While the Spanish colonizers relied on friars and the mestizo class to rule the Philippine archipelago, the Americans — despite their egalitarian policies, democratic rhetoric, and efforts to ‘Filipinize’ the state — relied on Spanish-era elites — intent on preserving the status quo and expanding their base of power in a new period of prosperity — to ‘govern’ the country. The modern Filipino state, largely built and upgraded during the American period, had a simplistic democratic accent: elected legislature. The problem was that the ‘representative’ legislature was dominated by the landed elite, who, in turn, did their best to block any effort at developing an independent and powerful state, executive leadership, and bureaucracy, which could push for egalitarian policies such as land reform. There was no corresponding effort by the colonial masters to truly establish a powerful executive and bureaucracy, capable of prospering on its own. In this sense, one could say that — following Isaac Berlin’s concepts of freedom — the Philippines (under its colonizers) only developed an adulterated understanding of democracy, along libertarian lines, which emphasized ‘negative freedom’ (non-interference/intrusion of the state in individual’s lives and property) at the expense of ‘positive freedom’ (basic social and economic rights for all citizens). As a result, the Philippines has had not only a defective democracy — whereby citizens are formally equally, but in reality an oligarchy is in charge — but also a weak state struggling to craft an optimal economic calculus.


From “Why the Philippines Failed?” by Richard Javad Heydarian on the Huffington Post.

Reading this, thinking about this.

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