On The Perspective of Not-American Filipino News and Politics

By Miguel Locsin, FINDink Contributor

It is easy for somebody who is interested in politics in America to find themselves trapped in a bubble. It can be any kind of bubble you can think of. There is the bubble of partisan politics we hear about so often. There is the bubble of naïveté that is often exemplified by young people. There is even the bubble of race, which multiple groups are currently struggling to pop, ever so slowly.

The bubble I wish to discuss, however, is the bubble of American news, particularly where it pertains to politics. America is so big, its news cycles so efficient and condensed, that it is sometimes hard to pay attention to news outside the country if America is not involved or if there is no war. Yet life altering events happen every day that can affect everyone living on this continent, even if the event occurs on the other side of the globe. This is simply the nature of globalization, of living in 2017.

Readers of this article are particularly likely to be interested in the politics of the Republic of the Philippines. People rarely attach the republican part of the official name in day-to-day conversation even though it is important in identifying the brand of system the Philippines uses. It is a system that is, like many countries, modeled after the American system with three basic branches of government, each with its checks and balances. One could read an outline of the constitutions of America and the Philippines, and it would be hard to tell which was American and which was Filipino.

The Philippines has such a deep and rich and vibrant political history that continues today, yet not many Filipino-Americans know about it. Many Filipino-Americans know who President Rodrigo Duterte is (who could obviously be the subject of another article). Many also know that famed boxer Manny Pacquiao once held a seat in the House of Representatives, and currently holds a seat in the powerful Senate, which is absolutely ridiculous if you think about the fact that Pacquiao did not even finish high school and gets punched in the face for a living (full disclaimer: I am a fan, and I enjoy watching him punch people in the face).

Unfortunately, this seems to be the extent of the knowledge that Filipino-Americans have about Filipino politics. Sadly, because of cyclic poverty and the lack of education, this also may well be the extent of knowledge some Filipinos have of their own country.

Yet, it is important to know what goes on in the Philippines, and frankly, around the world. Many of us have strong family ties in the Philippines, and political decisions affect them the most. The Philippines is the first line of defense against an invasion from the Pacific, or the last line of defense for Western countries if the invasion comes from the other direction (WWII history is also very interesting). The Philippines is a nation of immigrants as well, and migration rates there can affect immigration policy in literally every major nation on the planet.

Even if you are not of Filipino descent, the news that emerges from The Philippines is incredibly interesting. A few weeks ago, the Commission on Human Rights, a governmental agency tasked with the upkeep of ethical and righteous due process in the country, was given a budget of merely 1000 pesos, or $20. Again, the reasoning for Congress’ teensy grant is the subject of another article, and well worth a Google search. Relatively massive protests over the past weekend, which are very rare in a country full of happy-go-lucky people, helped restore the 678 million peso budget ($13 million USD). Many also do not know that the Philippines has been having a massive dispute with China over a few tiny islands in the sea. Many do not know of the troubles and bickering it takes to improve the nationwide infrastructure, which to many eyes is stuck in the mid-20th century. Infrastructure development and funding is currently proceeding on a scale unimaginable a decade ago. Many do not know of the great familial dynasty powerhouses like the Aquinos or the Estradas or the Marcoses that control government (Or maybe that latter name is familiar. Did you know that every single close relative of Ferdinand still holds a position in government?). Many also do not know that at one time, the Philippines was economically on par with other small wealthy Asian nations known as the Asian Tiger Economies of Hong Kong and Singapore and even Thailand today. So what happened? Why is the Philippines one of the poorest nations on the planet, yet today enjoys some of the steepest growth trajectories in any developing nation?

These facts and questions, if anything, should prompt curiosity and discussion. I encourage cultural presentations and talk at Filipino-American Student Association at William and Mary, and so should you in your own conversations, even if it is about global politics and news in general. Do not be afraid to ask opinions on Duterte if you are curious, as you should not be afraid to have discussions about The Donald.  Popping this bubble of the American news cycle can only serve to enlighten and inform each of us as free individuals, especially if the education is about the country of your ancestry.


Disclaimer: The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of FIND, Inc.