Top 5 Institutional Failures in the Philippines

top_5Here we go, sports fans, from the fifth place finisher to the winner, the gold-medal top-notcher at being the worst institutional failure in the Philippines.

By failure, we mean that it should be the best that it can be, world class, but it is not. By failing so dramatically, the institution punishes EVERYONE. You, me, the rich, the poor, the Catholic, the heathen, the Muslim, the young, the old, the rich, the poor, the good, the bad . . . no, no . . .  too often it empowers the bad.

My mistake.

My bad.

I would also like to point out that this is not a negative blog. I am still high on the Philippines, and I am simply organizing priorities for moving even higher.

Number 5: Land Use Law

Often we think of land use as preservation of forests, seas and farmlands. But it is much deeper than that. Indeed, the institutional failure is largely the failure to apply land use regulations to generate generous economic and lifestyle benefits. As a result, we get solutions that merely re-align land in sloppy, make-work, favor-ridden, non-productive fashion. It is a fashion that employs a lot of lawyers and regulators. I mean, who, really has generated the most wealth from CARP? I’d guess attorneys and government staff trying to referee things.

Perhaps we need a definition:

  • Land use law: The rules for managing land and sea resources to preserve the highest long term value while getting prudent economic and lifestyle gains from those resources. 

Preservation is key. Prudent gains. Lifestyle gains means we have beautiful lands to roam, can travel quickly and safely, and have minimal pollution – noise or otherwise – where we live and work. Profit from the land, and a good life.

This is a balancing act that requires insight, problem-solving and discipline. Preservation can be assured by staking out large plots of land for reserved use (forest, agriculture, fisheries). Prudent gains mean you don’t sell valuable mined ores for a measly 2% gain, and you ban fishing in certain areas at certain times to get more meat on the fish. Judicious use means organizing urban lands into patterns that promote ease of travel, good lifestyles (noise and pollution reduction), safety, and generous economics. And you tax land appropriate to its value.

Land use in the Philippines is slapdash, built mainly on expedience and favors. The biggest needs are better preservation and usage patterns as well as discipline in regulating and taxing land. Discipline means passing smart laws and enforcing them and not making concessions to the rich and powerful. Concessions take power and riches from the people. No no no no. “Loser” is an institution that favors the endowed over the rest of us, and lets taxes slip between the cracks because the powerful don’t want to pay them. Applied land use in the Philippines is a kind of low-level pork scam. That needs to end.

Number 4: Agribusiness

Developing the land to grow things is a natural way to produce value. The land does the heavy-lifting if given seed, some water and a few nutrients, and if we keep invasive weeds and Chinese poachers out. The Philippines has the best growing conditions in the world but fails to convert them to value. I’ve written extensively about this and am not going to beat that dead horse anymore. Fishing is pretty much in the same miserable shape. And forestry. Link over to this article if you missed it:  Agribusiness Wrap Up

Number 3: Education

The Philippine educational system is incredibly dense. I was going to use “stupid” but don’t want to appear petulant or immature. How can professionals who are charged with teaching young people HOW TO THINK confuse rote memorization with thinking? Year after year after year educators teach the discipline of being obedient, not the disciplines of discovery, innovation, and problem solving. And the discipline of discipline. Wrong wrong wrong! 180 degrees of wrong. Plus, they make lousy use of the internet in an era when a tablet costs as little as five text books. Loser educators insist on text books.

The positive view is that the facilities are broadly in place to do better. The teaching infrastructure is there if the educational leaders would simply smarten up.

And I’d happily add the “ps” that education ought to be free of exam, uniform and miscellaneous fees. Read modern global human rights laws. Free education is the standard. It is considered a basic human right. How many ways can we spell “failure”, do you suppose?

Number 2: Manufacturing

Here again, the Philippines has the tools to excel but does not deploy them. Cheap labor, wonderful location in the cusp of Asia, lots of ports for shipping.

But there’s virtually nothing here. Like, zippo, empty, zero. No national effort, even. The government leaves it to private companies and private companies have no start-up capital.

Is the 40% foreign ownership restriction a handicap? Yes, but that is not the killer. The killer is government failure to WANT badly enough to bring manufacturers to the Philippines. President Aquino is working on the edges, cutting red tape, and some localities (Subic) are offering tax benefits to new companies.

