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PHILIPPINES THE STATE As with most other contemporary Southeast Asian states, the Philippines as it is known did not have a history as a state but, prior to European colonisation, was comprised of a number of maritime and highland polities. By the late fourteenth century, Islam had arrived in the archipelago, gaining its strongest hold in the south but having more limited influence towards the north of the island group. The Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan was among the first Europ
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  PHILIPPINES THE STATE As with most other contemporary Southeast Asian states, the Philippines as it is known did not have a history as a state but, prior to European colonisation, was comprised of a number of maritime and highland polities. By the late fourteenth century, Islam had arrived in the archipelago, gaining its strongest hold in the south but having more limited influence towards the north of the island group. The Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan was among the first Europeans to discover the archipelago, in 1521, claiming the islands for Spain. Magellan was killed at Mactan Island, near Cebu in the Visayas, after intervening in a dispute between local chieftains. Spanish colonialism of the Philippines was deeply important for three reasons: it broke down traditional polities and land ownership system, creating a hacienda- type economy based on large land-holdings predominantly owned by a locally born Spanish and mestizo  class; it subsumed local religious practices, including Islam, in the middle and northern parts of the archipelago under Roman Catholicism and it ran up against Muslim resistance in the south of the archipelago. The other main colonial influence in Philippines political organisation and life was that of the United States. At a time when Filipino elites were becoming restive and beginning to rebel against Spanish colonial rule, as a consequence of the Spanish-American War, the United States took possession of the archipelago from Spain in 1898. Despite initial rebellion and longer- term dissent in the Islamic south, the United States was to be the Philippines’ colonial master from that time until 1946. By the 1920s, the United States was already a fervent anti-colonial actor on the world stage, so its possession of the Philippines was anathema. In therefore readied the Philippines for independence, bequeathing an interpretation of its own model of republican government, underscored by the landed elites of the Spanish era. Oligarchic exploitation of a landless  peasant class and electoral politics fuelled by corruption and violence became the norm, with consequent leftist political opposition, repression and increasing political closure. As a close US ally during the Cold War, the Philippines’ intolerance o f leftist dissent was encouraged, further entrenching the delegitimisation of otherwise reasonable protest against poverty, income inequality and dispossession, and a culture of corruption, violence and impunity. POLITICAL SYSTEM  If tome some extent more in theory than in practice, the Philippines was effectively  bequeathed a US-type of government, although as a unitary rather than a federal state, with a strong focus on the  trias politica , or separation of power between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. The executive branch is headed by the president, elected for a single six-year term. The term of the presidency and vice-presidency has varied, but was standardised in 1987 at a single six-year term (as per the srcinal 1935 constitution) after  having been shortened to four years but for two terms and under Ferdinand Marcos, three terms. The Philippines legislature, the Congress, has a House of Representative and a Senate. Twenty-four senators are elected from the entire country every three years for a six-year term, with a maximum of two terms in office. Having a national constituency, senators tend to have a national profile, with the Senate itself being highly centralised. Given there are relatively few senators for the size of the country and the number of parties, pre-selection for senate positions is keenly sought after and contested, with usually non-transparent deals within and between parties determining favoured candidates. Eight parties and two independent candidates were represented in the Philippines Senate following the 2013 elections. The Nacionalista Party, the Philippines’ oldest political party and the United  Nationalist Alliance (UNA- translating ‘first’ Filipino), founded by two main parties and having 20 small parties in alliance, were the two biggest parties in the senate, with five seats each. The Philippines’ local government areas are divided into autonomous regions,  provinces, cities, municipalities and barangays (sub-municipal districts, wards or villages), each of which has an elected leader ( governor, mayor, ‘captain’) and a legislative body. While politics at any level of Philippines public life can be brutal, politics at the sub-national levels can be especially