Politics is personal
We all lament all these deaths and turn emotional at photographs of poor people getting killed or caught in the crossfire of the continuing and relentless drug war in our midst. But I heard neither sigh nor whimper at another evidence of the death of democracy when two Cebu City councilors shifted allegiance to the Bando Osmeña–Pundok Kauswagan (BO-PK) of Mayor Tomas Osmeña. Why?
Well, to begin with, democracy in the real sense of American-style two-party politics died a long time ago — if we assume that we really had one in the first place. There is nothing therefore to mourn. This raiding and counter-raiding is but the essence of Philippine democracy.
This probably explains also why the councilors on the raided side, Team Rama, did not decry the sudden if not unexpected decimation of their ranks.
Ah, such is the tragedy of Philippine politics that principles are set aside once elections are over and some convenient reason is foisted, like in pursuit of something good for some larger abstraction like “the people” or “the future” or something like that.
This event too, the raiding of “weaker” partymates, was resorted to, after all, by former mayor Michael Rama.
But the swiftness of the raid, coming as it is barely months after Mayor Tom returned to power, makes Don Sergio Osmeña’s rise to power pale in comparison. Remember, it took Team Rama almost towards the end of Mayor Mike’s term to do this, something that was never even achieved with the virtuoso that Mayor Tom has shown before us.
I bet you if Don Sergio had all the nerve, the mettle and the intelligence of his grandson — and this despite a medical condition — Manuel L. Quezon would not have run roughshod on him and on Cebu during the 1920s and ’30s.
Students of history remember how Quezon drove a long-lasting wedge between Sen. Mariano Jesus Cuenco, kababayan and up until then, best buddies of Don Sergio, to remind the latter who the kingpin of Philippine politics was. Unfortunately for Quezon, Don Sergio did not have the feistiness and political savvy of Mayor Tom.
Ah, how history would have changed if it were Mayor Tom instead of his lolo during that election for the 1916 (or was it 1915) Speaker of the Assembly. Cebuano would have been the national language. Cebu would have probably been the national capital!
But that is veering away from the main point of this short foray into local politics. That is, like the politics of the pre-war years, nothing much has changed. Whether writ large in the national political arena or in a local one like Cebu City, politics is nothing but ins and outs: now you’re in, later you’re out.
Democracy is such a strange hybrid when it entered the Filipino psyche, so enamored by fanfare and cockfights. Make no mistake, we certainly have political parties with no end to all kinds of principles and platforms based on high ideals. But at the end of the day, as I keep repeating in a few articles now, politics in the Philippines is personal; it is so far from principled.
That is why power and the way it is exercised in this country is also permeated by the personal: personal connections, personal dislikes, personal enmities.
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