post-EDSA notion of benign impunity that winks at paternal warlordism and low-intensity corruption, but is unable to accept yet that it can only be achieved through a radical transformation that would entail real sacrifices from the many rather than from the heroic few.

  30. Carl

    While leadership will need to weight priorities and often engage in compromises, the most effective leaders have been those who could overcome kinship and class loyalties.

    The patrician Franklin Roosevelt, who was accused by big business of being a socialist. Yet he pulled America out of the Great Depression and made it the leading superpower in the world.

    The black militant Nelson Mandela who, instead of engaging in a policy of retribution against the White oligarchy, harnessed their experience, expertise and capital to continue productive enterprises which benefited South African society. Mandela even threw out and divorced his power-hungry wife when she stepped out of bounds. When he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Mandela was commended for “looking ahead to South African reconciliation instead of back at the deep wounds of the past” and noted that “South Africa has been the very symbol of racially conditioned suppression, and that the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime accordingly points the way to the peaceful resolution of similar deep-rooted conflicts elsewhere in the world”.

    The former labor organizer Luiz Inazio Lula da Silva, who many once feared would destroy business and implement radical socialist policies upon assuming power. Lula has turned out to be more of a reformist than an extremist, to the point of disappointing many of his leftist colleagues. But Lula’s programs seem to be working for most Brazilians, and Brazil now enjoys unprecedented financial stability and brilliant prospects for future growth.

    I really wonder whether any of our Presidential candidates can turn his back on class and kin. Can Noynoy do what his mother couldn’t do? Cory was beholden to her social class and her family and she rewarded both richly, to the detriment of more than cosmetic changes to our society.

    I have strong doubts about Gibo and Villar as well. Erap will mouth motherhood statements and engage in sloganeering (Erap sa Mahirap), but that will be about it. Our clannish nature only ensures that we will be faithful to our class and our family.

  31. GabbyD

    “you are either alone, or you and your partymates who share the platform are in the minority -where are you then? in turn you either have to compromise to get others to be interested in your measure or you do not compromise in which case it gets killed. or you are in the majority in one house, but not the other, same-same problem.”

    i dont understand. how is this a dilemma, which necessarily results in no platforms?

    politics EVERYWHERE is about sharing ideas, and compromising. but polticians in some countries DO come out with specific policy positions, and plans. it is possible to get candidates to discuss issues to some extent, but it seems difficult in RP.

    i have another theory why specific platforms will likely not come up. For a good number of issues, there is a consensus on what needs to be done. Everyone will say the same thing, coz the solutions are obvious.

    there are other issues, however, that have no consensus, and these are the issues the leading politicians shy away from. the reason is there arent wedge issues. a wedge issue is an issue where, if you take a side, there is a certain constituency that exists to support you, aka a ‘base’.

    the non-consensus issues in RP are NOT wedge issues. Consider Ag Reform. some people like it, some people dont, but its not clear who/how many people will be swayed to vote for you on the basis of a strong position on Ag reform.

    since the gains from having a firm position are nebulous at best, why take a firm stand?

  32. The Cusp

    apanfilo on Tue, 22nd Dec 2009 4:07 pm:
    “The movement rails against corruption and at the same time embraces education reform, forgetting that it is the hypereducated classes that have been alternatively rapacious or dangerously apathetic.”

    That may be so, apanfilo, but it is the foreign remittances of skilled and educated overseas filipinos that have been the saving grace of the economy.

    You also say, “(The movement) seeks to discard the post-EDSA notion of benign impunity that winks at paternal warlordism and low-intensity corruption…”

    It is inaccurate to characterise corruption in the Philippines as benign. That would be the case if corrupt bureaucrats were undermining welfare reducing regulation, which is not the case. In many instances, we either have first class regulations that are improperly implemented or see captured supervisory agencies implementing “sold” policies.

    A case in point is the rice smuggling, er I mean, rice importation program. In this sense, policies are only as good as the institutions that implement them.

    Perhaps one of the first things to look at is the massive intelligence budget of the president and the pork barrel of congress and convert it partially into salaries and wages for the top elected and administrative officials. That way the incentive to sell policies and allow implementation to be captured would be mitigated against (Am I foolish to believe that there is still hope for positive change?).

  33. mlq3

    Gabby that scenario was put forward in response to those putting forward a specific kind of platform -one so detailed and specific it doesn’t seem politically possible. A platform is more practicable and useful precisely if a statement of beliefs and broad intentions, because a candidate or party doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

    consider the 1932 democratic party platform:

    http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=29595

    and what the democrats eventually did once in office in the face of developing problems and their platform.

  34. SoP

    The last president with some semblance of platform is Ramos (Philippines 2000 – industrialize by the new millenium and all that crap).

    Bong V, me thinks the katulongs, ie maids, tsimays, are the only remnants of our prehistoric past. All else is archaic.

