Manila Bulletin

Wait­ing for Godot

- My email, flo­r­angel.braid@gmail. com Society · Politics · Elections · Waiting for Godot · Samuel Beckett

The var­i­ous events hap­pen­ing in the coun­try to­day re­mind me of Sa­muel Beck­ett’s play about two friends wait­ing for an imag­i­nary friend who never came. They try to amuse them­selves to make the wait bear­able, hop­ing that some mir­a­cle would hap­pen. And they wait aim­lessly even if they knew this kind of wait­ing is some­times worse than death.

I would com­pare our wait­ing to that of wait­ing to be­come a “na­tion.” Or to be­come a real “democ­racy.”

We await, amid hur­dles that seem hope­lessly im­pos­si­ble to over­come.

We look for­ward to the elec­tion cam­paign next year be­cause it gives us a feel­ing of free­dom, and some kind of hope that it may bring ex­cite­ment, and per­haps, some change into our lives, dulled by the pro­tracted lock­down. But as po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts tell us, we have not even been able to sat­isfy the min­i­mum con­di­tions of a “pro­ce­dural democ­racy such as free and fair elec­tions, ex­act­ing ac­count­abil­ity of pub­lic of­fi­cials, in­sti­tu­tion­al­iz­ing civil lib­er­ties, es­tab­lish­ing rule of law, and cit­i­zen par­tic­i­pa­tion.

While we as­pire to be free of oli­garchies and po­lit­i­cal dy­nas­ties, what we have how­ever wit­nessed over the years is the con­cen­tra­tion of power and priv­i­lege among these elites. While de­cen­tral­iza­tion is a de­sir­able con­di­tion for de­moc­ra­ti­za­tion, it has been sub­verted to serve the in­ter­ests of lo­cal dy­nas­ties. As for­mer So­cioE­co­nomic De­vel­op­ment Sec­re­tary Arse­nio Bal­isacan notes, the wel­fare of the poor tends to be lower in prov­inces gov­erned by po­lit­i­cal dy­nas­ties than in prov­inces char­ac­ter­ized by com­pet­i­tive pol­i­tics. This is con­sis­tent with the view that dy­nasty in­hibits eco­nomic per­for­mance through its neg­a­tive ef­fect on eco­nomic ef­fi­ciency and re­stricts ac­cess of the poor to ba­sic ser­vices.

Ide­ally, the po­lit­i­cal party could pro­vide the train­ing ground for good lo­cal gov­er­nance, but at present, it still serves the in­ter­ests of po­lit­i­cal dy­nas­ties. Thus, re­sources for em­ploy­ment gen­er­a­tion and poverty re­duc­tion tend to flow to­ward lo­cal gov­ern­ments run by ad­min­is­tra­tors with di­rect ties to the coun­try’s rul­ing po­lit­i­cal party.

Felipe B. Mi­randa and Te­mario C. Rivera, co-ed­i­tors of Chas­ing the Wind, As­sess­ing Philip­pine Democ­racy (2011), to­gether with eight other au­thors have come up with their 2nd edi­tion in 2016 state: “We are not a demo­cratic coun­try now, or in re­cent past. We have not ad­vanced be­yond demo­cratic trap­pings. But we are not giv­ing up and will con­tinue to ex­plore rea­sons for his­tor­i­cal fail­ure through truth-seek­ing, truth-say­ing, and truth-act­ing.”

Un­like the two friends who con­tin­ued to wait for their imag­i­nary friend, we know what it takes to over­come the chal­lenges which in­clude a per­sis­tent cul­ture of im­punity, a politi­cized mil­i­tary, as well as hav­ing to ex­act pub­lic ac­count­abil­ity, mo­bi­lize civil so­ci­ety par­tic­i­pa­tion, pre­vent sub­ver­sion of elec­toral process, end­ing armed strug­gle and poverty in or­der to achieve eco­nomic well-be­ing.

The path to democ­racy is in­deed sim­i­lar to chas­ing the wind. We have been at it for more than 60 years, but like Sisy­phus,we seem to be con­demned to re­peat­edly roll the boul­der up a hill only for it to roll down. We trust, how­ever, that un­like the myth, our task would be worth the ef­fort we have put into it.


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