Of basketball and politics: only in the Philippines

Edmund Tayao
More than winning a game, politics is about policy and governance

Rain or Shine Team won the first game of the 7-game Finals series of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup with a ‘“sneaky” inbound play finished by birthday boy Paul Lee’ (quoted from Rappler news).  This happened with 1.6 seconds remaining and the cliffhanger ably steered by veteran coach Yeng Guiao.  In 1.2 seconds, the game was concluded and prevented from what everyone seems to be expecting to have overtime.  Then we wait for the next game and see who among the crafty players would carry their team for a win.

This is basketball.  A team will have to win games in order to win the championship.  A game is different from a championship as (unless the rules do not require a series) a team gets the latter only after winning a number of games.  Now each game, assuming it is fairly played and officiated, will have different conclusions.  Even if a team is replete with star players, one can hardly predict what will be the outcome of each game.  And so the fans would cheer for their chosen teams even bet on the outcome of each game.  A fan would even pray as precisely, regardless of the advantages of a team, it is anybody’s ball game. 

Politics is not basketball.  Of course there’ll be strategies needed in order to win in politics, especially during elections.  These strategies are also needed after elections but more for winning a particular policy or program that a political leader is pursuing.  After all, even during elections, politics is ultimately about policies and programs of government and not only about personalities winning elections.  After elections, while partisanship cannot be avoided, politics is expected to be more of differences in advocated programs and policies and less of personal differences.

Of course, we can’t discount the fact that emotions are part of one’s being human.  Emotions reflect our preferences, beliefs, biases and idiosyncrasies.  And so, it is understandable that even in politics, stakeholders (and that includes us, the public) could and would be emotional and resort to partisanship and, in public proceedings get the better of us and give away our biases.  Hopefully however, regardless of how much emotional we could get, we don’t forget the objective of politics and the processes that make a democracy.  More than getting what we want, which is having our preferences adopted and or the political leaders we admire are able to win arguments and their opponents suffer ignominy, politics and processes that make a democracy should result to better policy.  In a word, more than winning a game, politics is about policy and governance.

True to the President’s campaign promise, the government is really pursuing those who have committed the public wrong, abusing the authority that is given them by the sovereign public.  Ultimately, we would like to see the ultimate end of all these political and legal exercise and that is to have those involved accountable.  And hopefully, this means everyone and anyone involved, regardless of rank and affiliation.  Hopefully, those who are made to account are not a select few based on partisan interest and this is not only because of justice but also because of policy.  By policy, we mean, hopefully we learn from this repetitive episode and that therefore it does not happen again.  Ultimately, by this policy, we end up having better institutions and therefore achieving real good governance.

We are all stakeholders as we all stand to gain or lose in this exercise.  Politics as already mentioned is not basketball.  The value of the outcomes of political exercises, more than winning elections, includes reaching a level of development; This level of development means better, stronger, more effective and reliable institutions.  This means policies and programs are implemented accordingly and objectively where stakeholders could anticipate the outcome and not depend on prayers, bets and emotions.  We would not want to see a slam-dunk or a three point shot every now and then, win some games and end up losing the championship anyway.  We would like to have the end to be better policies and programs that serve the real interest of the public, which is development.  We would like to see reforms instituted so that these repeated abuses in government are finally ended.

It is right that the government does what it thinks to be the right thing to do in order to pursue justice.  Whether that will require so many witnesses is the judgment of the government.  Ultimately, the public would surely want to see the end where someone is made accountable.  Hopefully, all these will not just be another chapter in our political history where someone is accused, some others make a name of those accused and that’s about it.  Hopefully, all those who committed similar abuses, regardless of extent and of course political affiliation is made similarly answerable as those already charged.  We assume that because of sheer volume, the government is still working on the cases of the others. 

For those who are already accused, it is understandable that their answers are heard more before the court.  While this stance is understandable, it should be consistent especially if they decide (which they already did) to say something in response publicly.  Interestingly, what we heard, supposedly “in response,” was not a response, but another accusation.  While these accusations have to be answered as well, it does not in any way respond to what they are accused of.  The public for sure, would like to be enlightened, and that is why anxiously, we wait for what they have to say.

PDAF, if used accordingly before, could have made all the difference in the countryside most especially.  Development is still lopsided in Metro Manila, the reason why many would like to be here, thinking only of opportunities, which are hardly available from where they come from despite the blight due to crowding and pollution.  Now, because of these alleged abuses, we called for its abolition, again, understandably getting the better of us.

The use of public funds, and that includes PDAF, is related to taxation.  Taxation on the other hand is related to representation.  Taxation and representation after all are the factors that made democracy what it is now if we learn from history.  Taxation and Representation led to the development of democratic institutions as we understand and value today.  If we are to look at politics as policy and governance, then we can reflect on this and figure out what’s best to do in order to find optimum use of public funds.  After all, if something isn’t working, the solution is not always to abolish but to learn from it and make the better of it. – Rappler.com

Edmund S. Tayao is a professor at the University of Santo Tomas Department of Political Science, and is executive director of the Local Government Development Foundation.

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