A number of theoretical approaches had been proposed by scholars since the 1950s aimed at understanding Philippine politics.
Particularly, these approaches seek to illuminate the apparent disconnect between modern democratic practices and pre-modern political behavior of leaders and followers alike.
Some of these approaches–patron-client framework and factional politics (Carl Herman Lande of Yale University; 1924-2005), and weak state-strong social groups (Paul Hutchcroft of the University of Wisconsin-Madison)–retained their appeal specially given recurrent scandals over the alleged misuse of public funds by legislators and other public officials.
On the other hand, the “machine politics” (Kit Machado of the California State University-Northridge; deceased) and bossism/warlordism (John Sidel of the London School of Economics) frameworks had lost part of their theoretical allure largely because of their limited scope. Nonetheless, Sidel’s framework is apropos for the Ampatuan goons (involved in the infamous Maguindanao massacre) masquerading as LGU CEOs in Muslim Mindanao.
All of these approaches however suffer from an apparent shortcoming. They are too self-contained since they analyze Philippine politics in isolation from international currents and developments.
For example, none of these frameworks take the role of the United States into account notwithstanding the prominent role that the global power plays in determining Philippine local politics and foreign policy.
In addition, none of these approaches take institutions like the branches of government seriously given the default “weak state” perspective.
They also do not make explicit references to the Philippine economy’s increasing insertion into the global capitalist division of labor. If there is a semblance of such a framework, it is articulated outside the academe by leftist circles under the rubrics “imperialism” and “neoliberalism” albeit to an extreme.
Examining the possibility of formulating a robust and more comprehensive theoretical approach and the implications for political analysis (and perhaps policy making) is thus a worthwhile undertaking.