“UP academics contend that politics in the Philippines is highly personalistic, with candidates relying on popularity, patronage and fear in electoral contests“
The good news is that the University of the Philippines remains the top Philippine university based on the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings 2023 despite dropping 13 spots from the previous year to 412th.
In 2016, the university was ranked within the 401-410 group.
Ample proof that UP deserves the distinction as the top institution of higher education in the country is its capability to harness the collective wisdom of its teaching staff with advanced degrees to contribute to efforts to chart a new future for the country.
My inbox recently yielded an email from the Office of the Chancellor of the University of the Philippines Diliman containing a document with the hashtag #PILIpiLUNAS2022 Governance Agenda: Pag-angat at Pagsulong Tungo sa Magandang Buhay at Bukas, created by the Task Force on a Blueprint for Building the Nation.
It’s a comprehensive blueprint, covering Economic Recovery and Transformation; National Social Protection Floor; Higher Education; Industrial Policy; Public Transportation; Electoral and Political Reforms; Local Governance; and Foreign Relations, that the incoming administration should consider for adoption.
The Governance Agenda “seeks to advance sustainable, equitable, participatory, and innovation-driven national development.”
It proposes policy alternatives arising from the disruption caused by the pandemic, on one hand, and the May 9 national elections, on the other.
Its avowed goal is to harness UP’s “expertise, skills, and praxis to help shape the post-pandemic and political transition toward a transformative future for the Filipino people.” That’s well and good.
The Agenda’s policy recommendations emphasize the “need for a high-capacity developmental and pragmatic state, an active citizenry, and an engaged academic community all working for the common good” with the State “exercising informed, purposeful, and democratic leadership, while local communities and the different sectors have access to and control over development resources largely to advance their own development.”
But let’s focus at this point on one aspect of the agenda, which is electoral and political reforms, and tackle the rest in future columns.
The UP academics contend that politics in the Philippines is highly personalistic, with candidates relying on popularity, patronage and fear in electoral contests.
Apart from their failure to come up with a representative line-up of candidates and solid programmatic reforms, our political parties also fail to offer real and distinct policy options to their constituents.
The situation is not helped any, they are saying, by ambiguities in the fundamental law and in the Omnibus Election Code that tend to perpetuate patronage:
“Even though free choice is the bedrock of any credible electoral process, it can still be seriously undermined by violence, patronage, and money politics.
“The winner-takes-all system strengthens personalistic politics and patronage rather than political parties as a determinant of political success.
“Thus, rather than being mediators of public demands and interests, political parties are malleable organizations, shaped, and reshaped according to the individual candidates’ personal agenda during elections.”
The authors noted congressional efforts to reform the electoral and party systems, such as sanctions against turncoatism, providing fund subsidies to parties, and introducing certain amendments to the Omnibus Election Code, but lamented that these efforts have not been sustainedand came to naught.
The academics also noted the marked increase in the use of social media in elections and its growing importance in influencing election results.
But instead of promoting transparency and accountability, social media campaigning has threatened the integrity of our elections in four ways: 1) micro-targeting of specific groups and sectors for disinformation; 2) use of deepfake videos of politicians; 3) the spread of false information that is unchecked and undetected within messenger apps; and 4) the prospect of foreign interference and influence.
Given all this, the UP Governance Agenda suggests a raft of measures.
One, revise the Omnibus Election Code to streamline the electoral system and create a strong party system.
Give voters the option to choose parties rather than individual candidates through a system of block voting.
Conduct desynchronized national and local elections so as not to unduly burden the electorate with so many choices.
And change the rules so that voters can choose the president and vice-president as a tandem or joint ticket.
Two, Congress should ensure a degree of credibility and predictability in the outcomes of the legislative initiatives calling for electoral reforms.
It is necessary to disincentivize patronage so that it does not diminish the exercise of the voters’ free choice. In terms of campaign spending, there should be sanctions on candidates who overspend and stricter regulations to monitor campaign expenses.
And three, social media should be regulated. At present, the Comelec does not have the necessary regulatory tools in order to completely regulate and police social media.
The poll body should be empowered by law to monitor social media spending.
These measures are realistic and doable, from where we sit, but will the national leadership listen?