Changing the Asocial Behavior of the Ruling Class

napolesby Joseph-Ivo

More of the same will result in more of the same

If you expect a different outcome, somebody will have to do something differently. To achieve something different in the Philippines, there are basically two options, an autocratic approach or a democratic approach. We have seen what an autocratic approach can achieve with Lee in Singapore and Mao’s successors in China. But the American democratic approach has also had some successes.

Personally I prefer a democracy, but I may have missed the 3rd cow hiding in the bushes (see JoeAm’s article “Two-Cow Thinking“).

Changing behavior is a good thing in a win-win situation

A teacher is trying to change behavior by providing knowledge or by teaching new skills. A parent is changing behavior by giving his child a pat on the shoulder or a slap on the wrist. A salesman is changing behavior by having you buying products in his shop instead of spending your money somewhere else. A boss is changing behavior, a traffic officer, a priest, a friend . . . this blog . . .

Yes, behavior modification for the wrong reasons or using unkind techniques is harmful (brainwashing or torture). But our development as individuals and as humankind requires a continuous effort to adapt and grow.

A critical take-away here: change that produces less poverty is good for the poor and it is good for the wealthy. It is win-win. (Refer to “The Price of Inequality” by Joseph E. Stiglitz.)

Knowing how somebody thinks today is valuable information if you want to change behavior

Thinking, character, even physical features are influenced by the environment and education, and also by genetics. It’s the old nature-nurture discussion. This is widely accepted for most positive “talents” such as musical aptitude or skill at mathematics, but not for negative talents such as violence and asocial behavior. (See “The Anatomy of Violence” by Adrian Raine.)


The exact causation of asocial behavior might not be fully understood yet, but the correlations are well established. The presence of certain genes or physical traits like heart beat or activity in certain areas in the brain (seen via brain scans), correlate with certain asocial behavior. They don’t guarantee this behavior, but the connection is clear. And we must take care in judging for the same cool traits are needed for a good terrorist bomb maker and for a bomb-disposal expert.

Asocial behavior is physically characterized by:

  • A lower than normal heart rate at rest.
  • Less activity in the prefrontal area of the brain.
  • Presence of MAOA gene (the violence gene, monoamine oxidase A).

Some environmental factors are:

  • Social norms and acceptability of the behavior (arriving late, for example).
  • The ease of coming away with this behavior; the lemming syndrome.
  • Beliefs are the result of repeated behavior (making excuses, for instance) and action is based on beliefs (absence of accountability).

So the number of cows one sees depends on a lot of things.

Because of the way her brain is wired up and the “education” she got, Janet Napoles strongly believes that she couldn’t have fulfilled all her mother’s good intentions if she had not created an unorthodox way of doing business. The greater good justifies the minor wrongdoings. It is doubtful she cheats for the pleasure of cheating, but as a necessity to achieve a larger good.


Likewise for Imelda Marcos, buying shoes supports a shoemaker’s family, and all the stealing, torture and killing was necessary to achieve the greater good, to guarantee the well-being of her family, the cultural development of her people, and peace in the world.

Changing asocial people is not straightforward

We know of a Saul who became Saint Paul and a rowdy Francis who became Saint Francis but that’s it. Believing that Imelda one day will fall in this category is rather optimistic.

What can we do? Medicine to influence Imelda’s neurotransmitters? Continue praying for a divine intervention as for the Saints above? Aiming at a step by step approach to help her experience the rewards of good social behavior? The last might be 80 years too late.

To get the stolen goods back, we will have to take them the way she did. (And don’t forget the fruits of the poisonous tree, all the wealth created by her and her cronies over all those years.)

A democratic approach to change the way the country is governed?

We will need the bulk of the electorate to vote for a different type of politicians, instead of voting for bling-bling personalities.

“Superstitiously” believing that these celebrities will solve the nation’s problems will require change by education. Education as in schools broadly teaching and practicing good values, or parents seeking the best education for their child. Just as “superstitiously” thinking that a halo around the moon predicts war or fights in the family becomes unbelievable if you understand how moonlight reflects in ice crystals in the upper earth’s atmosphere. Education is a slow process. In the meantime we only can hope and urge that the President keeps pushing positive change in as many areas as possible.

85 Responses to “Changing the Asocial Behavior of the Ruling Class”
  1. andrew lim says:

    I like the author’s attempt to provide a scientific explanation for asocial behavior.

    A most intriguing quote:

    “To get the stolen goods back, we will have to take them the way she did. (And don’t forget the fruits of the poisonous tree, all the wealth created by her and her cronies over all those years.)”

    How I wish Filipinos were hardwired like the Israelis. They are God’s chosen, but they will hunt down their enemies for eternity. If they cannot be brought to justice, then justice will be brought to them. They are by no means sissies when it comes to extracting justice.

    The following needs more study and exploration, but my impressions:

    The Spaniards hijacked our psyche with Catholicism. It resulted in a docile, too forgiving and too forgetful culture. I want to check this out further – is the administration of justice in Catholic dominated countries worse than in non-Catholic dominated ones?

    • Joseph-Ivo says:

      Yes, the Filipinos are messed-up a little: 220 volt (European) 60 hertz (American), partly Roman law and partly civil law, kilometers and inches, believing in ghosts and Catholics…

      But, who cares, a fiesta is around the corner. As a Flemish friar on one of Magellan’s ships wrote in his diary: “Filipinos are good in roasting pigs and organizing a fiesta but they are not very industrious”

  2. edgar lores says:

    When I was in college – that was many, many years ago in my salad days but that is a different story – I belonged to a coterie of four, of two boys and two girls. (That, too, is a different story.) We had an expression one of us would blurt out when another one of us was cranky, obtuse, rowdy or trying too hard to be attractive. He (or she), one of us would say, needs a kita.

    Now Kita is a village of Hokkaido which we know is Japan’s second largest island and which was originally populated by the aboriginal Ainu people. Then, again, that is another story. And kita is also Tagalog for the infinitive verb “to see”. But, no, that is not what I am referring to. No, kita is an acronym for a Kick in the Ass. This, and not a slap on the wrist, is what Filipinos need singly and collectively.

    If the squatters were given a kita in the form of instant relocation; the philandering husband a kita in the form of un-ironed clothes and burnt food; priests in the form of diminished tithes; criminals in the form of hard labor; congressmen in the form of no pork barrel (oh, right, they have been!); do-nothing senators in the form of caustic comments on social media (oh, right, pour it on); corrupt government officials in the form of long and uncomfortable stays in jail; the unfocussed cabinet in the form of a presidential reprimand; and the president in the form of a lovely lass, Korean or otherwise – well, all would be well. That’s right: ALL WOULD BE WELL.

    You know when children misbehave and they are given swift punishment, after they cry their hearts out and return to the form of angels of innocence and delight that they really are – well let me tell you that is the effect of a well-aimed and well deserved kita. But you already know this.

    I am still in retreat – actually I am just about to begin but that is another story – and this is an insight I have gained or, more precisely, regained. We agonize too much about criminations and recriminations. Keep it simple, I say. Crime and punishment. I read that book in college and I retain two things: Sonia, the gold-hearted prostitute and symbol of the possibility of redemption, and the following outcry:

    “Where is it I’ve read that someone condemned to death says or thinks, an hour before his death, that if he had to live on some high rock, on such a narrow ledge that he’d only room to stand, and the ocean, everlasting darkness, everlasting solitude, everlasting tempest around him, if he had to remain standing on a square yard of space all his life, a thousand years, eternity, it were better to live so than to die at once. Only to live, to live and live! Life, whatever it may be!”

    I no longer see the need for redemption (as we are all already “saved”), and the passage, which I thought was existentially terrific, I now see as existentially horrific. On a tangent, I am reminded of the film “I Want to Live” (starring the scrumptious Susan Hayward) which I saw in a flea-ridden third-class theater in those my salad days.

    Good one, Joseph.

    • Joseph-Ivo says:

      In a previous live, educating german shepherds, my tutor told me that one pad on the shoulder had the same effect as 10 kita’s. Since then I experienced that people are just like german shepherds in this respect. Don’t focus on bad behavior, focus on good behavior.

      But yes punishment or better confronting someone with the results of bad behavior is essential too. Also for dogs it is important to know that there are strict limits and that there is a “higher authority”. I would like to see for plunder that all wealth is confiscated instead of just the stolen one (or nothing at all if you play it well). Offenders should be relocated to a resettlement area to a poor agricultural area in the province if they don’t like the city so they can feel who they were stealing from. Not to special prisons or hospitals.

      The passage is the future. I have been there once and remember the satisfied feeling of looking back and feeling I had had a good live, nothing horrific about it.

      Nice to hear your wise words.

    • Adrian says:

      Dostoevsky… Was not able to finish reading Crime and Punishment, I think I was on the part where Rodion murdered the pawnbroker. I started reading Dostoevsky to answer some life’s questions. Well, your post just reminded me to continue reading.. 🙂

      • Joe America says:

        Dostoevsky is pretty heavy stuff. I haul him out once in a while to exercise my cranium. Like, it takes endurance, discipline, and reading slow. 🙂

        • Adrian says:

          I agree. The heaviness led me to read CS Lewis.. I’m going to try Tolstoy.

