Democracy in the Philippines is a paradox. It was the first country in the region to topple authoritarian rule. Signs of a vibrant democracy are extensive: high voter turnout, civic engagement, institutional arrangements that theoretically promote accountability and safeguard rights and liberties. Yet the flaws in the democratic process are also extensive: elite dominance, institutional weakness, and widespread abuse of public office, which suggest true representation is largely illusory. Concerns about the quality of democracy have become central to political discourse in the Philippines, as seen in debates about constitutional reform and the hopes associated with the election of reform candidate Benigno Aquino III as president in 2010. This analysis examines how oligarchic structures and dysfunctional institutions threaten the emergence of true democracy in the Philippines.