Philippines: Julio Teehankee
Electoral Politics in the
Elections are integral to democratic governance. Through the mechanism of elections, politicians are held accountable for their actions, and are compelled to introduce policies that are reflective of and responsive to public opinion. Ideally, elections serve as a ‘major source of political recruitment, a means of making government, and of transferring government power, a guarantee of representation, and a major determinant of government policy’ (Heywood, 2000: 200). These do not, however, prevent the distortion of the will of the electorate in a ‘flawed democracy’.
In the Philippines, the plurality system has been enshrined in the 1935, 1973, and 1987 constitutions. Under the 1987 constitution, all elective officials – president, vice-president, senators, members of the House of Representatives, local chief executives and local legislators – are chosen by a direct vote of the people through a ‘first-past-the-post system’ (Agra, 1997b: 1). The Philippine electoral system has generally been consistent throughout history.1 The Philippine experience with electoral politics is instructive in the process of democratic development in the Asia-Pacific region. Nearly a century since American colonial authorities introduced electoral and party politics, the quality of democratic representation as an outcome of elections has always been held in doubt. Clientelism, nepotism, fraud and violence, among others, have reinforced the elitist nature of Philippine electoral politics. This was exacerbated during the period of Marcos’ authoritarian rule as democratic elections were briefly replaced by ‘demonstration elections’ held under duress. The ouster of the Marcos dictatorship in February 1986 has ushered in a period of redemocratization. Nonetheless, the election and subsequent removal of President Joseph Estrada in January 2001 remains a constant reminder of the continuing ‘defects’ of Philippine democracy.
This chapter will investigate the relationship between elections and democratic development in the Philippines. It will trace the emergence and 1.
However, the mode of electing members of the legislature in its several historical incarnations has had some variations in terms of constituency (from single to medium to large) and voting (write-in single to multiple to block voting). The 1987 constitution also introduced a party-list system for electing 20 per cent of the lower house.
Electoral Politics in Southeast and East Asia
institutionalization of electoral politics at various junctures in Philippine history. Essentially, it will determine the degree of proportionality in which votes are translated into political mandates. Lastly, it will explore the modalities of reforming the electoral system in order to enrich the democratization process.
Elections and other democratic institutions were primarily imported into the Philippines from Western models. The emergence of institutions such as constitutional law, the secret ballot, the referendum, political parties and legislature in the Philippines was a product of American colonialism. Hence, colonialism became the defining force in the emergence of democracy in the Philippine nation-state. The Philippines as a conquest colony underwent political development predicated on the interest, influence and power of the colonial authorities (Paredes, 1989: 2-4).
After establishing total control of the Philippines by 1901, the American colonizers governed their newly acquired territory through the appointive Philippine Commission under the supervision of the United States governor general. The commission performed both executive and legislative functions, with token Filipino participation, until 1907. Soon after, the Americans introduced elections to allow greater participation of the Filipino elite in colonial governance (Caoli, 1989; McCoy, 1994;...
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