  35. SoP

    BongV on Mon, 21st Dec 2009 10:16 pm
    …BenK provides a sample platform in http://badmannersgunclub.blogspot.com/2009/09/its-not-rocket-science-example-platform.html for example:
    Cancel the Northrail project, and shift funding to the completion of the light rail system around Metro Manila.
    End funding for the Philippine National Railway and liquidate its property and equipment

    THE PEOPLE OF PAMPANGA WOULD LIKE TO EXPRESS THEIR BIG FUCK YOU THIS STUPID FUCKING DUMB IDEA!

  36. SoP

    BongV on Mon, 21st Dec 2009 10:16 pm
    …BenK provides a sample platform in http(colon)(slash)(slash)badmannersgunclub.blogspot(dot)com/2009/09/its-not-rocket-science-example-platform(dot)html for example:
    Cancel the Northrail project, and shift funding to the completion of the light rail system around Metro Manila.
    End funding for the Philippine National Railway and liquidate its property and equipment

    THE PEOPLE OF PAMPANGA WOULD LIKE TO EXPRESS THEIR BIG FUCK YOU THIS STUPID FUCKING DUMB IDEA!

  37. annie garcia

    Dick Gordon has a clear platform. In fact he had one long before the others started thinking of it. He was never shy to say he wanted to affect transformation to the country he has always cared for not just in words but most especially in action.

  38. GabbyD

    @mlq3 on Tue, 22nd Dec 2009 8:43 pm

    i think its uncontroversial that platforms change and are a result of compromise.

    thats just the definition of politics. i think people will understand if they change their plans later, as long as the process of change is transparent.

    what some countries have, however, is transparency in what they want. the party platforms are usually a statement of principles, but national candidates in the US always (usually) talk about specific policy options.

    surely you would not object to more transparent policy making and proposal of plans that we can all see, discuss. that this transparency begins during election time, and continues throughout the administration?

    is this not the main problem of the arroyo admin? their lack of transparency of how they come up with their plans?

    is this not the normal way of democracy?

  39. Carl

    “. . . the foreign remittances of skilled and educated overseas filipinos that have been the saving grace of the economy.” – The Cusp

    *****************************************************

    Detailing a plan to wean our economy from too much dependence on foreign remittances would be a good start. While our educated and skilled countrymen abroad deserve all the accolades we can give them, we need to transform our economy away from just being a one-trick pony.

  40. The Cusp

    Carl on Tue, 22nd Dec 2009 5:21 pm:
    “I really wonder whether any of our Presidential candidates can turn his back on class and kin. Can Noynoy do what his mother couldn’t do? Cory was beholden to her social class and her family and she rewarded both richly, to the detriment of more than cosmetic changes to our society.”

    Because the Aquino Administration was hamstrung by its early commitment to honor all debts, it was seriously hamstrung in pursuing broad social change programs. As a result, it had to content itself with the simple restoration of democratic institutions. It was also pressured from the right not to be too progressive. However during her first months in office, several good things did occur.

    From the recollections of Ben Diokno, undersecretary of the budget department under her, Cory was the closest thing to a benevolent dictator that we ever had. During her first six months in office when she exercised executive and legislative powers, the Tax Reform Program overhauled taxation and actually cured the budget problem by the mid-90s when it was in surplus.

    Democratic tinkering with it under Ramos was hijacked by special interest groups which led to an erosion of the budget situation after 1997. One lesson from this is that reform must be pursued early in the administration, not later.

    The first 12 months is crucial. That is why Obama has been rushing to do as much in his first 18 months. Because as mid-term elections approach, he knows his options will be limited or driven by external events.

    That is why the next administration has to hit the ground running with an agenda, otherwise all its political capital will evaporate before it realises it.

  41. taxj

    We seek party platforms in a country where there is no real political party. Funny. Very funny!

    I’ll vote based on what I SEE. NOYNOY offers nothing but hope… that the moon will shine on its own or that an ostrich will be able to fly. VILLAR learned the golden rule early in life, and took it to heart. Gold rules. ERAP has had his day. He deserves a rest, so do we. GIBO is brilliant and spotless, as was Gloria before she became president. For Chief Executive we need a tested executive: GORDON. A vote for him will, at least, spare us of a guilty feeling that we have voted for a winner who turns out to be a lemon. Hihihi.

  42. Hustisya

    Has anyone remember what DICK GORDON did as the chairman of The Blue Ribbon Committee which investigated the ZTE deal? Well, he implicated the so-called whistleblowers ( Jun Lozano and Joey De Venecia ) and exonerated the very masterminds, GMA and FG.

    You will make that Dick your PRESIDENT?

  43. rbv reyes

    Funny seeing 2 Gordons in the Harapan debate and wondering why our country is so hopeless. These people have been in politics for so long they must be somehow accountable for the great mess we find ourselves in. So taxj, you wanna vote for your “winner”?

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