If the Philippine democracy is lined with money, then the increasingly autocratic President Rodrigo Duterte’s constitution limits it to one year.
But every silver is cloudy. Based on the current referendum, one of Duterte’s allies is likely to win his presidency in the May 2022 election. His daughter, Sarah, remains the most popular candidate, followed by Bongbong Marcos, the son of former dictator Ferdinand. The most viable liberals are all voting against Duterte in single digits.
Although Duterte is unlikely to return to a more liberal politics, his candidacy remains realistic. The poll will be a test of whether Duterte’s main supporters will be able to consolidate their power under his successor.
Despite the myriad challenges of Philippine democracy, the election is a significant event in which voters have the power and authority to arbitrate the competition between elites for political power. Therefore, slowing down the deterioration of the system will depend on whether Duterte’s proxy is elected in the 2022 referendum, and whether the election will continue to be free and fair competition between the candidates. The main criterion for distinguishing free and frequent elections from “competitive dictatorial” regimes, such as Singapore and pre-2018 Malaysia, as political analysts have called the Philippines, India and Indonesia, is the field of electoral equality. , but not really fair.
That’s why Danilo Arao wrote in our article this week that it’s worrying that his traditionally dynamic and critical media, which is a cornerstone of Philippine political life, has come under such pressure during the Duterte era.
Duterte and his allies in the Philippine Congress, regulators, police and the military have created an “atmosphere of media repression” in an attempt to intimidate and punish the opposition, sending a “negative message” to the country’s journalists and media. They have to step on the administrative line, “Arao said.
The country’s leading television network, ABS-CBN, ceased broadcasting in July 2020 after Duterte-controlled Congress refused to renew its broadcasting license, echoing an attack on the same network by the Marcos regime in the 1970s. Violence against journalists is common, and the Philippines is one of the most dangerous places in the world to practice journalism. Maria Ressa, editor of the fearless online news site Rappler, has strengthened her global position by being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize; In his home country, he has been the target of constant legal pressure and intimidation by the administration.
A feature of today’s global political era is the elimination of the role of grassroots parties and civic organizations in connecting the electorate with politicians through the media. This is especially true in the Philippines, where the system did not have a party structure, but was associated with a coalition of local political machines. Presidents rely on the media, especially television, to get these cars to the people. Because voters are almost indistinguishable from political parties, the media has a huge influence on the choice of presidential candidates by ballot box.
For these reasons, the localization of the media could have serious consequences for the fairness of the 2022 election. For example, if the media has a duty to provide positive information about a government-friendly candidate or to restrict advertising, their competitors. When the presidential election scene is crowded, it changes the political culture of the media.
These dynamics are affecting other major democracies in Asia to varying degrees. Indonesian President Joko Widodo has maintained his reputation during the plague as he aggressively chose the tycoons who control Indonesian broadcast media; As a result, information about his government has become increasingly friendly. India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is deeply concerned about restrictions on the media’s ability to report critically on government policies.
As a result, the media has become a haven for some, some liberals, and some not. The government controls the media through various tactics as part of a campaign against “misinformation” or “false news.” In India and Indonesia, this means using the legal system as a tool to guide selected critics; In the Philippines, the government has filled social media with violence and misinformation against the opposition, and has simply poisoned the cyber environment.
It is difficult to determine what arrests and changes these trends against media freedom and online expression, because the internal political forces and the interests that drive them are deeply rooted. One of the things liberal democracies can do is to regulate non-liberal governments, even if there are good reasons for trying to regulate the media more and prevent foreign “interference.” reasons.
In some places, “misinformation” means just that, but in an environment of media and freedom of speech that is getting colder in the Philippines and the region, it means that the government does not want voters to hear it.