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Transformation of Philippine Power: Beyond History, Within Our Story

In countless instances, power has been one – if not the sole – reason for much of the
conflicts in the country; be it in society as a political whole or as an issue within more intimate
relations (such as the self). The possession and manipulation of such enables the very ability in
the Filipino to strive for what he thinks is most appropriate for him and his place in the society.
Regardless of the integrity that comes (or not) with these means for acquiring power, the Filipino
put power in an, ironically, a powerful pedestal that even power itself could not bring to crumble.
In this paper, what I aim to present and discuss is how the definition of power in the
Philippines changed as time goes by. Accordingly, these changes contribute heavily to the
accompanying change in the political landscape of the country not only in terms of public
administration and governance but also the way societal members interact with one another in a
given political sphere. In particular, I will be discussing power in the lens of a class struggle
existing in Philippine society based on the course of the nation’s history and start from there to
arguing how power can be viewed in a possibly positive light.
Throughout the history of the country – especially before various platforms of influence
emerged alongside the progressive technological advances – power has been constantly
conceived as that which only the wealthy possess. This is quite understandable given the
colonization background of the country that instilled into the minds of Filipinos that money or
possessions equate to power. The wealthy class of Philippine society consists mainly of
politicians (or political families that control much of the governance of provinces) and capitalists
which are ironically, foreigners who chose to invest in the country due to the extremely lax
regulations that prohibit them from abusing their investment power at the expense of the Filipino
worker. These two groups of people hold the monopoly of power in society and what is even
more disturbing is the fact that most often than not, these two groups work together hand-in-hand
with their own interests at heart.
Their power due to wealth attributes to them the capacity to influence or worse,
manipulate, people around them. As we can remember, this capacity is the very basis upon which
these powerful groups get people whose social class is lower than theirs to work for their
advantage without (or at least even a small bit) genuine intention of helping these people.
However, as I have argued earlier on, this definition of power as dependent on money or wealth
was set aside as the times change for a new definition to take its place in the limelight.
With the rise of social media as an avenue for self-expression even about the most trivial
of things plus its availability and accessibility to the masses gave way to a more radical manner
of practicing power. Money lessened its value as the measurement of power. A few clicks, taps,
and overwhelming words became the objects of investment to flaunt one’s capacity to influence.
The term “social media influencer” has taken its toll in society and shaped most of the ways their
audience treat certain social issues. This is why when one attempts to mindlessly scroll through
social media news feeds, one can notice the similarity of points between a friend and a famous
person who expressed his or her opinion. This has become the new powerful: the more virtual
followers you have, the more you can exercises your capacity to manipulate, deceive, curtail, etc.
The varying opinions stemming out of this freedom to express with a wide range of
audience molds not only the personal views of whoever can be reached by these influencers’
posts but also the political thought which the audience, in turn, would further propagate to their
own posts. The power of these words and the rapid sharing of such proves that Philippine society
has gone a long way in exercising and defining power.
It must be noted, however, that there are instances where these two definitions of power
come hand-in-hand. It can be observed that most of these influencers on social media come from
well-off families that are affluent enough to afford the luxuries that enables them to freely post
their thoughts. Thinking about it carefully, it actually makes sense if we argue that these
influencers do not experience the gravity of the need to work as much as the laborers below them
since they can afford to sit around and spend their time online. Though I am not generalizing all
of these influencers, majority of them belong to the upper middle to upper classes in society.
Thus, even the apparent existence of the distinction between the relatively old and new
definitions of power caused by technological advancements, we can never completely
dichotomize the two using neat lines. The combination of these two in practice makes even more
obvious the looming threat of domination and control over multiple aspects of life of the
multitude. This puts further into question the problem of free will and the sense of personal
authority.
Power may impact society negatively, but it is also undeniable that without it, order in
society might not be possible. Power can be utilized in many positive ways so as to revolutionize
an existing social order that leaves a big chunk of the population unsatisfied (be it in their
privileges and civil rights). The power rooted on wealth and possessions can contribute to the
causes to address the monetary needs the organizers might need. The rich may also give part of
their possessions (e.g. land) to provide for logistical concerns. Although this sounds too idealistic
in the sense that no person would opt to give something without expecting anything in return of
the favor, it is still possible to do so provided that there will be a drastic change in the moral
system of beliefs governing this wealthy person.
The power of words, opinion, and charisma plays a much greater role, I think, in pushing
forth positive and peaceful revolts. I argue this on the basis of man as being naturally
immediately attracted to what he thinks and feels to be something impactful and relatable to him
and where he stands in life. It is an added challenge to influencers to make use of their power to
influence quite rapidly to make their opinions and advocacies appear to be of high relevance to a
critical number of societal members. They have to present their campaigns in such a way as to
address the decreasing duration of attention span among people. Creativity and humor are seen to
be two of the most useful tools in doing so and therefore points out the importance of a well-
thought-of strategy in catching both the sensibilities and the faculties of rationality.
Nevertheless, what I think escapes the mind at once after all these arguments are
presented is the idea that even with the said transformations or shifts in our conception of power,
the political landscape of the Philippines is characterized by a story. It is a story about the
individual pursuit of power and the victimization of others in the process of its acquisition with
or without the genuine intention to achieve a higher level of national progress.
It is thus a challenge to all how to defend the national interest without curtailing the
pursuit of personal ones using a powerful and humane tool that not only will mold Philippine
political thought but also will write a better tale beyond what is already written in history.
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