The terms DDS (which means Duterte Diehard Supporters) and Dilawan (the term referred by DDS to the opposition which encompasses the defenders of former President Noynoy Aquino) always infiltrated the online political debates on almost every social media used by Filipinos. The terms connote qualities in a checkbox that both sides label against the other. In other words, each group brands the other with specific connotations that qualify them as a member of the opposing group. It’s sad that we reach this point of personality politics without seeing how it gravely affects our country as a whole. How did we even arrive this point?
The early political days of the Philippines
The Philippines was formed by our former colonizers – Spain, America and Japan. By the late 1940s, we found absolute independence and celebrated our freedom. In our earlier years as a democratic country, we patterned the political structure from the American style. As our former colonizers did, we borrowed the democracy that the US established. And so, democratic Philippines had a two party system.
If the US has the Democrat and Republican clash, the Philippines mirrored this ideology based politics and created the battle between the Liberal and Nacionalista. Like a true copycat, the Liberal Party had liberal views ala Democrats while the Nacionalista group held conservative views like the Republicans.
Martial Law years
Then dictatorship came. Filipinos lived in an era where the political ideologies were dissolved by the Marcos regime. Although, Marcos himself, became a member of both the Liberal and Nacionalista parties before he drenched himself into absolute power. This time also became where personality politics became a thing. In fact, Marcos cemented himself in the helm of power through the use of propaganda which glorifies him as a person.
As a result, the Mr. Marcos managed to hold on his power for almost two decades. But the twist of fate forced him to flee the country after the successful revolt during the 1986 EDSA People Power revolution. Certainly, the wounds of the past have yet healed and the years of propaganda took a toll on our collective consciousness.
Aftermath and Impact of Personality Politics
When the 1992 elections arrived, there were numerous tandems and slates who vied for the Presidency all the way to their local government candidates. In short, the candidacy was based on personalities and not ideologies. The era of bipartisan politics became a bygone. People started to cement the preference on personality rather than the ideology in which a candidate pushes for his or her policy proposal.
The status quo
More than three decades after the EDSA People Power Revolution, the Philippine electorate remains fixated over the personality rather than the ideology of the person who is running for public office. This dangerous phenomenon creates a cult-like following instead of clear and sound policy that a politician can offer to the table.
The challenge now remains for the Filipino voters. In the upcoming 2022 elections, we need to reassess our standards when voting. It is important to revert back to the early days of our republic where we see the platform of a candidate that mirrors his ideology. If we successfully do so, we can deepen the arguments and elevate the discourse. In that way, we can achieve the best policies that will be delivered by leaders with clear ideologies.