Inevitable political decline

FROM FAR AND NEAR - Ruben Almendras - The Freeman

With the 2022 Philippine elections 11 months away, and the recent politically-corrosive controversies engulfing the present government, it might be the right time to revisit the life cycles of politicians/political families. The country is now on its fifth quarter of negative GDP, two months more than what is considered an economic recession. And it is quite a severe GDP contraction of -9.6% in 2020 and -4.3% in the first quarter of 2021. Together with the mismanagement of the health and economic implications of the pandemic, the irrational and conflicting position on the West Philippine Sea issue, the ill-advised reactions to community pantries, and unsuccessful drug war, these are multiple heavy weights that will hasten and deepen the down cycle of political curve of the current administration. This is validated by external indicators like the absence of international recognition of the government and our officials from other countries and multilateral institutions, and the declining status of the Philippines in the fields of education, technology, and governance.

Political life cycles of governments and political leaders are tied to the terms of office which are from four to eight years in most democratic countries, and is six years in the Philippines. Like many things in life, it is an upward-sloping curve going up in the earlier years and tapering off in the later years. It may take the form of normal curve or a ballistic trajectory, but in both shapes it will eventually go down. Successful governments, parties or politicians are able to lengthen the curve and/or flatten the decline by good governance or by force, but their life cycles will still end by peaceful elections or revolutions. Subtle forced extensions by changing the Constitution to extend their terms, like what Putin of Russia, Xi of China, the generals of Myanmar and many African and South American leaders are doing may stretch the curve, but human mortality and morality ends all regimes. The rise and fall of the Roman Empire, the dissolution of the Tribes of David, and the dismemberment of the British Empire are classic examples. More recent examples are the regimes of Marcos of the Philippines, Suharto of Indonesia, and Najib of Malaysia. If we scan the history of the Philippine political families, there are longer-lasting political dynasties and there are short-lived political personalities. All are aware of the rising and waning of political power that depends a lot on capable family successors that will eventually be found wanting.

The filing of the certificates of candidacy is still in October but political moves and alignments are in the offing. The presidentiables are making their moves publicly and overtly, but the supporting congressional and local candidates are moving quietly. Unlike when there is a dominant national candidate or party, when regional and local alignments and re-alignments are announced publicly, there are no public announcements with five months to go. This could mean that the local politicians are not seeing a dominant party or candidate, and that the current administration does not have a strong hold on its existing allies. This is ominous for the current administration if it wants to extend its life cycle, as their alliances are on shifting sands and not on solid ground.

Indications of waning public support which is not captured in poll surveys are very important at this time. The incongruent public positions of government officials on the pandemic, the West Philippine Sea, and the economy is damaging, and so is the silence of many other government officials on these issues. The opinions in the main media and the chatter in social media is also not encouraging for a soft landing or a benign ending of the current administration.

Life cycles for everyone and everything are part of the natural order and designed by God to promote justice and equality.

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