Filipino celebrity Jim Paredes has been embroiled in a scandal after webcam video emerged of him engaging in an act of onanism before a mysterious individual or group of individuals on the other side of a video chat. While celebrity scandals in The Philippines always attract attention, because Paredes has been a vocal critic of President Rodrigo Duterte, being literally caught with his pants down was something of a revelation for a public used to Paredes condemning Duterte’s straightforward rhetoric from a position of self-identified moral superiority.
But within this sensationalistic scandal is an important metaphor. For years, Filipinos have been taunted by a dysfunctional and anti-democratic political system that forces the public to fixate on modern day emperors with no clothes. Furthermore, not content to merely force the public to pretend that a nakedly broken system is wearing the finest clothes of the land, elitist leaders mock the public by engaging in political and economic acts of onanism that satisfy the selfish needs of the elites whilst leaving those on the other side (the people) with nothing.
But the similarities do not end there. Just as those on the opposite side of Paredes’s infamous webcam video remain unknown, the ordinary people themselves hardly get their voices heard in a political system fixated with celebrity style leaders who figuratively rub it in the faces of the ordinary people.
In the current political system, people rise to power because of their ability to tantalise, titillate and arouse the emotions of the public. This is true of presidential systems throughout the world in which one elects an individual campaigning around him or herself rather than a party campaigning around an idea. In this sense, while a loving marriage is an idea that many try their best and work their hardest to attain, simply showing off one’s genitals to someone else in an act of self-satisfaction that takes no effort and likewise, it does not accomplish anything lasting.
A family takes decades to build and requires stability, discipline, consensus and genuine loyalty to the cause of building that family and improving the lives of family members. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a Paredes style video is here today and gone tomorrow and frankly, once one has seen one such video, one has seen them all.
Because of this, it is high time for Filipinos to understand that a parliamentary system is like building a family. Such a system of governance is built around the idea of consecrating a healthy and happy national family through collective hard work, collective responsibility, transparency and tough but fair scrutiny and discipline. In parliamentary systems, multiple people work diligently to achieve a specific aim whilst in a presidential system, much of the time one simply gets a naked emperor with a “look at me” attitude that the public is forced to either swallow blindly or otherwise ridicule without any meaningful scrutiny being applied.
Of course, just as not all chat roulette experiences are pornographic, so too is it that once in a great while a genuinely committed and decent person can rise to power in a presidential system. President Rodrigo Duterte is one such example. But a one in a million shot is simply not good enough.
Rather than play chat roulette during the 2022 elections, it would be far better for the country to switch off the proverbial webcam and decide to build a political system based on the values of a family rather than one the values of one man with no clothes and a desire to please only himself while others watch.
The choice is as clear as the metaphor.