        • edgar lores says:

          Here are some tips:

          1. Alternate heavy reading with light reading.
          2. Go from long works to short works.
          3. Go from fiction to non-fiction than back again.
          4. Take a break from reading: watch TV, listen to music, do yard work, pay attention to the wife. (The second to the last will give you self-satisfaction, and the last will earn you much karma.)
          5. Resist the temptation to read only for entertainment.
          6. Get yourself an e-reader (or tablet) that can support several formats: mainly epub, mobi and pdf. The AZW format (Kindle) is a nice-to-have option. I find that integrated light allows me to read in bed with no other light source.

  3. baycas says:

    Culture change should also impose a secular state rather than follow what religions dictate.

    • Joseph-Ivo says:

      1420, Jan Hus and the 4 articles of Praag, the discussion is not new.

      But I believe in a natural process. Similar to superstition, thing have to have a reason, and “God” as default solution. The more we understand nature, the less we need God as “deus ex machine” to explain things. Stephen Hawking taking it to the extreme.

  4. baycas says:

    Just watched “Your Bleeped Up Brain” last night. Episode: “Superstition”.

    Superstition is one way to deal with the chaotic world, they say.

    • Joseph-Ivo says:

      Missed the program 😦

      Cooling the brain is the problem. Too many problems at ones might overheat it. Superstition gives answers, problem solved, next one.

      • Joe America says:

        “Superstition gives answers, problem solved, next one.” You put me rolling on the floor laughing on that one. There is a certain pragmatism to superstition.

        My wife is very superstitious. We are planning a trip to the US in a couple of months. I told her to leave the bullet-amulets, voodoo dolls, and other trinkets home. Airport security frowns on such items. I am superstitious, too, and curse black cats that cross the path in front of me and refuse to walk under ladders. But God and I are on good terms as far as I know.

      • edgar lores says:

        On superstition:

        1. Superstitious belief is not a real solution. It is a solution in the sense of a panacea.
        1.1. I wonder though whether an honest “I don’t know” is a better recourse than adopting a superstition.

        2. The reason for eschewing superstition is the perniciousness of belief. How much of our lives is twisted as a result? How many lives have been lost at the altar of superstition? If one considers organized religion to be superstition, and I do, then the count of lost lives is…countless.

        3. We do need a solution for every mystery. A solution may or may not come in time. In the meantime, why not retain the mystery and the sense of wonder?
        3.1. We are so fragile creatures. Being vulnerable requires a certain strength. But being vulnerable keeps us open and keeps us from falling into the arrogance of blind belief and faith.
        3.2. The opposite of vulnerability is conviction. And does not conviction make convicts of us all?

  5. manuel buencamino says:


    There are those among us who see the need for a different kind of politicians. Then again there are those who do not see it that way. It’s a perpetual see-saw, a dictator is overthrown and yet his children and minions are elected, a president is convicted of plunder and yet he makes a political comeback, his children are elected, and on and on it goes.

    I used to think that since elections in this country were always questionable then winners were not necessarily the electorate’s true choice. But we’ve now had three elections 2007, 2010, and 2013 where we have moved towards cleaner and cleaner elections, polls that truly reflect the electorate’s will. And yet the same dubious characters keep getting voted into office. Like you, I tend to conclude that there must be something wrong, not with the election system which is getting cleaned up, but with the electorate itself.

    If I get your drift, you view the problem as a question of teaching values – “Education as in schools broadly teaching and practicing good values, or parents seeking the best education for their child” – as the way out of this dilemma.

    I think it’s safe to assume that we share the same values. Lying, cheating, stealing, and killing are asocial behaviors. Such behaviors cannot be allowed anywhere, anytime. But I don’t know if we can modify or program those behaviors out of people, we can try, we can tinker with the nature and nurture aspects affecting behavior but at the same time we have to be very careful that we don’t turn humans into automatons. We must, in teaching the right values, not forget that the most important aspect of education is critical thinking.

    Too many countries have fallen into the temptation of simply drumming in values at the expense of critical thinking. For example, patriotism, love of country is a good value but absent critical thinking the gullible are easily manipulated into supporting dubious enterprises. My point is, education must focus on critical thinking and providing students with the tools for it much more than teaching values that must necessarily adjust to circumstances and change accordingly over time.

    Many times the values we learned in our schools can become a hindrance to living harmoniously in another society. “That is not what we do back home” vs “This is how we do things here.” Thus one only has critical thinking to fall back on when the values in Rome are not the same as the values in Manila and if one navigates with home grown values instead of critical thinking one will surely crash into the rocks.

    So I’m with you on education but more emphasis on critical thinking than inculcating values.

  6. edgar lores says:

    On education:

    Traditional thinking says that the populace must be educated. Because education is a slow process, it is the politicians who must first be educated.

    We demand that the judiciary be populated by lawyers, and the army by military school graduates. So why not professionalize the equally crucial executive and legislative branches? To run for any provincial and national office, a candidate must have a degree in Public and Government Administration (PGA). Mayors and provincial councilors must have an associate degree. Governors and congressmen a bachelor’s. Senators, cabinet secretaries, vice-presidents and presidents a master’s.

    – Scholarships to a PGA course can be offered to the best and brightest of high school graduates.
    – Minimum IQ score of 125 (above average). (This should eliminate half of the deadwood!)
    – Fraternities and sororities to be banned.
    – Courses must include history, economics, law, philosophy, logic, math, arts and humanities, strategy, science and technology, rhetorics, martial arts, individual and team sports. A foreign language and cooking. 🙂
    – Senators must first serve as representatives, and vice-presidents and presidents as senators.
    – Remuneration should be adequate and equal to the private sector.
    – Executive and legislative officials who have served full terms, over two or three term limits, must have comfortable retirement packages.
    – Some should be offered to teach PGA courses.
    – Others to form think tanks on governmental concerns.
    – Others are certainly to be invited to join private corporations.
    – Ex-presidents to form an Elders Council, a sort of informal constitutional regency that is mostly silent but that can be sought for advice in times of extraordinary crises.

    • Adrian says:

      Very pragmatic approach. Our DepEd should be more creative in educating our people.

      BTW, any philosophical reason why you dropped the “numbering system” on your posts? 🙂

      • edgar lores says:

        Philosophical? Hah, I wish! I used to be an IT analyst and it was SOP to write numbered design documents for easy reference in collegial review discussions. Now I find it useful in organizing thought, structuring sections and ordering sectional items. Not to namedrop or invite comparison, but Wittgenstein also makes – made – use of numbering schemes. It probably pushes back the threat of Alzheimer’s and aids in counting breaths in meditation. 😉

    • Joseph-Ivo says:

      Many schools here are shameless money machines. School owners recruit the cheapest (no master degrees) available resulting in teachers trying to make an extra buck at every occasion.

      Once I made students enthusiast to do some original research for their thesis work, the advisor not appreciating the extra work sends them to the library of another school to copy existing theses and taught them how to adjust so it will appear as original work. All this at a mandatory cost of 10,000 peso per student. At least 30% of the lessons are cancelled often without notice, all starting late . Student learn things by heart without a clue what they are learning.

      The motto of this middle class university is “Character building is nation building”. And indeed it builds characters for a nation where getting money however you can is the norm, coming late is ok, bribing always works, plagiarism makes life easy… Amazing how good most of the students are learning this, they don’t read the lips and listen to the noble Christian talk, but they watch the feet and the corrupt ways of their educators.

      Teachers walk the talk!

      Did I get emotional?

  7. Bert says:

    Here is the thing. How can we be sure that we are what we think we are? What if by some twist of magic and fate we found ourselves suddenly the elected president of the Philippines? How relevant is our asocial behavior be in such a situation, being bombarded with tremendous pressure and temptations every minute of our life as president. Can we be sure then that we remain what we think we are now?

    Me? I cannot say. And I hate Gloria for her asocial behavior as president of the Philippines.

    • edgar lores says:

      Interesting scenario, Bert.

      Only you, of course, would be able to answer your question. But should you find yourself in that situation, the first thing to ask would be: What is my motivation? After of course the inevitable: What am I doing here? And how did I get here?

      But to go back to motivation: Is it fame? Is it fortune? Is it service?

      If we look at the past presidents, we will find that most of them had these three motivations in combination to different degrees, with the first two motivations overwhelming the last. Marcos and GMA are the perfect examples of the pursuit of fame and fortune. Marcos had an eye to history, believed he could deceive history, but was hostage to fortune. GMA enjoyed the fame, but had absolutely no regard for history – why else would she even think of cheating? – and was also fortune’s hostage.

      In my opinion, it has only been the Aquinos who have the put the last motivation first, and most probably Magsaysay. I do not know FVR, but I believe he tried to balance the three.

      If your motivation is primarily service, fame and fortune should have no hold on you. Fame, your good name, will be a future concern, and it will arrive as a result of service.

      However, if fame is a current concern, you will be in trouble because your decisions will tend to be short-sighted and populist in nature. You will have achieved your ambition momentarily, but history will not remember you. Well, it might but only as a poor example of a leader.

      If fortune is your motivation, how unfortunate the people will be. This has been the curse of the nation’s leadership and the nation.

