Patronage-Based Parties and the Democratic Deficit in the Philippines: Origins, Evolution, and the Imperatives of Reform

Paul Hutchcroft, Joel Rocamora

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    No country in Asia has more experience with democratic institutions than the Philippines. Over more than a century-from the representational structures of the Malolos republic of 1898 to the holding of regular elections for local and national posts under American colonial rule, from the cacique democracy of the postwar republic to the toppling of Ferdinand Marcos and the restoration of democracy in the 1986 People Power uprising-Filipinos know both the promise of democracy and the problems of making democratic structures work for the benefit of all. In the quarter century since the fall of Marcos, spirited hopes for democratic change have alternated with dispirited frustration over the character of the country’s democracy. The past decade alone has witnessed dramatic ebbs and flows across three administrations. The 2001 downfall of President Joseph Estrada, via a second People Power uprising, was followed by new hopes in the leadership of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Her administration then degenerated into a crisis-ridden presidency remembered for corruption, electoral fraud, and authoritarian tendencies, and has been followed most recently by the emergence of extraordinary levels of trust in President Benigno S. Aquino III after he assumed the presidency in the middle of 2010.1 As hopes are once again raised, there is no assurance that the country’s political institutions will be able to respond to the needs of the Philippine citizenry-particularly the poor and the excluded mass of the population. This chapter examines the country’s longstanding democratic deficit, specifically how theenormous need for responding to pent-up demands and pressures from below is accompanied by the incapacity of the country’s democratic institutions to do so with any degree of effectiveness. Although there are many ways in which this deficit might be filled, we argue that there is one crucial factor: the creation of more effective and cohesive political parties, oriented to programmatic rather than particularistic goals, policy rather than pork. Stronger parties can promote clearer choices to voters and help to structure political competition toward the realization of aggregate rather than particularistic interests.2 Because institutional deficiencies bear the bulk of the blame for the many historical shortcomings of Philippine democracy, we argue, it is through institutional reform that the country can best begin to construct a democracy able to offer benefits to all.3 Building on the many strengths that already exist in Philippine democracy, the key task is to ensure that popular demands can be channeled more effectivelythrough the reform of democratic institutions-in particular through the creation of stronger political parties.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationRoutledge Handbook of Southeast Asian Politics
    Editors Richard Robison
    Place of PublicationNew York USA
    PublisherRoutledge, Taylor & Francis Group
    ISBN (Print)9780415494274
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


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