so, with ‘warlord’ families often forming political dynasties to ensure that political control and its spoils are not lost. Intimidation and corruption are common in sub-national politics and mayoralties in a particular can be highly sought after and strongly competed for. It is conventional practice for Filipino politicians to have personal security guards, and not uncommon for them to have teams of ‘security’ and indeed large, highly organised paramilitary gangs that are used as a means of enforcing law, compelling compliance with particular political or economic wishes or attacking political rivals. Perhaps the best known, but very far from the only, example of this violent political rivalry was carried out in 2009 by loyalists of a former Governor of the province of Maguindinao, Andal Ampatuan, whose son was attempting to succeed him against a former ally-turned-competitor, Ismael Manudadatu. Manudadatu sent a convoy of journalists and women to file his candidacy papers, believing they would be protected from attack by the Ampatuan gang. Instead, nearing the Ampatuan area, 46 people, including 12 journalist, were forced from their cars by a gang led by Andal Ampatuan Jr and summarily murdered, being  buried in mass graves. Local police officer were said to have been present during the murders (Murphy 2009). More conventionally, though, on a day-to-day basis, constituents are more commonly  persuaded by promises of money or services or through clan loyalties based on wider patron-client relationships. Violence and intimidation are primarily kept for maintaining ‘law and order’. It is ge nerally only when constituents or opponents present a real challenge or strong critique that violence and intimidations came to the politic….. The culture of ‘guns, goons and gold’ may have declined (Linantud 1998), but it is very far from having disappear  ed.    The quality of the Philippines ‘democracy’ is, however, poor.   ‘The Philippines, in  particular, got category-scores of 9.12 in civil liberties, 8.33 in electoral process and  pluralism, 5.56 in political participation, 5.36 in functioning of government and 3.13 in  political culture, for an overall score 6.30’ (EIU 2014). That is to say, the Philippines is fairly open society in terms of, for example, freedom of speech and its electoral (voting) process is relatively clean and transparent, in large part due to the Philippines being the birthplace of  NGO election observation. But the ‘Philippines is classified as authoritarian in political culture, its 3.13 being the lowest all countries’ as a consequence of the way in which politics is practised. ‘It is a hybrid regime in terms of governmental functioning, with its 5.36 only good for seventh place, ahead of Vietnam (3.93) and Myanmar (1.79). These are the matters where our democracy is relatively weak, according to EIU’ (EIU 2014: emphasis added, indicating that the Philippines has an electoral system that only meets some of the criteria for democracy, defined as an ‘expanded procedural minimum’).   CONCLUSION The Philippines appears to have come out of a long period of political and hence economic turbulence and perhaps shed its image at the ‘sick man of Asia’. But the country does have its own distinctive and flawed political style that seems be deeply embedded in how politics is done. The Philippines has embraced electoral politics and it has a free-wheeling, sometimes inquiring and critical and often shallow and superficial media. While the Philippines is not an absolute oligarchy, established families and vested interests wield very considerable political influence, while corruption remains a feature of both everyday life and political processes. Warlordism prevails beyond the major metropolitan centres and even, to some extent, within them. Patron-client relationships play out in the Philippines, but sometimes in ways which allow less scope for volition on the part of the clients. The threat of violence hangs in the background, and sometimes the foreground, of local political thinking and the sometimes free-wheeling way in which politics is conducted can segue into lawlessness. The Philippines began its post-colonial career as a client of its former colonial master, the US, and this has continued to influence and shape many elements of its political structure. If followed in the spirit with which it was srcinally intended, this might have allowed for a relatively liberal and potentially inclusive society. However, as a developing country that came into being as part of the battleground for the Cold War and has moreover, carried the  burden of Spanish colonial economic organisation and a winner-takes-all mentality, in the Philippines the more begin principles of US tutelage have been compromised by the excesses and abuses that are also available under political systems bequeathed by the US. The Philippines has shed the worst excesses of its past and returned to electoral  politics and some degree of political competition. But despite its electoral processes, its long-standing flaws have not fundamentally altered.
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