In This Review

Philippine Politics: Possibilities and Problems in a Localist Democracy
Philippine Politics: Possibilities and Problems in a Localist Democracy
By Lynn T. White III
Routledge, 2015, 280 pp.

The Philippines is a large country (its population exceeds 100 million) divided into many small parts (over 7,000 islands and 42,000 administrative villages), which are often further split into clans controlled by rival oligarchs—and then fractured yet again by feuds within those clans. Although the country’s national institutions are strong on paper, White finds that the local trumps the national, as clientelism and violence work their way up to the very top of the system. Money, undue influence, and violence permeate the executive branch, Congress, and the judicial system, leading to stagnation and polarization in the country’s economy and politics. An active civil society and occasional eruptions of “people power” have done little to change the Philippine way of politics. White’s analysis of these problems is comprehensive. Writing before the election of Rodrigo Duterte to the presidency last year, White correctly predicted that the modest reforms introduced by the previous president, Benigno Aquino III, were unlikely to last.