      • Joseph-Ivo says:

        Motivation, may be. But what type of person are you? A strong individual or a team player? Living on a roller coaster or a control freak? An original thinker or a puppet commandeered by someone else? What are the circumstances, a strong congress, strong economy, active pressure groups, strong allies… or the opposite?

        I think that the current president is a team player, control freak, not all too original, but under the shadow of his parents and a few close advisors. Surviving the tasks at hand is more his motivation than leading with a vision and an iron fist as needed.

        • edgar lores says:

          1. Motivation is primary. It defines what type of person you are or, better still, the person you want to be.

          2. In a certain sense, circumstances do not matter. They are a given. They are what you have to work with. If you are a leader, you take the hand you are dealt with and you try to shape things according to your heart’s and mind’s desire.
          2.1. The wisdom of a leader is determining which circumstance, what condition, needs changing most. Is it the form of government (read founding fathers)? Is it slavery (read Lincoln)? Is it corruption (read PNoy)?
          2.2. The art of a leader consists in the methods (people and other resources) he is able to employ skillfully to attain his objectives.

          3. PNoy is both a strong leader and a team player. By all reports, he delegates and delegates well, although he tends to play favorites.
          3.1. It has been noted that the team is weak.
          3.2. Did I say circumstances do not matter? Despite having vision, a leader will be, not at the total mercy, but certainly a hostage to the constraints of circumstances… to a certain extent. The extent may be great or small. You name it – a weak judiciary, a non-performing congress, corrupt civil servants everywhere, China, Taiwan, earthquakes, an airplane crash, Zamboanga, Yolanda, a back-stabbing people. The “tasks at hand” can be overwhelming and distract from the central vision. These tasks have to be attended to and be given priority by their very nature.
          3.3. I am filled with sorrow every time someone mentions the need for iron fists, for a strong leader. Why? Because the implication is that we are weak, that we are mere followers, that we have no discipline, no minds of our own. And why again? Because we tend to take no personal responsibility for the dire conditions we find ourselves in, for conditions that we knowingly or unknowingly perpetuate.
          3.4. We are not helpless and we should be helpful. Why does it take a foreigner – I am referring to JoeAm here – to see the quality of mind and character that PNoy possesses? Why does it take an outsider to see and appreciate the things we should see and appreciate?
          3.5. Not all is doom and gloom. Once in a while, we should go outside and, if by day, see the details of Mother Nature – a cloud, a rock, a dragonfly. And if by night, the moon and the twinkling stars.

          • Joseph-Ivo says:

            I’m a believer in true situational leadership as defined by Paul Hersey. If your followers are ready, meaning knowledgeable and motivated, you delegate. If your followers are not ready at all you’ll have to be more forceful and tell. For the president his cabinet looks quite ready but a large section of his “bosses” are not. A stronger guidance, posture, clearer sticks and carrots might be more effective. Churchill? De Gaule?

            Not only what you want is important, also how you do it , both are situational.

          • edgar lores says:

            Joseph, in my present state of study, “situational” translates to “mindfulness”.

  8. Adrian says:

    I wonder how the original “Pamantasan” (pre-Spanish school) works. Filipinos back then are 100% literate (at least a community being described by a Spanish chronicler).

    With regards to system of government, a scholar described the pre-Spanish government as unique among others. According to him, we are the only one who derived the word for government from the name of a god (bathala), as in “pamathalaan” (the present form is pamahalaan).

    With pamathalaan, leaders are expected to take care of his constituents. Maybe Filipinos are hardwired with this system? Ie. we don’t hold leaders accountable because it’s in the leaders’ nature (being) to be all-loving, all-caring god and it’s not in their nature to be a thief.

  9. letlet says:


    Announcements – 2nd page AN INTERACTIVE STUDY EVENING ON CONSCIENCE AND MORAL FORMATION IN EARLY YEARS – We will look at how this formation can be carried into adulthood and also at the development of the parenting skills. 4 February, 7pm – 8:30pm, Vaughan House, 46 Francis St, SW1P 1QN.


    In England since September 2010, all 3 and 4 years old are entitled to 15 hours of free nursery education for 38 weeks of the year. Early Years Education takes place in a variety of settings including state nursery schools, nursery classes and reception classes ( when children are aged 5).

    This is what the Aquino government needs to implement as this what our country and the people need – Conscience and Moral Formation in Early years education.

    • edgar lores says:

      1. I cannot imagine a four-year old, much less a three-year old, discussing the fine points of deontological ethics in a learned manner.

      2. What I can imagine is that moral lessons can be imparted to such young ones by story telling. At that age we are very impressionable and we absorb lessons by what pretty princesses, handsome princes, and wicked stepmothers do.
      2.1. At a slightly older age, we can begin to use reason to suss out what is good or bad. (I am reminded of that video Cha put up where young Aussies were discussing ethical issues.)

      3. Yes, definitely something the Philippine needs and something the Church will attempt to suppress.

      • Joseph-Ivo says:

        Do not underestimate the importance of moral guidance parents give at that age, most without knowing Plato, Kant or any other philosopher. Teachers are a valuable safety net if parents fail in this task.

        • edgar lores says:

          Agree. At that point it would be mostly parents doing the teaching. It would be interesting to know the methods of the government-sponsored education.

  10. Dee says:

    I think that a middle ground between autocratic and democratic type of governance will work for the Philippines. A distinctly Filipino style democracy that will take in consideration the unique features of Filipino beliefs and culture will be a winner. I often read other Filipinos write that lawless Filipinos become law abiding when they are in a foreign nation, particularly the US. What make them change their behavior? Could it be as simple as the cliche, “When you’re in Rome…?” Or it is because of the law of probability? Could it be possible that the behavioral change is brought about by the realization that he can’t “game the system” in the foreign soil?
    Filipinos are masters of assimilation. They are not as closed minded as some of the other cultures. I think they will respond and adapt to positive changes phenomenally.

    • edgar lores says:

      1. What is the middle ground? If autocracy is the rule of one and democracy the rule of all, then the middle ground would be the rule of the few. In a word, elitism.

      2. There are many kinds of elitism, and I will name two.
      2.1. There is the elitism by virtue of birth, by having rich and powerful forebears.
      2.2. And there is the elitism by virtue of merit, by having intelligence or character or preferably both.

      3. We already have an elitist government. Unfortunately it is mostly of the first kind. The country is ruled by a network of familial dynasties.
      3.1. The people with merit who form part of the elitist government have questionable merit. It is merit based not on intelligence nor character but on personality.
      3.2. Why do we have such people as Sotto, Revilla, the Estradas in the Senate? These are hoodlums with what people take for charisma. (I would use another word rather than “charisma” but it is accurate. And there is no accounting for taste, is there?)

      4. I believe we have the best form of government currently which is the republican form of democracy.
      4.1. It is best because of the separation of powers, the transition provisions for power, and because of the recognition that sovereignty resides in the people and not in a predator .
      4.2. It is NOT best because although it is BY the people it is not necessarily OF and FOR the people.
      4.3. The weakness of democracy is precisely its strength: majority rule by the tyranny of the masses. The masses electing into office people who mainly look after their own, and not the common, interests.

      5. This is where my suggestion of targetted education as a qualification for candidacy comes in: the creation of a rolling – that is not permanent or semi-permanent – elite sourced from the best and brightest of the people. As Joseph as pointed out, the education must be of superior quality.

      6. On culture: I take the point that culture must be considered. I would caution that part of the task of governance would be to reshape the unattractive aspects of the culture – corruption, patronage, mendicancy, family-centeredness to the detriment of the state, impunity, etc.

      • Dee says:

        I do not agree that elitism is the middle ground for Filipinos. I am thinking of a government that is responsive to the people and the people are empowered to be change agents. A government where the best and the brightest sign up to be public servants and live as to true meaning of their chosen vocation. A population that know their rights and responsibilities as good citizen and truly want their nation to flourish. A country where checks and balances prevent extreme sways be it to the right or to the left.
        The US has the right and the left ideologies. Both sides have centrists. The center of the fulcrum is the middle ground. In politics it is called bipartisanship. A ground where the government and the people could meet and admit that they are both after the same goal, and that each group could agree to compromise for greater good.

        • Joe America says:

          Absolutely wonderful statement of national goal. The well-being of the great core of people of moderate standards, with respect for those who hold more extreme views.

        • edgar lores says:

          Thanks, Dee.

          1. Different perspectives lend to deeper insights.

          2. My initial response was descriptive not prescriptive. I was not describing what should be; I was describing what is as I see it. Only items 5 and 6 were prescriptive.
          2.1. My perspective was the form of government (democratic republic) and the particular composition (a combination of oligarchic elitism and personality meritocratic elitism) it has taken in our country.

          3. As I read your response closely, I am struck by the following words: balance, ideologies, centrism, bipartisanship and compromise. And you take the USA as your model.

          4. Second sentence: In a democracy, the people are already empowered to be change agents through the medium of elections. The government has not been all that responsive because the change agents can be bought, and do not use the power of the ballot to ensure a responsive government. We vote in the same clowns time and time again.

          5. Third sentence. Totally agree, and my item 5 is a practical proposal for the harnessing of the best and the brightest. In my opinion, this will lead and should lead to a meritocracy which is a form of elitism. Elitism is not intrinsically bad. I would argue the paradox that democracy to be successful requires a form of elitism. You want the best and the brightest to govern.