I’ve suggested that the national government ought to look at manufacturing as an essential economic infrastructure NECESSITY, and invest the people’s money to get it going. It is the essential core of an industrialized, exporting, growing nation. Government can start it’s own defense industry to build boats and missiles (I’d suggest making Minanao the industrial center of the Philippines and take some weight off Manila). It can build ferries, large and small. Compartmentalized so they don’t sink when the captain sneezes. Or packaging for agribusiness products. What is the sense of growing citronella, selling the oil to China where it is made into candles or perfumes or other goodies, then enrich the Chinese firms that sell the consumer goods back to Filipinos?

I’ve also suggested going after every Japanese manufacturer located in inhospitable China and roll out the Filipino welcome mat for them. PAY their relocation fees. Clear the paperwork path. Give them tax benefits. Also set strict standards on labor, safety and pollution control.

Really, we only have to WANT manufacturing badly enough to get it.

Number 1: Justice and the Judiciary

Without question, the number one institutional failing in the Philippines is that department of Executive that investigates and prosecutes crime, including assorted police forces, and the entire branch of the Judiciary, which is a muddled, inefficient, favor-based, closed system that fails at providing justice.

There is a reason the Philippines houses more crooks per square inch than about any other nation. A law is one-half rule and one-half enforcement. And enforcement in the Philippines stinks. I was going to say it is sucko, but I don’t want to seem petulant or immature. The policing is political and many cops are crooked. The justice process is sloppy and slow and political. Does CSI know how to dust for fingerprints? Hmmmmm.  Joe Cruz is locked out of the courts by fees and the normal discrimination hereabouts demonstrated by the empowered toward the un-empowered.

Damages don’t get redressed. They don’t get solved. Crimes don’t get redressed. Criminals run for Senate in a few years.

“Ampatuan for President” would not be a surprise in the shameless Philippines.

But I fear I am working myself into a lather.

  • “Calm down, Joe. Just tell us how you’d correct things?”
  1. Break up the national police force – the PNP – and assign officers to cities and municipalities. Reduce the number of street police that are being wasted as traffic cops or sitting in the shade at checkpoints.
  2. Develop professional CSI tools and labs at the large cities and municipalities. Shift resources there. Get skilled at proving crime quickly. Enough of “justice on Filipino time”.
  3. Increase the size and investigative power (equipment, training) and prosecution staff (detectives and attorneys) at local Justice units, and at the NBI. Invest in it. We invest billions in roads. See crime fighting in the same light. Infrastructure for a lawful society.

As for the courts, I’m afraid that subject is too big for this blog. It needs to stand alone, and it is perhaps time for a progress check on Chief Justice Sereno. But here are some ideas for starters that point us toward solutions.

  • Remove court fees. Justice should be free.
  • Assign certain court functions to administrators rather than judges (annulment hearings). Free judges for more meaningful cases.
  • Change laws to reduce the nuisance cases that jam the courts and crowd out important cases (annulment hearings are nuisance cases; when both parties want out, where is the “crime”?).
  • Mandate that cases be resolved within specific time limits, or be dropped.


That’s it, sports fans. Here are today’s winners, the institutions that succeed at being the biggest losers in the Philippines.

  • Gold: Justice and the Judiciary
  • Silver: Manufacturing
  • Bronze: Education
  • Tin: Agribusiness
  • Paper: Land Use Law

Next, to get back to the positive side of things, I’ll do the institutional WINNERS, you know, the boom industries like Real Estate and Call Centers and Murders for Hire.

8 Responses to “Top 5 Institutional Failures in the Philippines”
  1. edgar lores says:

    1. The categories are not quite clear to me. The overall classification is clear, we are talking about government. But are we talking about government institutions, policies or sectors?
    1.1. Land Use Law is a policy?
    1.2. Agribusiness and manufacturing are economic sectors as well as areas of policy?
    1.3. And education is an infrastructure sector, although non-economic, as well as an area of policy? As a sector and area policy, it is not an institution although standard curricula and individual schools take on the attribute of institutions.
    1.4. Judiciary is an institution but as a separate branch it cannot be an area of policy?

    2. But, I agree, they all suck.
    2.1. It’s good to be clear because I was going to say Filipinos suck most at everything. We even suck at sucking, and for a certainty we are suckers. Or suckees. Which is what we excel at. (This is a very Filipino comment, so enough of that.)

    3. Right now, it would be hard to say which branch of government is the worst. In terms of performing their jobs, all are underperforming and, for a time, the judiciary was seen as the worst.

