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In Event: No Straight Road to Democracy: Political Transitions, Elections and Repression in Southeast Asia
The Marcos dictatorship fell in February 1986, raising hopes for a consolidated and robust democracy in the Philippines. But in the past almost thirty years, optimism has dissipated in the face of continued state violence. Even if violent state repression has declined overall, the number of incidents of electoral violence and media killings has risen. Indeed, counterintuitively, where the central state has a "weak" security presence, anti-insurgency and extrajudicial killings of activists are higher. The weakness of the central state and the prevalence of local political bosses with private armies hint at the answer. Rather than viewing state repression as wholly directed by the center and conducted in pursuit of the state’s strategic interests, mechanisms of “parochialization”—propelled by local and particularistic interests—determine the direction and intensity of state violence. Such parochial interests include gaining and maintaining electoral office, protecting business interests (including illicit activities) and shielding the extractive industry from protests, among other motivations. These patterns of central direction, local motivation and central-local “co-production” are gleaned from detailed case files and media reports documenting extrajudicial killings, torture and forced disappearances in the past 15 years. The dismal level of human rights protection in this case study compels an examination of the reasons why repressiveness persists in democracies long after authoritarianism has ended—and without resulting in utter democratic collapse.
Sol Iglesias is a PhD candidate at the Southeast Asian Studies department of the National University of Singapore. She was Director for Intellectual Exchange (now the Politics and Economics department) at the Asia-Europe Foundation from 2009 to 2012. Sol received her BA in Public Administration from the University of the Philippines, MA in Political Science from the National University of Singapore and MA in International Affairs from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. She also attended a summer course on European institutions at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris in 2004. She has published newspaper opinion pieces, academic journal articles and book chapters on the Philippines, Southeast Asian politics as well as Asia-Europe relations.