          6. Fourth sentence. Currently, Filipinos want their families to flourish at the expense of country.

          7. Fifth to last sixth sentences. The Philippines does not really have extremes of left or right. To be sure, there’s the left in the NPA and the various alliances of labor and farmers, but they are a weak force, and the right in the form of oligarchs and businesses predominates.
          7.1. The extremes we have are not about issues like freedom, social justice, or defense; they are about corruption, patronage, impunity and the encroachment of the Church into the civil domain. The checks and balances we have are overridden by bribery and conspiracy to steal the nation’s wealth.
          7.2. We do not have political ideologies. We do not have a bipartisan set-up. We have a hodgepodge of multiple parties that form on the basis of personalities and not ideas.
          7.3. The compromises, the horse-trading, that our politicians make are not compromises of ideologies or principles. They are compromises to ensure political survival and the gaining of or holding on to power.
          7.4. Alas, the goal is not the common good, it is not service, but survival for fame and fortune.

          8. Your wish list is prescriptive and it is a good one. What I have laid out is mostly descriptive of the reality the good people of our country toil under.

          • Dee says:

            Thank you for the comprehensive and enlightening response. I like your technical dissection and number system. I see 7.1 as the most riveting “reality” I have encountered in your comment. It encapsulates the malaise the country suffer from: corruption, patronage, impunity and the need for church/state separation. What do you prescribe to rid the country of such hurdles?

          • edgar lores says:

            Oh, Dee, I wish I were that wise. Or had a magic wand.

            1. I like the word “malaise”. Looks like but does not rhyme with mayonnaisse. (Oh, the French they do not know how to spell or how to pronounce!)

            2. i was going to give a cheeky answer by saying that my “solutions” range from decapitation to defenestration.

            3. But as an analyst, I have been trained to say that before one can offer any solution one must first describe the problem as accurately as one can.
            3.1. What exactly is the Philippine problem?
            3.2. To answer that question, we must know what the main elements are of that entity called the Philippines. An entity has form and content.
            3.3. Form refers to such things as geography, government structure, infrastructure, etc. Note that there are forms that can be changed and others that can’t be changed. The form of government is a republic and you have the three branches. One can begin to identify the problems in each branch.
            3.4. One can further analyze the executive branch and break it down to the components of the cabinet, the various executive departments: Agriculture, Finance, Education, Foregin Affairs, Energy, Labor, etc. Again one can begin to identify problems in each department.
            3.5. Content refers to such things as resources and people and the interaction of both which is culture. Resources can be forestry, fishing, mining. Again, one can identify problems in resources, in people and in culture.

            4. Where does the Philippine problem lie? Is it mainly in the form or in the content?
            4.1. I think you would agree with me if I say “content”. The problems that we listed – corruption, patronage, immunity are largely people problems. The checks and balances, the laws are there, we just don’t implement them to the letter.
            4.2. The form of government is alright. The procedures and processes can stand improvement but they are workable. It’s the people in them that are the problem.
            4.3. If you go through JoeAm’s opus of a blog, you will find his solution offerings to the problems of form and content.

            5. This blog’s grand solutions to the “people” problem ranges from water-boarding – no, kidding! – from education to the formation of a new religion. No, not kidding this time.
            5.1. But, seriously, my solution would start with a definition of the Filipino Dream. (This has also been touched on here.)
            5.2. What is it that makes us tick? What is it that holds us together? What do we strive for?
            5.3. All successful nations have a narrative, a continuing story, that connects the individual citizen to the nation. The American Dream is that anyone can be president. And this is combined with such ideals as equality, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
            5.4. The Australian Dream is to own a house. And this is combined with ideals of mateship, a fair go, and sporting glory against the Poms and the Kiwis.
            5.5. The Filipino Dream right now is to go abroad. What kind of a dream is that? That’s a nightmare.
            5.6. You have established part of the Filipino Dream in your ruminations on what constitutes the middle ground.
            5.7. It will take a great writer or a great statesman to define and articulate the Filipino Dream.

            6. From an entirely personal perspective, my adopted solution is to change myself. Inner transformation. I may not be able to change the world but I can change myself. The hope is that in changing myself I benefit existence to the extent of my interaction (inter-being) with all that is. Hence the retreat.

            Sorry for this long response. Hope I haven’t burned your ears.

          • Dee says:

            Again, an impressive dissertation of what the Philippines’ need and what can be tweaked in the present system to make it better. Content-wise, my thinking involves employing the problem solving methodology: 1. Identify, describe and define the problem. 2. Explore ideas and concepts behind the problem as well as solutions and alternatives related to the problem. 3. Identify and pick the best solutions and alternatives that will address the problem. 4. Put solutions and alternatives to test. 5. Evaluate results of tests and see if the solution/alternative solved the problem or we have to go back to step 1 again. This might sound simplistic for some, but I can attest to its efficacy.

            The problem of the ambiguous Filipino Dream. You say right now that can be described as “going abroad.” How could we define the problem? The mass exodus of skilled and professional Filipinos whittle the country’s middle class and drains the brains needed for the structural strength and integrity of a developed and prosperous Philippines. We have to explore the problems within the problem of Filipino diaspora. Why are they leaving or wanting to leave the country? I think you follow my thinking…

            My question is: In the present system, what is being done to make people stay in the country? What are the plans to entice OFWs and overseas Filipinos to come back? I hear a lot of Filipinos saying they will come back when the time is right. I asked them, when is the right time? Most of them say that when crime and corruption abate, when they are no longer afraid of losing their lives and livelihood unjustly, when infrastructure and regulations are available for them to invest their hard earned money…

            For now, I think we all need to assist in defining the Filipino Dream. One that is grounded on the realities of the Philippines. Maybe it will help if Filipinos to have the common goal of realizing the Filipino Dream and collectively overcoming the obstacles to make it a reality.

          • edgar lores says:

            Oh, Dee… I keep saying that. You ask the damndest of questions.

            I’ll get back to you in a day or two. My thinking cap is askew and I have to run some errands…

            For now I’ll say that obviously you are a methodical systems guy (I would say lady, but I’m not sure the “Dee” stands for Dennis or Denise.) 😉

            1. Your methodology is a variation of the Systems Development Life Cycle (SDLC) I am used to.
            1.1. I wish we could apply it in it’s entirety to the Philippine situation but we can’t. We are not dealing with a closed system but an open one. So steps 4 and 5 are not practicable.
            1.2. They would be practicable if we were like Stalin or Mao able to conduct social experiments unmindful of the costs. But we do not have total control of the system in any wise – management-wise, resource-wise, time-wise.

            2. But definitely we can do steps 1 to 3.

            3. A few comments on the Filipino Dream as stated.
            3.1. I concluded – perhaps too hastily – that it is a nightmare. But part of my methodology is to question everything. So could it be that the dream of going abroad is a valid dream that can be adopted?
            3.2. We know the downside of the OFW experience – the materialist values, the broken families, wandering spouses, unguided children, incest, cybersex, employer abuse, the brain drain as you mention, the loneliness, and sometimes the end result of total waste, as if all that time and effort were for nothing.
            3.3. We also know part of the upside – the contribution to the economy, the higher standards of living, higher education for the children, the access to and acquisition of goods and real estate, and the possibility of an early and self-sustaining retirement. It has also been noted that OFWs, having been exposed to better worlds, bring a new consciousness of possibilities and form a united voice against conditions in the country.
            3.4. Certainly the OFWs are fulfilling a global need. In a sense the OFWs are like the untouchables of India, performing lowly but necessary tasks on a global scale.
            3.5. But the work scope of OFWs is quite wide, ranging from menial work, merchant marine work, technical work to managerial work.
            3.6. We are an astonishingly adaptable and intelligent race. We are also an astonishingly stupid people.
            3.7. What I dislike about the OFW experience is the element of indignity. No, not that work is undignified but that we are treated, implicitly if not explicitly, like commodities and subject to maltreatment. That and the fact that we are away from home most of the time.

            4. I will leave the definition of the Filipino Dream to you.
            4.1. I would like to look deeper into why we have a “people” problem because part of the difficulty of defining a common Filipino Dream is the issue of disunity. We are a divided people, divided by sea, by language, by class and by belief.

          • Dee says:

            “steps 4 and 5 are not practicable”

            I think they will be practicable if we are talking about laws and regulations. Take FOI as in an alternative solution for government officials’ corruption problem, for example. Step 4. Pass FOI. Step 5. Evaluate if the results are satisfactory. If results are buggy, patch FOI (amend the law). If it does not work, repeal it then go back to Step 1 and start requirements gathering again.

            Maybe you can train the Filipino government administrators and legislators in Agile methodology, particularly Scrum. 🙂

            I might find time to flesh out MY “Filipino Dream” as I do not think the concept is a “one size fits all.”

          • edgar lores says:


            At the macro level, steps 3 and 4 are hard to put into practice. Not impossible but impracticable.

            At the micro level of law formulation, much of the implementation issues should be foreseen and provided for within the law itself. The amount of checks and balances to produce one bill is enormous: two houses of congress; public hearings; fine-tooth combing by congressional staff and executive staff; and first, second and third readings. Yet despite these procedures, flaws abound in the final product (e.g. the Cybercrime Law). Of course, there is, as you say the process of amendment.