    3.1. However, the underperformance of the judiciary is more a matter of misfeasance. They are not doing their job because of ignorance. They are Ignorant in streamlining their processes and procedures and ignorant, too, in judgments, but they do not have malice in their hearts (?).

    3.2. The underperformance of the legislature is more a matter of malfeasance than misfeasance. They are not doing their job partly because of ignorance (Cybercrime Law, RH Law, FOI) but mostly because they are busy copying and stealing. They have malice in their hearts. Currently, this may be the worst branch.

    3.3. The underperformance of the Executive is more a matter of misfeasance and nonfeasance than malfeasance. True, there is malfeasance in Customs and in Natural Resources. But, by and large, they are not doing their jobs because they are not doing it properly (Transportation, Civil Service, Audit, Internal Revenue) or not at all (police forces).

    4. Areas of policy in the first four top failures are usually the subject of platform issues come election time. But as we have no clear-cut and differentiated policies by political parties, we have no refinement of policies, and naturally we have failures in these areas.

    4.1. The problem in the judiciary is both administrative and intellectual.

    4.2. The administrative aspect may be partly due to lack of independent funding. But the structure is wonky. Too centralized, too many backlog cases, non-standardized procedures, language issues, incomplete automation, etc.

    4.3. The intellectual aspect is worrisome. When I say the judges do not have malice in their hearts, I may be deeply wrong. We have heard of stories of judges open to bribery. But how do you define the malice that comes more from ignorance rather than intent to do harm? (In ignorance, I include envy, spite and self-serving interests.) I am mainly thinking of Abad, but others are not far behind.

    • Joe America says:

      1. ahahaha, they were unclear to me, too, which is why I used “institution” instead of organization or department. Perhaps “blob” would have been better. We are talking about activities, I suppose, that fall into some kind of category of being related to other activities.
      2. That is the commonality. Sucking. 🙂 🙂 🙂
      3. To some extent, I think government is designed to be a bickering, imperfect place. Those are the checks and balances working, and the failings of our human condition, revealing certain flaws. I think Executive and Legislative actually work the way they are supposed to. Judiciary does not.
      4.1 Many of the Top 5 failures are both administrative and intellectual failures. Education is certainly that. Indeed, they ALL are, it seems to me as I go over the list.

  2. andrew lim says:

    Joe, your rappler comment has the word “screwing” so that may have sent it to moderation. I once had a comment with “Dicky” and it kept moderating it until i changed it to “Ricardo.”

    • Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

      Funny these “upright” “straight” religious Filipinos they heavily moderate comments to extinction while Huffingtonpost is not. Well, Huffington moderates each and every comment but eventually it goes to print. These upright straight religious Filipinos are likely the corrupt ones like the media.

    • Joe America says:

      Very good, andrew. That’s my guess ,too. The Rappler screen is very sensitive about word nuance. It forces one to be prudish and lacking in “style” sometimes to avoid a remark disappearing. This one was eventually published. I’ve had prior remarks disappear forever. I always support an editor’s right to manage his publication however he/she wishes. But if editors moderate liberally, they ought to accept the responsibility of reading every remark that goes to the pending bucket. Not “disappear” them through lack of attention.

      I’ll be doing a comprehensive critique of Rappler in an upcoming blog. Possibly next week.

      For future readers of this thread, we are talking about this comment in the right column that was placed in moderation by Rappler’s screen. I asked why?

      “Yes, I agree. This presumption that “the president is screwing up” is a rather surprising expression to me, unless the writer has a political axe to grind. It certainly is strange coming from a journalist. The President is, after all, working hard and earnestly and helping bring the Philippines back from the pits of corruption and poverty. We can’t give him a little latitude to do his job the way HE wants to do it? He knows more about presidential demands than the article writer, I’d bet.”

  3. J says:

    The AFP should be on sixth place!

    • Joe America says:

      Ahhhh, what a bonehead I am for missing that one. I’d probably have put AFP in 5th considering we are talking about the nation’s defense. I did kick “Health Care” around as an addition but believe the economic impact of Land Use is more substantial.

      Thanks for the “nomination”.

  4. football says:

    I honestly believe that Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster, Ray
    Rice, Marshawn Lynch, or Jamaal Charles should be your focus in the first round.
    Do you wear your own football package when actively playing football along with friends on the park
    or even wear your shirt casually around town or perhaps is this your ritual
    to wear your groups colors when going down to the pub. In a very short time he built a
    very, very thorough roster that can beat you in a number of ways.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: