My mother left the Philippines in the 1970s at the height of Ferdinand Marcos’ reign. Growing up, I heard few stories of what life was like in the Philippines at that time. The subject held more interest for my American father who teasingly called me “Imelda” any time I bought a new pair of shoes.
As I grew older and read more about the Marcos regime I was horrified at what a leader could subject his people to. The implementation of martial law, the suspicious deaths, the people exiled, the sheer hedonism of his rule-all these things shocked my American sensibilities. As much as I loved the Philippines I was happy to be living in a country which guaranteed my freedom. I was young enough, then, to believe in America’s democratic ideals.
Now, as both America and the Philippines are in an election year, I see the flaws with both governments. The American press mocks the elections in the Philippines, a country in which relatives of deposed leaders run for office, a nation in which felons and criminals lead the polls.
But how is this any different from the American race in which the wife of a nearly impeached president leads the polls? Is Hillary Clinton’s bid for president really that different than Imelda Marcos serving in the House of Representatives? Is Donald Trump, known for his lewd and inappropriate comments, so far removed from Rodrigo Duterte?
American media paints an image of the Philippines as a poor and struggling nation with an election that reflects its imperfections. The implication here is that American politics is superior, but a country whose elected officials often have egos larger than their vocabularies should not be so quick to point fingers.
The fact is that the Philippines has a government like any other. It is not perfect. It is subject to corruption.
It is not an infallible system. And neither is America’s.
My mother left a country with a flawed government and came to another country with a flawed government. The political situation in the Philippines has nothing to do with its economic status or its fairly recent independence as many news outlets would have us believe. The corruption from any government comes from its people and from the willingness of citizens to comply with abuses of power.
People are flawed and as such our leaders are inevitably flawed. We must stop looking for a savior to lead us and learn to be capable and strong leaders ourselves. Instead of viewing Filipino politics as corrupt, we should instead acknowledge its shortcomings while focusing on educating citizens to commit themselves to justice and integrity. Only in this way will any nation have strong leaders.