            But the process of amendment takes time and effort. The feedback mechanisms are not that efficient, and even if they are, the amendment process itself is strewn with difficulty.

            Take the Party List System, for example. A very bold experiment that the framers wrote into our Constitution. What were they thinking? From the viewpoint of principle alone, the concept is flawed because it allows a single citizen to have multiple and unequal representation. This is patently undemocratic. Apart from the base district representation, one may have a second rep because one is a Bicolano. One may also have a third rep because one works as a security guard. One may have a fourth rep if one happens to belong to the LGBT community – that is if and when Comelec approves of that sector. 🙂

            So now we are burdened with sectoral representatives who literally bought the office and who represent themselves rather than any true sector of the population. How do we now amend the Constitution? What effort and expense will it take? And what do we do with the sitting party list reps?

            High hopes are pinned on the FOI but it will be a disappointment for some years to come. Why? Because it will not be like Google. People expect they will able to submit a query and get a response in 0.21 seconds. The Erin Tanada version of the bill provides for computerization at the agency level. It does not provide for internodal connections or a central databse. It does provide for centralization of data in the National Archives, but this is more of a historical database; it is not like an active, working and queryable central database will be made available, a replica of the one, say, at the Commission on Audit.

            How do we know that the complete data will be there? If one was looking for a subcontractor’s document on an infrastructure project in Dumaguete will the document be there? Or will it be sitting on a PC in a senator’s office? Or in a filing cabinet in the subcontractor’s office which may or may not longer exist? Can you imagine the document imaging processing technology required? Input forms will have to be standardized and be mostly in digital form. Can you imagine the massiveness of the storage requirements? We will need an NSA edifice – make that two. Can you imagine the file and indexing structure to address one simple query? Procedures and protocols will have to be developed to handle repeat requests, duplicate requests, nuisance requests, single document requests, multiple document requests, etc. And then what the requester will get is a heavily redacted document that hardly makes any sense.

            And even if the data were there, we may be denied access for many reasons. Will anybody be able to request the SALNs of Rep Dimakaisip for a period of several years? And if we were given access, we would be looking at history or a forged document. That is we would be able to analyze whether fraud was committed but we would not be able to determine if fraud is being committed.

            P.S. I am not a Scrum adept, only in using a spoon and a fork. 😉

      • Joseph-Ivo says:

        Follow the money. I’m afraid that the inequality will keep growing. More poverty as we see, less powerful middle class because everyone with a little initiative leaves the country. We have exactly what the ruling class wants, telenovela politics without any fundamental discussion, a judiciary for sale, a church keeping the people “innocent”.

        Judging at the height of the fences of walled subdivisions and the number of security guards, I believe that we are close to a point of no return, where violent social upheaval will be the unavoidable outcome.

        • Joe America says:

          Well, I’m hoping for the building of a larger “aware middle class” (call center workers, returning OFW’s, a bigger group of managers and people paid decently) whose desire for fair dealing and opportunity will eventually isolate those walled compounds as very puny, in the scheme of things. But then, I’ve been frequently labeled as “naive”.

          • edgar lores says:

            According to the Internet, the color of naive is: #FBF8EE in hex and 251,249,238 in RGB. It looks like light sand. (One can enter the hex code in Google.)

            The color of rosy is: #FF007F (hex) and 255,0,127 (RGB).

            Hope is either green, blue or yellow. Wiki says it’s green for springtime.

            I have moments when I feel the truth of what Joseph is describing. Worst even. I guess we all do.

            But at the moment, color me #00FF00.

          • Dee says:

            Several sociological studies prove that a huge and strong middle class has a structural linkage to country’s democratization. As more people earn a decent living wage, they are able to afford higher education, which in turn elevate their decision making processes making them less prone to vote selling, patronage, bribery and gullibility.

          • Joseph-Ivo says:

            So good for all those countries where this 10 million OFW middle class live.

            I still have to meet a college student not dreaming to leave the country. The weak, the passive, the lazy struggle to get out, they will stay here in poverty and will be less likely to send the next generation to college.

            I live in a subdivision where 50% of the houses are empty belonging to OFW’s who did not return, but still dreaming to retire here one day… .But for now they don’t have the “courage” yet to let their begging families disappear in misery. The neighbors house belongs to 2 nurses, man and wife, working in London for more than 25 years. Lola, 82, takes care of the house and secretly sends all the little money she gets to do so to her son, an alcoholic (?) with 5 children in the province. Lola is surviving on the leftovers our helper passes secretly through the fence. Not all OFW stories are smooth and happy.

            Glad I’m not the president.

            • Joe America says:

              Ha. Well, if you were president, you’d have a lot of support from the Society. Yes, I think there are different classes within the OFW crowd, and someone should write about that. The professionals who seek a decent return for their investment in education, the desperate, the wanderers and explorers, ha, the crooks . . . probably some others, too.

          • Dee says:

            The middle class of the Philippines are victims of local circumstances. It is sad that most college graduates could not find jobs that will pay them a decent salary to stay in the country. I have met people who do not relish being away from their families. Some mothers/fathers who left their children with their relatives so they could provide a better future for them are often racked with guilt and loneliness.
            The Filipino diaspora is an issue that also needs urgent attention. It tears families apart and keeps the nation from progressing because of labor and brain drain.

  11. David Murphy says:

    Hi Joe, Just went back and reviewed the 344 comments on your blog about Ninoy Aquino, most of them pretty well centered on the main topic. Wanted to compare that to this blog where the comments seem to be free-floating and wandering off on different tangents. No point to this comment, just thought the difference was interesting.
    My own brand of naivete: I can’t shake the belief that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo started off with good intentions but fell victim to a desire to stay in power, not for personal reasons but because she lost faith in the Philippines’ and the Filipinos’ ability to create a sound government responsive to the needs of the people. Her attempts at gaining wealth through illegal means were only a way to get the financial means to buy the influence she needed to stay in power in order to accomplish the beneficial goals she envisioned. Yeah, I know, that’s naivete taken to the nth power and I guess it’s more a question of my own lack of motivation to be wealthy and my simple-minded over-abundance of good intentions but I find it a more probable motivation for the daughter of an honorable politician than the desire to accumulate personal wealth. Still wrong but due more to a unrealistically high appreciation of her own importance than to baser motives.
    Oh, couldn’t let this slip by. You wrote, ” I’m went back to John Grisham.” Makes me want to take a cheap shot like, “What is your first language?” It’s not a big deal and I’m pretty sure that I’ve done worse but as one person who loves language to another I just had to rattle your cage a little. ; p.

    • Joe America says:

      Ahahahaha. It’s the cheap Chinese keyboard. It keeps doing that.

      Interesting perspective on Gloria Arroyo. I agree there was a change over the years from seemingly well intended to corrupt. I always attributed it to her husband’s good old boys club of favors and kickbacks. But I have no idea whatsoever.

      And I agree on the atmosphere, one blog thread vs another. I retreat over here when I want maturity and contemplation. The other is too rife with challenge.

    • andrew lim says:


      I have considered that angle for some time now – that Arroyo, who was born into privilege, wealth, education and power would not endeavor to accumulate ill gotten wealth for the sheer pleasure it brings but to fund her self defense against forces who wanted to unseat her. (military, Estradas, etc) and to protect her after her term.

      But it is not excusable- and look how one corrupt act with a seemingly justifiable excuse resulted in a freefall throughout the rest of her term. It’s like that Breaking Bad TV series, where the justification for the lead’s life of crime was his family’s financial security because he had cancer. But it led him to darker paths, and destroyed him eventually.

      She could have run to the people for support- the ones who now defend Pnoy, instead of committing plunder, if that was her only concern.

      I’ve also pondered if the only crime of Gloria was to cheat in the election, and did not steal, would she be forgiven by the intellectuals and the middle class? FPJ was just another Erap for these sectors.

      By the way, the elder Macapagal wasn’t known for his integrity, either. But the daughter surely beats him in the scale of her corruption.

      • manuel buencamino says:


        Compared to us your observation that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was born into privilege, wealth, education and power is true but compared to her friends at the Assumption she was not. Assumption in those days was truly an exclusive school reserved for old families and you and I know that the Macapagals were far from that. She married well but she even took Spanish lessons at the Instituto Cervantes of Manila to fit in with her in-laws. Thus the angle I would entertain is based on a different assumption. Arroyo was always trying to keep up with her classmates and once she got the presidency she wanted to make sure she would be on the same footing as some of her closest friends. But in fairness to her, she was also kind to friends who fell into hard times. She gave them jobs at the Palace and other government offices.

        Finally, being born with a silver spoon is not a vaccine against stealing. There are as many crooks among the born rich as there are among the born poor and not so rich. In the end it is what a family and a person values that determines whether one will be straight or crooked and not one’s position in life at birth.

      • edgar lores says:

        Interesting. The scoreboard: Nature – 1; Nurture – 3.

        1. Three gentlemen have kindly judged Gloria by her intentions.
        1.1. ” ‘We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behaviour.’ Stephen M.R. Covey.
        1.2. Can a leopard change its spots?
        1.3. Yes, apparently it does, but a No from me. Make that Nature score 2.

        2. Is it just me who thinks stealing the ballot was the greater crime over plunder?

  12. In the meantime we only can hope and urge that the President keeps pushing positive change in as many areas as possible.

    Ahhhhh, to quote a john mayer song: “I wana run through the halls of my highschool, I wanna scream at the top of my lungs!”

    that last line’s lack of sense of urgency is really getting into my nerves. as if we have all the time to wait and hope and see for the democratic process to be on the people’s side. as if we haven’t just been treated like the biggest fools YET AGAIN by our politician, in the name of senator bong revilla. and also, as if, with all these years of waiting and hoping and praying, we’ve actually seen significant changes in our government/country. how long will we stay so passive, i wonder.

  13. manuel buencamino says:

    I often hear it said that a big middle class is good. But middle class does not really signify anything except that it is the sector between the upper and lower class.

    To me what is more important is to look at the gap between the upper class and the rest of the classes. For example, if you have a society where you have an upper class of let’s say 20% of the population that controls 80% of the nation’s wealth and a middle class of 70% that controls 15% of the nation’s wealth and a lower class of 10% that controls 5% of the wealth then you still don’t have a healthy society no matter how much wealth the country as a whole has.

    And so I find the terminolgy of left, center, and right to describe politics a bit inaccurate. What is really at play is the politics of status quo, whether one wants it or one wants to change it and to what degree.

    It then follows a vertical (upper, middle, lower classes) rather than horizontal (left, center, right) model will describe better the tension between classes. The model is more down to earth – everybody wants to be on top, nobody wants to be in the bottom.

    Now I’m not saying that we should emulate communist societies and have equality by creating a society where everyone is poor. All I’m saying is we should be mindful of the gaps between classes because the roots of instability lie in those gaps. In any entrepreneural society those gaps will exist but we must try to bridge those gaps to maintain stability and we can do it by socializing a lot of basic needs – education, health, shelter, etc.- and by striving to keep a level playing field. I think corruption will be minimized if we do this. And it serves the interest of those on top to keep everybody happy. Noblese oblige is sound policy

    • Dee says:


      The US demographic classes are as follows: UPPER CLASS: upper upper class, middle upper class, lower upper class; MIDDLE CLASS: upper middle class, middle middle class, lower middle class; LOWER CLASS: upper lower class, middle lower class, lower lower class. Does this system mind the gap between classes that you are talking about?

      I do not mind socialism but who is going to pay for all the services needed to provide for the poor? In the US the middle class carries most of the burden through their collective taxes. The middle class pays the bulk of income taxes due to active employment. Most of the upper class derive their money from passive income which is taxed differently. Often, they pay less taxes than a middle income family. They can also afford financial advisers and the use of overseas tax havens to stash their money. So in effect, the US middle class has to stay large and strong to finance the government’s social services. They are also the cogs in the wheel of the country’s economy because of their discretionary income.

      Maybe you can enlighten me about the role and status of the Filipino middle class. Who are the Filipino middle class? What define and describe the people in this strata? Is the Filipino middle class large enough to shoulder the burdens of a progressive and socialistic society?

      • manuel buencamino says:


        I don’t know where to start Dee, upper middle class, middle middle class, lower middle class?

        My point is every society needs stability . We live in an entrepreneural society so there will be gaps, some people will be more successful than others but, in a just society, success will be due to merit not built-in advantages. My advice then is to study the gaps, find out if the gaps exist because the playing field is tilted in favor of certain groups and correct the bias.

        I don’t know exactly what socialism is. But here’s the thing, people won’t mind paying taxes if they see reasonable returns on them. Free education, universal health care, affordable shelter, peace and order, etc. can stand for taxes well-spent and distributed fairly.

        • Joe America says:

          You . . . you . . . you CANADIAN! 🙂

          • Dee says:

            Thank you for the insider info below on the convoluted and complex system that Filipinos have to overcome in order to raise their standard of living. What I am learning here at the Society is that there are no easy-peasy way to address a lot of the Filipino travails. Each issue is a nestled one, kinda like an onion of a problem. For every layer you peel, there is yet another harder issue to tend to before you can proceed to the next one.

          • Joe America says:

            @Dee, ahhh, yes, an onion it is, overwhelming or rich with flavor, depending on the episode of the day.

        • Dee says:

          I think the gap you are taking about is in the lower class groups. In the US the middle class usually have healthcare insurance through their jobs and could afford their basic needs with some left over to indulge in consumerism. The lower class on the other hand, need the social services to give them a little help while they are transitioning from the lower to the middle class. The objective is to aspire for the next level, kinda like a computer game. If you belong to the lower lower class, you have to aspire to beat that level and proceed to the next one, and so on and so forth until you reach the level where you no longer need the social services.
          I think the US system could be tweaked to fit the Filipinos needs. Please correct me if I am wrong.

          • Joe America says:

            I’m sure MB will reply, but I wanted to say it is this creature called “opportunity” for self-advancement that is integral to the way businesses operate in the US. In the Philippines, the business community seems more inclined to go with the “who you know” model, irrespective of skill or accomplishment. Career paths simply don’t exist. Or even structured raises. The call centers are bringing more of that kind of discipline into being, but for sure, there are few paths up for all the people pedaling tricycles or climbing coconut trees. The Philippine business model, in its seemingly socialistic bent, protects the small transportation company and the sari sari store, and lacks the robust collection of large and mid-range companies that could offer skill-based, achievement-based, salary upgrades. Even the business community is structured to have giants or pip-squeaks, and no meaningful middle class.

          • manuel buencamino says:


            Boarding schools, Ivy league, skull and bones, and their equivalents in England, Europe, Asia etc etc are proof that “who you know” is not unique to the Philippines. It is how the well-connected get their foot in the door, now whether they get to stay and rise in the organization is another story but getting in the door is a big advantage that those who belong have over all the others who have no connections. Was Dubya when he was given legay admission in Yale and then given assistance in his business ventures by friends of his dad? I think Dubya’s story is common at a certain level of American society. And that goes for every other society including communist states.

            • Joe America says:

              Oh, for sure, working “who you know” is actually taught in the US as a legitimate job-searching method. It is called “networking” . . . but based on one’s skills. It just seems to me that in the Philippines “opportunity” is not built into the Human Resources mindset as a driver of business success. That energy is not here driving innovation and competitive behavior. If it were, there would not be so many snarls greeting us at retail shops or government agencies.

          • manuel buencamino says:


            As to social services, do not kid yourself. If only the poor availed of it, America will not worry about the social security and medicare going bankrupt down the road. The reason why social security and medicare are in deep financial straits is because all classes avail of them. Because if, as you claim, the American middle class which comprises the majority of Americans does not avail of social services as much as the poor do then social security and medicare will have no problems, upper and middle class contributions to those funds will be more than enough to take care of the needs of the poor. But how come those funds are in trouble?

          • manuel buencamino says:


            Networking is the coping device of those who were not born connected, if you know what I mean. Based on one’s skills is a proposition belied by Dubya and may others like him. I wish based on one’s skills was reality but it is not. We are getting there but we are not yet there. (By we I don’t mean Filipinos only, I mean globally) The state we are in now is this: skills are a greater requirement for those who have to work their way up not for those who were born on top. Networking as a job search method is a must for us who have to look for jobs, but it is redundant for those born on top. And as the gaps become larger the need to network for those on the right side of the gaps becomes even less.

            Opportunity. Sure anybody can become president but look at the road to the White House. Once upon a time a presidential candidate was picked by party leaders and bigwigs. The process evolved, made more democratic by the primary system. But the fuel remains the same, it is still checks that fund the vehicle of the aspirant. And the checks come from those who believe they know best what is good for the country because they are the ones who matter in the country because they are the ones with the wherewithal to walk the talk. My point is we have to face the fact that opportuinity is limited more by circumstances of birth at this pint in time and will remain that way until we evolve out of it. Be all that you can be is a myth belied by class ceilings.

            Today we see huge gaps not only within societies but also among different societies. Globalization has made us aware of those gaps. We have come to realize that those gaps are the cause of instability internally and internationally. We have to fix the problem except we don’t know how, not yet anyway. We think a merit based approach will do it, but I think merit, i.e. some are smarter and better at it than others, will only serve to justify those gaps not minimize them. So merit offers as much consolation as believing that some are born luckier than others, the paradigm of previous millenia that supported castes, blue bloods, and the divine right of kings. Neither the lucky sperm nor the meritorious sperm paradigms address the discontent and consequent instability caused by huge gaps in living standards.I don’t know what will but we have to do something about them in the meantime. Call them palliatives, sugar ills, or Marie Antoinette’s cakes if you wish, but you have to give them something if you don’t want them to take all of it away from you. I remember an anecdote about Pres Quezon during a time when agrarian unrest flared up. He called the big hacenderos to a meeting. There was a lot of finger pointing – it’s the communists, it’s those of us who over-exploit that’s making it bad for the rest of us etc etc. Quezon listened until everyone said their piece and then he spoke out. He said, whatever it is the fact is those peasants are restless over the present arrangement. This is not about finding blame, this is about what is happening and you can fight to keep the present arrangement but that will be a fight you will eventually lose because there are more of them than there are of you or you can give in to some of their demands now and keep the bulk of your estates while you experiment with alternatives to the present unworkable set-up.

          • Joe America says:

            @MB, I appreciate the elaboration. Maybe, indeed, a merit system in the Philippines would simply re-enforce the inequity. All I know is that there is an energy behind western-style production and customer service that does not appear to exist in the Philippines to any great extent, and that energy seems to come from millions of people working diligently for the next raise or promotion or better job. And there is a complete zero of opportunity for the great laboring class of the Philippines to do that.

            But once you start the analysis, the whole framework of Philippine business structures start to come into question. For instance, I think cooperatives in ag simply don’t work at being the production intermediary between workers and profits. But that is going a little far afield for this thread . . .

          • manuel buencamino says:

            Thanks Joe. But frankly, the energy you see in your society exists here too. Filipinos are as ambitious and hard working as everybody else. And I would disagree that there is a complete zero opportunity … there are not as many opportunities because there are not as many jobs because there are not as many big firms engaged in manufacturing – you are talking about labor afterall…but the services sector is growing and there are opportunities and incentives for advancement that the employees avail of…there are more small businesses here and naturally advancement in small businesses is not as great as in big corporations so maybe this nation of small shopkeepers and small businesses wouldn’t look like the land of opportunity to someone who dreams of making it big in the corporate world…but a job, a livelihood is a job and a livelihood and one makes from it what one puts into it…I hope you are not implying that Filipinos are lazy and Americans are industrious

            • Joe America says:

              Of course I’m not implying that. I repeatedly use the term hard working, because that is what I see. You may be right, the problem is simply lack of economic depth. Still . . . still . . . I rather think you’d get to that depth sooner if the employment model played fewer favorites, emphasized capability, and provided opportunities for the capable to grow. I think we can go ’round and ’round on this because we are seeing different things. And “my society” is the Philippines.

        • Dee says:

          I do not think I am kidding myself. As for Social Security and Medicare, there are two school of thoughts: one claims they are welfare programs and the other maintains that is it a trust fund that working Americans have paid for and are entitled to collect at age 65 and thereafter without guilt, whether they are middle class or upper class. Most Americans will tell you that they paid for it so it is an entitlement and not welfare. The dilemma lies in that Social Security/Medicare was marketed as a sort of retirement plan/medical plan that will takeover when your job no longer pay you wages and stopped your group medical insurance eligibility. The money collected from the working class payroll would be held in a trust fund so every American who paid into it will be able to get it back in form of a monthly check/ medical coverage when they reach their retirement age. The truth is, the money was put in Social Security/Medicare Trust Fund alright, but the surpluses were taken out to pay for other programs and a not-so-wise President spent the accumulated funds to indulge his neocon tendencies.
          It is true that regardless of whether you contributed to the Social Security/Medicare fund or not, at age 65, you can collect Social Security and have a Medicare coverage. Should the upper or middle class person who paid in the system opt out to receive a Social Security checks/ Medicare coverage? Are you an American, Manuel? If so, do you/would you feel like your Social Security and Medicare benefits are hand-outs? Are you going to avail of them when you turn of age? Should there be separate programs for those who paid for SS/MC and those who did not put any money in?

          • edgar lores says:


            Here’s the Oz (Australian) experience.

            1. Social Classes
            1.1. Some say Oz is a classless society.
            1.2. However, in terms of disposable income (DI), there are 5 classes. (Additional info in the table below consists of Average Net Worth (ANW); and Source of Income (SI). SI is either Government Pension and Allowances (GPA); Salary and Wages (SW); or Other (such as private income). I do not have the population breakdown but social mobility is very fluid in either up or down direction.)

            a. Lower Class – Lower. DI of $16K; ANW of $435K; SI: GPA (75%) and SW (12%)
            b. Lower Class – Upper. DI of $27K; ANW of $514K; SI: SW (52%) and GPA (34%)
            c. Middle Class – Lower. DI of $38K; ANW of $555K; SI: SW (80%) and Other (10%)
            d. Middle Class – Upper. DI of $51K; ANW of $705K; SI: SW (87%) and Other (8%)
            e. Upper Class. DI of $89K; ANW of $1.4M; SI: SW (86%) and Other (8%)

            1.3. Some observations:
            1.3.1. The classification by disposable income, that is take home pay, makes more sense than by gross earnings.
            1.3.2. ANW is quite high for all social classes. I attribute this to high home ownership (the Australian Dream) of about 70% as opposed to renters of 30%. A majority of homeowners (60%) still carry mortgages.
   Oz, like the USA, has an urban-skewed demographic. Urban/Rural ratio is 88.6% / 11.40%; USA 82.30% / 17.70%; Philippines 48.90% / 51.10%.
            1.3.3. Oz is a high welfare state with a strong safety net. The Lower Class is supported by government pension and allowances (GPA).
            1.3.4. The Lower Lower Class is mostly made up of retirees and strugglers; and the Upper Lower Class of the working poor.
            1.3.5. Strugglers are mostly single parent families and bludgers defined as people who live on government welfare. (Not all want to play the computer game.)
            1.3.6. The Upper Class is composed of professionals and entrepreneurs.

            2. Taxes
            2.1. Oz is a high-taxing state. The tax rate for the top bracket is 45% vs. 39.6% for the USA and 32% for the Philippines. The threshold for the top bracket is AUD$180K. Comparatively, the US tax rate for that threshold is only 28%. The threshold for the US top bracket of 39.6% is $400K. (The current exchange rate is AUD$1 = USD$0.90 = PHP40. Last year there was parity with the US dollar.)
            2.2. Apart from income tax, the country has a consumption tax (GST) with a flat rate of 10% applied to all goods and services. In comparison the US has no GST but a state sales tax that is variable in magnitude and application.

            3. Universal Health Care
            3.1. Oz has a public health system called Medicare and a private health system.
            3.2. Medicare is available to citizens of all ages and is funded by a 1.5% tax on taxable income.
            3.3. The private health system consists of health insurance that covers either hospital, general treatment or both. Insurance premiums are supported by a 30% government rebate. If one does not have health cover, an additional 1% levy is added on top of the Medicare levy.
            3.4. In addition to the above, the government has a Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) that makes medicine available at low costs for pensioners, low-income workers and people with chronic diseases.

            4. My personal experience with Oz Universal Health Care:
            4.1. Generally, I do not pay a consultation fee ($60) when I visit the doctor (bulk biller).
            4.2. When a bulk-billing doctor is not available nearby, Medicare gives a rebate on consultation fees.
            4.3. I pay a monthly premium of about $140 for limited private health care.
            4.3.1. For dental treatments, I pay the gap of about 50%, which is the difference between the cost of the treatment and the private health discount. On the other hand, I paid $10K for my wife’s extensive crown work last year. (Yes, she wears her crowns in her mouth and not on her head.)
            4.3.2. For optical treatment, eye examinations are usually free (bulk-billed).
            4.3.4. Pathology work (usually regular blood tests every 6 months) is free.
            4.3.5. I paid nothing for visits to a dietician and a podiatrist last year.
            4.3.6. On the PBS, I pay about $6 for prescription medicine that would normally cost about $25.
            4.3.7. Anecdotal: Three or four years ago, my brother-in-law drunkenly fell on his head in the bathroom, suffered a concussion, and was hospitalized in intensive care for some weeks and was in physical therapy for more than 6 months. He paid nada. He is receiving a monthly disability pension of $1500. Consequently, I have an ambivalent desire to crack my head.
   Oz has a high cost of living. The minimum monthly requirement for a “basic” lifestyle is $1800 for a single person and $2700 for a couple. Double those figures for a “comfortable” lifestyle.

            5. Social Security
            5.1. The social security system, like the health system, has both a public and a private component.
            5.2. The public component is a non-contributory retirement scheme afforded to retirees with assets below a CPI-indexed threshold. The current threshold stands at about $1M.
            5.3. The private component is a mandatory contributory scheme whereby 9% – currently rising to 12% – of a worker’s wages goes into privately managed “superannuation” fund companies that administer the accumulation and payout phases. The payout amount is decided by the retiree within max/min limits calculated by the government that take into account such factors as the size of the fund and longevity.

            6. IMHO:
            6.1. A non-contributory social security system is socialistic in the sense that the funds are sourced from the state. It is welfare. (One might argue that it cannot be socialistic as individual taxes form part of government capital, but that is a silly argument.)
            6.2. A contributory social security system is not socialistic. You are entitled to the money you put in. However, it may be partly welfare, if you receive benefits beyond what you put in or if the state co-pays contributions.
            6.3. A universal health system is usually a hybrid. I would say it’s part welfare. A non-contributory Medicare system would be entirely socialistic. In a contributory system, a person may get less or more than he puts in. And there may be people who do contribute but nevertheless enjoy benefits.
            6.4. Obamacare is partly socialistic. Hence, the ire of the Tea Party with its accusations of death panels. Premiums are not entirely borne by the individual; they are supported by the government in tax credits and by the employer in shared premium payments. I gather Obamacare is different to the Canadian model in that the fund holder is not the state but insurance companies.
            6.5. The US should really lift its tax rates to create a more just society (?) and to afford Obamacare and other socialistic programs such as free education, unemployment allowance, child and youth allowances, parenting allowance, widow allowance, disability allowance, cash transfers and free birthday cakes. Or implement a uniform VAT/GST. Or lower its defence budget. I, too, am a Canadian!
            6.6. Note that the Oz models of social security and health care contain both socialist and non-socialist elements. It is government pays and user pays.

          • edgar lores says:


            6.3 And there may be people who do NOT contribute but nevertheless enjoy benefits.

          • manuel buencamino says:


            Those schools of thought are characterizations of a system. Depending on where you sit, you will call it welfare or trust fund or entitlement or forced savings. But the object that everyone is looking at is this: it is a machine that takes a proportionate cut from everybody’s paycheck and it redistributes those cuts back to the contributors proportionate to how much they have paid into the machine. I am not an American but I have worked in America and paid social security taxes. I will not avail of them as I don’t live in America anymore. I now consider those contributions as my foreign aid program to Americans. Anyway, one’s emotional reaction to a social security check, whether one sees it as a hand-out or entitlement or forced savings, is not as important as getting the check when it is time to get the check. But I was speaking to another matter, I said all classes avail of social security/medicare. There would have been a bigger surplus if it was only the poor that needed and availed of social security. As to who misspent the surplus and when, well that’s another matter.

          • Dee says:

            Thank you for the Aussie class and social services experiences/observations. I admit that it is very educational for me as I did not have much idea on how the Australian government works before I read your comment.

            What stuck most is this:
            “1.3.4. The Lower Lower Class is mostly made up of retirees and strugglers; and the Upper Lower Class of the working poor.”

            The reason is, the recent US recession affected a lot of retirees whose savings and assets are in form of home equity, 401K and various stocks. When the housing bubble burst and the financial markets bottomed, a number of middle class, even upper class retirees lost their nest eggs and joined the lower class. Talk about fluid downward mobility! For some retirees, the slide to the lower class literally happened overnight. All they got left was their SS check or pension if they have any, to make it from day to day.

            I hope you are preparing well for your retirement as I am. Worst comes to worst, I hope the Eastern filial piety we instilled in our children will work to our benefit. 🙂

          • Dee says:

            @ Manuel

            “There would have been a bigger surplus if it was only the poor that needed and availed of social security.”

            No doubt about it, Manuel. So you are advocating a Social Security and Medicare benefits reform that will favor the lower class? Don’t you think any reform to that effect will be worthless if surpluses are reverted to other programs anyway? There is something wrong with the system for sure, but the solvency of SS/MC does not lie in making it a “pure” social welfare program.

            I would like to hear your experiences about SS/MC in your chosen country. It might give me some clarification as to your point of view.

          • manuel buencamino says:


            I think we are talking past each other. All I’ve been saying is the gaps between classes are large and becoming larger and they should be addressed because those gaps are the sources of envy/discontent hence political instability/peace and order. I said free education, health care etc might help alleviate the problems. I am not advocating what you say I am. The sentence you quoted was a response to your statement implying the middle class carries the burden while the poor and the rich are free riders. My contention is that the middle class carries the burden is not true because everyone’s paycheck takes a hit and the payouts are proportionate to one’s contribution to social security and finally if it’s only the poor who avail of it then there should be a bigger surplus. As to how surplus can or should be used, well that is something I leave to the policy makers of America. All I am saying is it would be good if they use it to address the gaps because at the end of the day it is in the interest of all that inequalities in societies not be too large.

          • Dee says:

            @ Manuel

            “My contention is that the middle class carries the burden is not true because everyone’s paycheck takes a hit and the payouts are proportionate to one’s contribution to social security and finally if it’s only the poor who avail of it then there should be a bigger surplus.”

            As of 2010, according to the Center for Poverty from the University of Michigan, 15% of the US population belongs to the lower class. The US upper class are at 1%. This means that the middle class comprises the remaining 84%. The middle class is the biggest tax paying segment of the American society. The upper class usually do not have salaries, they have company stocks and dividends. The working poor contributes through payroll. There is a minimum payout threshold even for those who did not contribute a dime to the trust fund. The 20th century payout calculations are outdated as people are living longer now-a-days too.

            “…a response to your statement implying the middle class carries the burden while the poor and the rich are free riders.”

            I did not imply that the upper class and lower class are free riders, just stating the fact that the US middle class carries the bulk of the social services funding based on its enormity and the nature of US taxation applied to this population segment. The trust fund is in the red so in effect the recently collected income taxes as well as the payroll contributions pay for today’s SS/MC benefits.

            If you read negative implications in my comments, please let me know so I can explain myself. Maybe the absence of tonal characteristics in written language had led you to assume that I am being haughty. I can assure you that I do not have the tendency. Please stop reading more to my comments. If you feel that am “implying” something, please ask me for explanation and clarification. I am a straight shooter.

            The inequality between the classes in the US are being taken care of through taxation reform and improved social services. How are they being addressed in your country?

          • manuel buencamino says:


            How are they being addressed in my country? We are at a loss just like you. 1% of our country also controls the wealth and the 99% fight over the scraps. Just like in your country.

  14. baycas says:

    From Dr. Holmes…

    As early as 1977 Albert Bandura formulated the Social Learning Theory, considered the most influential theory on learning and development. I’d like to quote Dr Bandura himself, as he says it so eloquently: “Learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do. Fortunately, most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action.”

    In other words, extrapolating from the rigorous studies done in Social Learning Theory, children learn they can get away with something by (merely) watching another get away with something as terrible. In fact, the (initially merely) observing subjects can do even worse, realizing that they can get away with murder (or plunder, or both).

  15. Paul Lazo says:

    Nice read to all and much less tiring to follow due to the absence of inane comments filled with slurs and other %@#!!*&^. Interesting thoughts about changing behavior. Here are my two cents. Let’s start with the two cows. Joe, you and your son are both correct. The Talmud (a book written centuries before the bible) said “We do not see the world as it is, we see the world as we are” maybe not exactly in those words but I’m sure you get the drift. Why do I start with the Talmud? Mainly to emphasize that wise men a very long time ago knew this and many of the great thinkers of the near past and present echo the same thought (Covey for example). People will always manipulate this and the person who put it into words was the propaganda minister of Hitler, Joseph Goebbels…he said “A lie told often enough becomes the truth” . The series, “Bleeped Up Brain” is an extension of this thought (so are the crazy ads that shout ‘If you buy this under ware, your abs will look like….I fall for it all the time). Now, when it comes to changing behavior….I will have to make two assumptions; behavior is value based and values can only be “caught” not taught – which is why changing behavior is hard to do since usually we try teach behavior not model it. This brings us around to the “Asocial Behavior”. The scientific aspect of the essay has merit. I think if you delve further into the study of how a brain learns you will find a similar conclusion. Based on my assumptions, Napoles and the other people in the ruling class are like that because the values they learned were “caught” not taught. There was a time in the history of mankind where worse behavior was actually accepted and was the norm. The Renaissance Popes were known to assassinate their rivals inside Churches (because that was the only places bodyguards were unarmed) and killing, stealing, and plundering had become the right thing to do because they had done it so much to them it was right (Goebbels). Now comes the tricky part. We all know the golden rule…he who has the gold makes the rules. This can also be reversed and state…he makes the rules keeps the gold. Equality will never really exist as long as there are people who want more than the other. Many good intention-ed wealthy people want to help the poor. Many argue that poor people are trapped in “poor thinking.” What they do not realize is they (the rich) are just as trapped in rich thinking as the poor are in poor thinking (Talmud). Mr. Tony Meloto of “Gawad Kalinga” said if you want to change the Philippines the rich have to change the way they think. Why? Because, today, the rich make the rules and establish the models we follow – I believe this to be true also for the US. If a poor person works his way up, he usually assumes all the trappings that the the wealthy enjoy today and that he (the poor person who worked upward) is modeling…just observe the new rich (Napoles being a good example). Is their hope…of course there is hope. I am a Catholic, like most of this country. I pray everyday and say “Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven…. What I am saying is that heaven is here in earth once the will of the Lord is done. If we all followed the will of the Lord Heaven would be on earth. I am not here to convert anyone but to point out that as Filipinos and as a civilization in general, I believe we are headed in that direction. If you look at our recent history starting from immediately after WWII you will find that nations defined themselves by defining their enemies (the evil empire). The crowing achievement of this was “Cold War.” Then suddenly the Berlin wall collapsed and the evil empire disappeared. What followed? Business followed. Businesses threw away the boundaries and defined profit and cost centers – crowing glory “profit and greed.” What will follow business? I hope and pray that as Filipinos and as mankind we will reach an age of enlightenment – the age of Star Trek where money does not exist and people share the skill sets they have. You may think I’m naive, maybe I am, but I would prefer to go my grave with this believe rather than being enraged about all the wrongs that happened.

    • Joe America says:

      Wow, you become the heir to the title “profound yet pragmatic”. I got three very important messages here: (1) values are “caught” not taught; this echoes what others were driving at in this discussion thread, and why the Revilla family is likely on the wrong path entirely, (2) rich thinking is just as confined as poor thinking, so we all need to open up our minds and hearts, and (3) heaven is here on earth if we simply got right with God; to me, that means stop nit-picking, be compassionate, be constructive, think well and allow room for others to offer new ideas to us. Thanks, Paul.

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