Why a Philippine dictatorship is sure to fail

By Joe America

Let’s break the Philippine population into three major component parts.

  1. The entitled. Politicians who are trapos, oligarchs, movie stars, and others who get rich and powerful by working within the class of entitlement and impunity to share opportunities and trade favors. The Philippines even has judges in this class, reflecting the gross ethical bankruptcy of this group.
  2. The educated elite. University professors, middle business managers (if they are honest), politicians who believe in democracy, and people who have traveled enough, and read enough, to understand the importance of human rights, laws, and the discipline of good ethical behavior. They are wiser than most which arouses envy and generates resentment from those in the other two groups.
  3. The needful masses. Lower-level workers who see others doing better than them, commuters waiting in lines, farmers and fishermen who can barely survive, tricycle peddlers, mothers with seven kids, the hungry . .  and many, many more. There are a whole lot of people in this group. They operate more with emotions and superstition than knowledge.

A lot of Duterte supporters, most notably Senator Cayetano, like to point to Singapore to justify President Duterte’s autocratic style. The Philippines is on the path to success, they say, because this kind of authoritarian might is needed to cut through the crap of corruption, drugs and entitlement.

I’m gobsmacked. Never before in my life have I seen carabao pies packaged as perfume.

The dictator Marcos and the aspiring dictator Duterte put their power base together on the strength of group (1) manipulating group (3). The powerful and entitled are using and abusing the needful and needy, while telling them otherwise. Well, that is a personal opinion, of course. Not everyone thinks it is abusive for Filipino cops to murder innocent Filipinos by the thousands. Perfume in the Philippines comes in many different stenches.

The educated elite (2) are the opposition, the enemies, of this new authoritarian order.

The “dictator” Lee Kuan Yew put together his power base on the strength of group (2), period. His agency officials were honest, educated managers. Technocrats, not family. Economists, not friends. They did not manipulate the needy and needful, they took care of them. Furthermore, Lee was actually Prime minister, re-elected repeatedly. He won based on performance, not threat.

Singapore thrived.

Marcos failed and dealt the nation into poverty for decades.

Duterte is on the path to failure as he undermines the very foundations of the economy. Driving off the BPO’s, insulting nations that host Philippine OFWs and make material economic contributions in the Philippines, kicking out US intelligence resources and allowing terrorists an open, unprotected nation in which to plant bombs, driving off tourists by raising a terror warning nationwide, and portraying the Philippines as a drug infested cesspit. Investors hate risks and instability. Only those with ulterior motives like China consider the Philippines a good place to put money.

The 2017 budget was put together, not to focus on economic production, jobs and wealth, but to advance political goals. Praise and punish, not return on investment. Over 2 billion is allocated for trolls, which, if you think about it, is a destructive business. It does not build anything. When the measure of productivity is 75 insults per 1,000 words, you know this is not a government focused on unity or reducing poverty. (I made those statistics up, to show how easily the propaganda artists generate new facts.)

Lee Kuan Yew promoted promise and hope and opportunity, and built economic strength. The aspiring dictator Duterte promotes darkness and death and fear, and economic bankruptcy, or delivery of the nation to China.

See the difference? If you don’t, kindly accept my condolences.

President Ramos got it right. The ship is sinking. Social turmoil is building. Unity is not forming.

The only question is how long the government can function on the strength of the economy that President Aquino left behind, new debt acquired that pushes back the day the last shoe falls, the amount of perfume sold by cabinet members and trolls to call black white, and help from China that converts the Philippines to a new state of colonialism.

Protest is futile. Those with needs are blind in their desire for immediate satisfaction or revenge. Many of the entitled are also motivated by revenge . . . against civility. Jailing 9 year olds. Shooting innocents. Gleefully building a death state.

It’s a hell of a way to uplift a nation.

And no one in government is listening.


118 Responses to “Why a Philippine dictatorship is sure to fail”
  1. pinoyputi says:

    When justice becomes injustice, resistance becomes a duty.

    • justice is SO yellow – revenge and intimidation is truly Filipino. (sarcasm)

    • jp says:

      Leni is too weak to be President. Their plot is so outdated and blatant. I expected more from them. I’d rather keep RD unless they dish out a better solution

      • What do you consider strength? Obviously not democratic principles and advocacy for human rights. What do you consider solutions? Obviously not steady growth and enrichment.

        • jp says:

          Strength. Independence, strategy, proactivity and will.

          “Obviously not steady growth and enrichment.”

          Steady growth is futile for the PH.
          Definitely not the enrichment of a single class.

          • “Steady growth is futile.” Kindly cite your references from economists who say this. The PH has recently been among the fastest growing nations in Asia and the world. The crushing poverty has no quick cure. 10

            • jp says:

              Not fast enough. Past projections on GDP/capita wont cut it if the country wants to effectively swim and defend itself from the big fishes. Not to mention RD also has to fix the current income disparity to ease the suffering of the lower brackets asap

              • What needs to be done to grow faster? Bring China in? Kindly cite your economic credentials or references. You have declined to do that and seem to believe your citing something makes it true or possible (faster growth). These godlike pronouncements seem nonsense to me, like fake news that the Pope calls excrement. 10

              • jp says:

                Similar Q: Have you held PH office at the national level? I leave the experts to their respective fields. You can ask MBC members, and past economic secs if you’re looking for direct answers

              • jp says:

                A single sample is not indicative of the truth. Not here to net debate as i find that a waste. If people genuinely want answers, then they should consider other sources aside from xinhua

            • jp says:

              Ang knows the local economy more than most outsiders do. http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/820839/ramon-ang-supports-digong

              In other news. http://www.sunstar.com.ph/manila/local-news/2016/12/09/dureza-has-good-warm-chat-loida-lewis-new-york-514171
              The problem when you cant be independent. One less issue to fix for him

              • chemrock says:

                You obviously read only the headlines, not the details. Actually only one single sentence was attributed to Ang. Ramon Ang only said the country will fly if the president succeed in getting rid of drugs, criminality and corruption. That’s all he said.

                He should explain how can the president solve corruption if he accepts money from Imee Marcos, if he goes all out to promote only the export of bananas for the benefit of Antonio Floirendo who is his biggest campaign contributor and who was Marcos crony who cornered the bananas industry and impoverished thousands of small bananas farmers.

                Ang should explain how the country can fly when the president is not addressing the issue of poverty, when he has drastically cut the budget for education, when traffic is still bad, when his actions are causing foreign investors to worry…. I could go on.

                Ramon Ang was simply doing what we call lip service. He doesn’t wish to be the next Ongpin. All those capex he talked about didn’t happen overnight – the plans took root during Pnoy time.

              • jp says:

                Open minded response shouldve been to search deeper instead of asking trivial and defensive questions https://youtu.be/PFY0nE3odKI

              • karlgarcia says:

                That is what Chemrock did, he dug deeper by reading beyond the headline.

      • I would add that the “weak Leni” remark is consistent with the current organized initiative by the Duterte propaganda staff to denigrate the Vice President to further promote a return for the “strong Marcos”, and punish the VP for withdrawing from the Cabinet. You get scored a 10.

  2. InSearchofGrace says:

    A Duterte supporter, seemingly highly educated with trapo mentality nevertheless, commented that there is a method to the president’s madness, his foregone conclusion being that we should let him be or continue with what he started. I posed, “What method?” He does not have any; if he has, it is inside his head, far from articulated. So he has to backpedal and explain all the time. Unwieldy shotgun approach. One thing is sure, the signs of where he is taking the country are deeply disturbing. Who signed up for turning to China as economic / military partner in place of the United States in the campaign stage? Who can truly say wanton killing of poor vulnerable drug suspects is okay?

    At any rate, thank you for your incisive essay as always, Joe. I hope this finds its way in Cayetano’s read list and those who unwittingly serve as “useful idiots” to a mad man. I am sorry to say your piece depressed me alright — the part that protest is futile to / for the third group.

  3. NHerrera says:

    Mighty thoughts in a capsule, complete with the phrase carabao pies packaged as perfume for emphasis.

    • karlgarcia says:

      So shut your pie hole does not mean shut your mouth.

    • NHerrera says:

      Another carabao pie packaged as perfume this time from Arroyo:


      • chemrock says:

        The Duterte magic. He made Arroyo’s neck brace disappear when the best doctors in Philippines can’t do that

        I notice GMA is getting more vocal of late. Is there a script

        • karlgarcia says:

          Disappearing neckbraces and wheel chairs. What a maestro!

        • grammy2342 says:

          It’s the big lie that was so obvious from the start. Arroyo’s lawyer claimed that her ailment was spreading throughout her body. What was wrong with her was spondilytis affecting the neck and spine. How can that spread? And voila, Duterte cured her magically!

    • NHerrera says:

      And still another carabao pie packaged as perfume this time from Gordon as Chair of the Senate Justice Committee in a soon-to-be released report on extrajudicial killings.


      • grammy2342 says:

        Gordon is my greatest disappointment. And to think that l used to admire him and even voted for him! Whatta giant fake!

        • That nails it accurately from what I’ve been able to observe.

        • J. Bondurant says:

          I know how you feel, grammy. I voted for Perfecto Yasay when he ran with Nick Perlas during the 2010 elections. Now I am exceedingly sorry that I ever placed any faith in the man.

        • jp says:

          We have a similar sentiment:
          I used to admire him.
          Then disappointment.
          Then back to admiration.
          Go figure…

          • LG says:

            JP, if you vacillate about a person, it might mean, your bias are not well founded…for or against. It’s not the person, it’s you to question.

            • edgar lores says:



            • jp says:

              As all people and society itself are bound to change. To stay the same despite the need would be suicidal. I dont close my doors to new ideas

              • @jp, I find your observations incredibly amusing, and so, to other readers, that is why I do not ban him/her. It’s like, you have entered the most intelligent and sophisticated discussion thread in the Philippines, and you persist in offering up platitudes and nonsense as if being wiser than all others in this forum. You are the prototype of the new intellectual reach of so many these days. The blog article I wrote about it was entitled “The confidence of the dumb”, and you might want to look it up. I have I figure about a week’s humor left in me, and unless you turn to substance of thinking, then you are gone . . .

              • jp says:

                Im not suprised by your constant condescendence and self righteousness, as i have initially assumed. It simply shows your western inhibitions, the truth that you are intolerant of other ideologies, and that intellect and democracy here are mere illusions. Feel free to do as you please. Im willing to accept other ways

              • What, exactly, are those ideologies that I am intolerant of?

              • ps, it is not condescension to describe a certain quality of unsubstantiated and ridiculous claims as trollish and dumb when they are in fact trollish and dumb. Who but a nutcase or troll would claim the world-leading PH GDP growth is not good enough, as if it were possible to do better and eradicate poverty in a short time, but be unable to cite authoritative references to support the claim?

          • grammy2342 says:

            I have heard corruption accusation from those who lived in Zambales and I used to defend him. But this recent events have given me a cold water dousing wake-up call. Sorry for late reply. Slow internet is the culprit.

      • Manila Times reported that the Senate just had the 2 best Senators (Gordon and Lacson) and the worst (de Lima and Trillanes).

        Made the rest of my day awful, when I just read the 1rst paragraph, having my attention caught by their headlines at the receptionist area.


      • karlgarcia says:

        you forgot “eu de toilette”

        • karlgarcia says:

          oops! eau de toilette is diluted parfum.

        • NHerrera says:

          Ah, my friend with the delicate nose for scents, according to Wikipedia — I hope the information has not been revised or distorted by perfumery companies, etc — there are several types of perfumes:

          The intensity and longevity of a perfume is based on the concentration, intensity and longevity of the aromatic compounds, or perfume oils, used. As the percentage of aromatic compounds increases, so does the intensity and longevity of the scent. Specific terms are used to describe a fragrance’s approximate concentration by the percent of perfume oil in the volume of the final product. The most widespread terms are:

          * Parfum or extrait, in English known as perfume extract, pure perfume, or simply perfume: 15–40% (IFRA: typical ~20%) aromatic compounds

          * Esprit de Parfum (ESdP): 15–30% aromatic compounds, a seldom used strength concentration in between EdP and perfume

          * Eau de Parfum (EdP), Parfum de Toilette (PdT): 10–20% (typical ~15%) aromatic compounds, sometimes listed as “eau de perfume” or “millésime”;

          * Parfum de Toilette is a less common term, most popular in the 1980s, that is generally analogous to Eau de Parfum

          * Eau de Toilette (EdT): 5–15% (typical ~10%) aromatic compounds

          * Eau de Cologne (EdC), often simply called cologne: 3–8% (typical ~5%) aromatic compounds; see below for more information on the confusing nature of the term “cologne”

          In addition to these widely seen concentrations, companies have marketed a variety of perfumed products under the name of “splashes,” “mists,” “veils” and other imprecise terms. Generally these products contain 3% or less aromatic compounds.


          • karlgarcia says:

            Mant thanks.👍🏻

          • sonny says:

            Ah, NH. This is what I like about THS, how we can pleasantly digress into other familiar subject areas and not mind the new subject. This aromatic subject brings back high school Chemistry projects of how to extract Ylang-Ylang essence by immersing macerated petals into an ethanol extractor to get a basic perfume product. Of course this leads to majoring in college Chemistry and getting to play with Gas Chromatographs to get exact compositions of kalachuchi and pine essences. Only time and profitability are the limits. 🙂 Walter Mitty move over.

          • LG says:

            Did not realize the many types. What info for buyers and users! Uno to NH.

      • edgar lores says:

        Wonderful crap!

        • NHerrera says:

          Specially created for the delicate noses of Arroyo and Imelda — extra strong scents: Parfum or Extrait quality.

  4. andrewlim8 says:


    I hasten to add that two major blocs that prop up Duterte are not exactly known for virtue or integrity: the Marcos and Arroyo blocs. They simply cannot resist dipping their grubby hands into the cookie jar.

    So who’s still buying the myth that Duterte is anti-corruption?

    “Galit sa corrupt,
    Yun lang mahirap”

    • pinoyputi says:

      Only last week 3 persons were arrested for drugs use in a hotel room near New Silay Bacolod Airport. A Barangay Chief of brgy. 35 Bacolod ( a former PBA star) another guy and the grandson of Ignacio “Iggy” Arroyo were arrested. Only the grandson of Iggy Arroyo was released. No prosecution. The grandson was shot in his hand. They reserve the head bullets for the poor.

  5. karlgarcia says:

    That anti-US stuff all changed after that Trump phone call,or did it?
    Difference bet LKY and the situation of Duterte was well articulated, it is very opposite, and in this case opposites do not attract.

    • J. Bondurant says:

      He only thinks it changed. I agree with what one analyst said: Trump won’t bother Duterte about human rights but he’s going to want Duterte to kowtow to America.

  6. Gemino H. Abad says:

    Du30 is right on track to self-destruct! — “what rough beast slouches toward Bethlehem to be born”? (from William Butler Yeats’ poem, “The Second Coming”). Democracy is People Power! — apocalypse now, the uncovering, the revelation: the present government will fall, with the millennials at the forefront of the fast-growing People Power “critical mass.”

  7. Mund Gnz says:

    Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad …. (ancient proverb).

  8. josephivo says:

    Senator Caytano should look at the PISA results first. (Programme for International Student Assessment by the OECD) The 2015 results were released today. Singapore leading again in all fields, reading, math and science.

    Education as the upmost priority has more influence on the nation’s well being than any leadership style. Isn’t poor education is a much bigger enemy for this country than drugs?

  9. Zen says:

    I don’t feel cowered to despondency unless Joe America would come up with another grouping (of these millennials this time). It is to them that my hopes are raised high in these times of madness and utter desperation.

    • The millennials of whom you speak belong to the educated elite, I believe. There are a lot in the needful group as well, just based on age. Many will likely be corrupted by the system if their families are in the class of entitlement. But those who marched against the Marcos burial are clearly well-read and believe the nation should strive for a higher path.

  10. grammy2342 says:

    Arroyo’s ailment was a big show to get sympathy. Her neck brace was due to spondylitis that affect the spine. Her lawyer even claimed to my amusement that her illness was spreading throughout her body. How is that possible for spondylitis? And suddenly, voila the neck brace and wheel chair are gone! Duterte cured her magically! Let’s all bow down in worship!

  11. edgar lores says:

    Eighteen days to Christmas and 24 days to an epic fail of a campaign promise.

  12. J. Bondurant says:

    Senator Trillanes seems to be correct: there’s no need to destroy the Duterte administration from the outside since it’s self-destructing.

  13. “Over 2 billion is allocated for trolls, which, if you think about it, is a destructive business.”

    Joe, as Chief Troll on here, I of course want in on this action—- what’s this all about? some program? I know the Philippines loves foreign consultants and experts, can you put in a good word for me? LOL! … but seriously, what’s this 2 billion allocation for trolls all about?

  14. Thea says:

    I don’t get how the commies deal with Duterte but I sure see how red my educated friend’s face became when F. Marcos was buried in the LNMB. He was a Duterte supporter.

    I don’t blame Sen. Cayetano for being wasted, he has invested 71M Php for Duterte. In local parlance, he is either “Kapit Tuko” or “Kapit sa Patalim” to at least gain his capital. (Sarcasm)

  15. Thea says:

    Why dictatorship will fail in the Philippines,

    1. The country is burdened by debt and is economically unstable. Any dictator has to maintain payouts either by services (to the people eg. LKY style) or bribes/gifts(to friends, supporters and military eg. Marcos style). By thinking this alone, where on earth Duterte can get funds to sustain his position and ambition?Marcos enjoyed the iMF offers in the 70’s, that factor is already missing in Duterte’s term. Do we still have virgin forests? Or major mineral industries? What can he promise? Monopoly? Well, he promised chunky government positions, support to federalism, freeing commies in jail…ah, yes, burying Marcos in LNMB. Where will his funds coming from? Borrowing is short term, a country nor a dictator cannot thrive on debts in the long term.

    2. People,specially the millennials, have access to information nowadays. Filipinos can browse in a minute for any information and current events. Some can travel outside the country. During Marcos dictatorship,only few owned television. Newspapers could hardly reach the far flung towns/barrios. It was easy for Marcos. But now? Any dictatorial ambition has to consider how time has changed. People are not that easy to control anymore.

    3. The wound is not healed. We are still alive. Those who has survived Martial Law can still talk the truth and warn about the conning of a dictator. That is the biggest blunder for a dictatorial ambition, For as long as there are people who will speak up and stand for democracy, dictators will never have a place in the Philippines. We will pass the torch.

  16. Tem says:

    Hi! I have been quietly following your posts and have mostly agreed with you. I would like to raise a point, hopefully, for closer scrutiny. Was the Lee Kuan Yew miracle truly built on group 2? I have friends who have lived in Singapore for ages. They say Lee Kuan Yew was very effective because he had a clear vision of where he wanted his nation to go and he was incorruptible. However, he was not as benevolent as he is painted to be. There is talk that even now, there are still people in prison whose only crime was disagreeing with Lee Kuan Yew. If this is true, what else happened during his reign? Perhaps, his success is partly because he was able to “manage” media better?

    • NHerrera says:

      If I may:

      To the critical thinkers here — such as you are — I believe the “benevolent” dictator LKY may be viewed differently. To my mind, the Saint Mother Theresa even if imbued with the intelligence of LKY could not have made Singapore the way it is. I believe it is a question of what “Red Lines” have been crossed and what moral and ethical values were retained in working towards an objective for the general good of the country.

    • Yes, well, good point for sure, and I’m not inclined to research LKY in that amount of detail. My first wife’s mother worked high up within his administration, and the way I have characterized his leadership method, aside from politics, is accurate. And one would have to ask, okay, if it was not LKY that was the principal builder of the modern Singapore, who did? We’ll never find perfection, but we can sure find a different way than is being done by Duterte. And very different results.

    • chemrock says:

      I will try to answer Team’s queries in the context of this blog.

      Was Lee benevolent – meaning kind, good-natured, begnign, compassionate, caring, charitable etc. I doubt this and I believe a CEO with this purity will find it almost impossible to push a people to great heights. On the other hand, Lee was never malevolent.

      The right word to describe him is he was an absolutely righteous man. He was one of those that subscribed to Roosevelt’s “speak softly but carry a big stick”.

      Many are those that say he does not tolerate dissent. To this I would say NHerrera’s description of the “Red Lines” say it all. Some of these red lines are communism (in our earlier years), corruption, racial and religious bigotry.

      Did he really suppress the press — I didnt feel there was suppression in the sense that there exist a govt agency to vet everything. But he certainly encouraged a responsible press and have at times debuted some editorials. So local press towed the line and have been branded subservient. Back in the 70s Lee had brushes with many foreign papers critical of the way he handled some issues. One of these was Far Eastern Economic Review. When it came to those “RedLine” issues, Lee’s action against those press is worthy of note. He put will ‘right to response’ regulation — the media must publish a govt response, same page, same size, free of charge. Failing to comply, he still did not ban the paper, but restricted it’s circulation numbers. The idea was advertising revenues will make the foreign press self-regulate.

      Was there any miscarriage of justice — yes in two major cases:
      1. Triad or gangsterism was a big problem in our early years. The island was crime- infested, gang fights over territory were daily affairs. The law was ineffective because the public was silenced by their fear of the triad. Lee implemented a draconian rule of incarceration without trial. But there were of course due process of investigation and proving to the judiciary’s satisfaction first. This went on for 2 decades till we broke the back of the triads’ hold on the country.

      2. Lee and his small group of western dedicated intelligentsia rode the tiger (coalition with), the huge Chinese-educated communist party with a large ground support to electoral victory. On gaining independence from the Brits, Lee managed to route the much stringer communists and threw many die-hard commies into jail without due process. Many were quickly released after swearing to give up armed struggles on the streets. There is one political prisoner, Dr Chia Thye Poh who has not been released to this day because he steadfastly refused to sign the non-armed struggle declaration. To him that is an admission that he was a communist which he has denied. He is the longest serving political prisoner in the world. But he is not in jail. He is exiled on a resort island.

      Does he not tolerate any difference of ideas – Lee is an ideas man. He suffers no fools. The problem is he was such a larger than life personality that few dares to oppose him directly. But his inner circle of leaders do contradict him from time to time and he does listen. He accepts contradictory views if you can articulate your ideas and convince him. That was why in our short history, we have used the services of quite a few foreign economic advisors, most prominent of which was Pror Weisemus

      • chemp,

        Do you know of any good books on how the Triad was beaten in Singapore?

        This all sounds similar to what the Untouchables and the Gang Squad did in both Chicago and L.A. the local level was more on harrassment, but eventually the FBI caught up and although they went the scenic route in prosecution via tax laws, etc. until RICO laws which eventually got the courts on board. The rise of big corporations also killed illegal rackets.

        Can you talk more in-depth about how the Triad was brought down, and how those lessons learned in Singapore can apply in the Philippines re corruption and drugs? Weren’t instances of Singaporean judiciary being sullied by the Triad? cops too. How ‘d you guys clean house?

        You ever read https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tai-Pan_(novel) , was Singapore’s history similar to Hong-Kong’s?

      • Tem says:

        Chemprock, thank you so much for the info-laden reply. I have almost given up on on social media because there is usually so little of value. This one from Joe Am stands out like an oasis in the middle of an uncouth desert. Moreover, your insights and especailly the manner that you shared them encourages me to stay on. There are, I surmise, enough of those who use their heads.

        You provided important details on what were previously just opinions in my head about Singapore. Now I am even more convinced that the LKY model is what really works in this part of the world. I thought Marcos had the makings of being the one who could do it for the Philippines. He was a terrible disappointment. President Duterte has the strong will to be another chance for the country to take off to a brighter future. I hope and pray he learns lessons from the successes of LKY and Mahathir as well as from the failures of Marcos.

  17. andrewlim8 says:

    What an apt description by Pope Francis:

    “Using precise psychological terms, he (Pope Francis) said scandal-mongering media risked falling prey to coprophilia, or arousal from excrement, and consumers of these media risked coprophagia, or eating excrement. ”


    Hmmm, paging Sasot and Mocha, purveyors of excrement.

  18. alicia m. kruger says:

    I cringe when people who are intoxicated with Duterte’s carabao perfume compare him with LKY.

    The upside is that people who rule with a God complex, arrogance and disrespect rarely rule long.

  19. caliphman says:

    It is quite painful to see history reenact itself a second time, as the Philippines careens on a path to dictatorship having just buried the remnants and memory of the last one who ravaged and pillaged the country. That the pretexts for seizing unbridled power are similar if not the same is no surprise. To defend against a mortal threat, to bring order to overwhelming chaos, or to lead the Philippines out of poverty and to prosperity. This regime cannot resort to the prior excuse of fighting a communist insurgency given the rapproachment with the reds. So here again is this fantasy fed to this latest would-be dictator’s willing apostles and followers that he is the second coming of strongman Lew Kuan Yew. What is deeply disturbing is so many of our countrymen are willing to swallow this myth out of their blind faith and loyalty to this questionable leader they swept into power. That this pretext and not just a drug war serves as the justification for enclosing the entire nation under his powerful grip is what is truly ominious. It is very clear to me, things will get much worse before there is any chance that it willl get better. The masses will first have to realize that this emperor too has no clothes and those that really value their freedom and their rights are ready to bring down any dictator that denies it.

  20. a distant observer says:

    I hear that reference to Singapore often when talking with Duterte apologetics. In my opinion, one simply can’t compare the two countries to conclude that “what worked in Singapore works in the Philippines as well”. Some basic numbers about geographic and demographic properties say it all: Total land area of Singapore: 697km2, Philippines: 300’000km2. Population Singapore: 5.34 million, Philippines: 99.8 million. About three-fourths of Singapore’s population are ethnic Chinese, while the Philippines is much more ethnically fragmented. It might be to no surprise that it is much easier to “steer” a small island state to success than a large archipelago. One could argue that China is doing exactly that: to implement the thought of Deng Xiaoping, who is said to receive counseling from LKY. It is however too early to draw a final conclusion on this “project”.

    Hannah Arendt, who witnessed and studied the inner workings of fascist structures like no other, argued that “Totalitarian solutions may well survive the fall of totalitarian regimes in the form of strong temptations which will come up whenever it seems impossible to alleviate political, social, or economic misery in a manner worthy of man.” We see exactly that happening now in the Philippines. Coming home recently from a former Sowjet country in Eastern Europe, I was stricken by the cultural legacy two decades of authoritarian socialism left behind. Even more than twenty years later, it is this notion that the life of an individual human being can be discounted as superfluous, which was almost palpable sometimes.

    As for now, I wouldn’t bet on the assertion that “A Philippine dictatorship is sure to fail” soon. Dictatorships always fail sooner or later, but they can be pretty persistent as we all know. And let’s not get into a “bubble” here (I like that word ;). Duterte still enjoys a big support and was just recently assured in his manner by the election of another loud-mouth with authoritarian tendencies across the pacific. And for all the ever-informed and ever-communicating Filipino millenials, we still have Mocha Uson’s Facebook page.

    • And we have pushback rising from a whimper to a shout on the way to a scream. The Pope just said that the likes of Mocha Uson deal ‘excrement’ and reading it is like eating it. Inquiring minds are inclined to wonder, is a government built on misrepresentations even legitimate?

      It is not being in a bubble to push back. It is being civil. There is a difference between a majority and right, where right demands a nation represent civility.

      • a distant observer says:

        Thanks for your reply. I didn’t hear of the Pope’s statements until I read it here. To address your question, one would have to define what misrepresentation exactly means. The concept of political representation contains many other concepts such as accountability, responsibility, representativeness, advocacy and responsiveness. I think a government can gain some legitimacy without being representative, for example by implementing policies that cause a good economic performance (China is doing that). This might not be for the benefit of all groups that are affected, but has to be for the benefit of the groups that are relevant for the government’s survival.

        I agree with you on your point about pushing back is not being in a bubble. What I tried to say with my bubble reference is, that we (by your definition the second component of the population) should be careful to project our deliberated opinion on the society’s third component, in the sense that we expect the resentment we might have against Duterte will sooner or later be shared by his supporters as well. As Trump put it: “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters”. This projection is what the liberal forecasters and media in the US led to predict a land-slide win for Hillary Clinton. I didn’t mean though to just accept the triumph of “excrement” over researched and well-deliberated conditions.

        • A government whose propaganda agents demean a Vice President of integrity and good service is an example of misrepresentation that undermines a nation’s integrity. So is it when a Secretary of Justice justifies putting a PNP chief back in office when the NBI has just accused that chief of leading a murderous rub out of a jailed mayor. That undermines what justice means for the entire population. It rips apart any ethical foundation at all.

          These intellectual exercises that seem to be in search for ways to justify what is being done always disappoint me. I am inclined to drift toward those who say simply, “this is wrong.”

          • a distant observer says:

            Well I certainly never attempted to justify what you call misrepresentation. How the Vice President of the Philippines and other dissenting voices are treated by the current administration is definitively wrong. I just wanted to offer an explanation/rationale why it is possible that this serfdom to and injustice by the Duterte administration might persist for a longer period of time.

            • And I suspect you are right. I would only opine that the term is proportionate to the level of complacency, and I wish I saw a whole lot less. Or, flipping it, I’d like to see a whole lot more outrage. Proportionate to what President Aquino got for not greeting 44 coffins would be a good start on rage.

              • a distant observer says:

                And I hope I am wrong. I too would like to see more outrage, ever since Duterte joked about raping women back in April…

    • chemrock says:

      Distant observer

      I’ll restrict myself to the part on the Singapore model.

      The 2 points you raised are commonly used to dispel the notion of the applicability of the Singapore model to Philippines.

      1. The geographical and population size. True that generally the bigger the tougher to govern, especially in ancient days. But technological advancements in communication, including transportation, has made that argument less persuasive. On the other hand, size has its vast advantages. Philippines has 2 great factors of production the Singapore lacks – natural resources and labour. You have the great advantage of a population size that permits production cost effectiveness that a small city state never can have. It it this cost effectives from size that made China the factory to the world which they recognised and seized that opportunity to propel the country to prosperity with half a generation.

      2. Multiculturalism – you said Singapore is 75% Chinese whereas Philippines is much more ethnically fragmented. Actually there are 4 major races in Singapore, and the Chinese themselves are segregated into further dialect groups. Apart from ethnicity Singapore has to manage religious diversity – most of the world’s leading religions are there. On the other hand, but I may be wrong in this, I see in Philippines a majority Malay race, the others are mestizoes, Chinoys, and IPs. The Malay race has a great diversity of dialects, not unlike the Chinese. But you are basically Christians and a small % of Muslims. So again the racial argument is not very strong.

      LKY has taken centre stage no doubt due to his contributions, but I think due mostly to stage presence, his charisma. But the Singapore model is not about a strong benevolent dictator. It’s about the sum total of a lot of things that makes it work, the main stuff I would enumerate below :

      On the part of the people :
      3a. Civility is the norm.
      3b. Disciplined – observes law and various regulations. Do what is right and don’t do what’s wrong even when nobody is watching.
      – non- corrupt officialdom (not 100% perfect of course).
      3c. Meritocracy – you get your just desserts, so you work your ass out. Hard work is appreciated. Education is a social leveller. A taxi driver’s son can aspire to be a Minister one day.
      3d. Degree of subservience – a population that accepts some curtailment of personal freedoms, we call these OUB markers (out of bound). There is no absolute freedom of speech, we believe in responsible free speech.

      On the part of civil service, including police :
      4a. The Minister of each ministry is an elected member of parliament, not an appointee
      4b. Civil service is nonpolitical. All key appointments in civil service are selected by a Civil Service Commission.
      4c Understands at it’s core it’s duty is to serve the public, this includes the police. “Excellence in service” is a motto found in all agency websites- a govt that takes pain to explain to the people on important issues and changes
      4d.Transparency in all transactions – project biddings, reporting, record keeping.
      4d. Agencies are at the forefront themselves to innovate and improve services, nothing to do with politics.
      4e. Agencies fight for and justify their budgets — bottom-up budgetting, agencies accountable and responsible for it.
      4d. Corruption free civil service — this is our prized asset. Not perfect but pretty good. A decent pay is the starting point. In the past, we had the same situation as most third world countries – lowly paid civil servants that spelt corruption and inefficiencies. Pay scales are now competitive to private sectors.
      4f. Brains in civil service – smart guys used to go to private sectors. This was a problem in the past. Civil service compensation realigned on par with private sector, and office environment just as modern as any private sector has arrested the problem of brain drain.
      4g. The Pyramid Club — this is a secret of sorts, but nothing sinister. The civil service commission is constantly monitoring for fresh bright young minds. Once one is identified, he is scrutinised for suitability for work in the govt. (There is a fine line of govt or the ruling party which I’ll leave out here). Suitability covers personality traits like moral values, ability to withstand pressures, field of expertise, leadership qualities, loyalties etc. These guys are well looked after, nurtured, mentored, funded, and eventually on graduation, are tested out and closely tracked. Only the exceptional guys, the high scholars, are netted in. I know of this from a friend, a double masters. He opted out because he knew he had moral issues that will not measure up.

      On the part of ruling party (Lee’s People’s Action Party)
      5a. Visionary and plans ahead.
      5b. Avoids populist solutions, instead bites the bullet when required.
      5c. Values tri-patriate approach to governance ( govt – labour – businesses)
      5d. Nurtures and trains succeeding leadership.
      5e. Embraces intelligence, not fear.
      5f. Self- regulates, replacing the corrupt, mediocre, those that lost their moral compass, etc.
      5g. Able to see a time and need to rebrand the nation in order to remain relevant to the world, and the capability to sell that idea to the people and manage the required change.

      When people refer to the strong personality of LKY they have in mind this larger than life character that talks bluntly and thumps tables, and so they tend to put Duterte in the same mold. This are simple folks who only takes in the visuals. The strength of LKY is his consistent ability to avoid populist solutions and stand his ground on painful alternatives that promises longer term gains. He has taken the country through this many times.

      I take pains to list the above to share the idea all those points have nothing to do with geographic size, democraphics or ethnicity. That’s part of the Singapore model that can be applied to any country. One can have all the above without a dictator.

      Every country has its own set of problems. As a city state, Singapore has a unique problem the Philippines doesn’t have. Without a hinterland, Singapore survives only if it remains relevance to the world. We are plugged into the world eco system. Events half way around the world affects us. Philippines can cocoon itself and survive a world wide economic meltdown. That is why Singapore has been vocal in the Chinese aggression in the WPS. That is why 5g above is very important as we are once again at a point that demands a structural change in the face of trade nationalism and China’s One Belt One Road strategy.

      • a distant observer says:

        Thanks, chemrock. You seem to have an in-depth knowledge of Singapore’s history while mine is non-existent. I agree that in principle, your points 3 to 5 are independent from a country’s geographical and demographical properties. The key to LKY’s success might was what you note as “his consistent ability to avoid populist solutions and stand his ground on painful alternatives that promises longer term gains.”
        However, when I look at any country-ranking by economic performance (GDP per capita, in purchase power parity or nominal), it is always the smaller states that take the top spots. The usual contenders to the top 10 are a handful of oil-rich Arab states, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, Monaco and Singapore, with the US and Australia being the only big countries that are able to get into the top 10 for some years. The size of a country certainly seems to have an influence on its organizational abilities.

        What you describe in your last paragraph are all characteristics of so-called small open economies (SOE). This unique problem you are referring to forces SOE’s to adapt and remain flexible and innovative in the world market. Hence, it can force such economies to develop strengths that other, bigger economies don’t have. Besides being dependent on stable world markets, I asked myself what role the hosting of US warships means for Singapore’s role in the WPS.

        • chemrock says:

          Your GDP per capita do indeed corelate positively to smaller countries. However I would not, on this basis alone, surmise that small countries are more manageable. In the case of Philippines the GDP per capita is low, but the gini coefficient is also low. The gini reflects the inquality of income suggesting a small high and middle income vs a large low income demographic.

          I agree with your comment on SOE.

          “…. what role the hosting of US warships means for Singapore’s role in the WPS”
          Singapore’s geopolitical strategy in the past few decades have been twofold — strengthen ASEAN as an economic bloc, and maintain a balance of power in our region. US presence in our region have seen no military adventurism by China or Russia since the end of the Vietnam war. I feel the Chinese incursion in WPS came about because they perceived a weakened US under Obama and a Philippines that is ripe for the taking after the closure of American military bases. As a small country Spore has to champion the rule of law, that’s why it is vocally supporting Philippines in the UN Tribunal ruling on WPS. In the wake of closure of Philippines bases, Spore had to step up to ensure US presence remains to counter the Chinese influence. As a result of Spore’s position on US presence, China is beginning to exert a lot of pressure on us. You may have noticed China recently unloaded a shipment of Spore’s military hardware in HK on excuse of non- documentation. Those were Tennex tanks we used in training exercises with Taiwan and returning to base. The training and military equipment movement is something that’s been an open secret for 20 years. That China chose to act now is a clear signal to Spore that it is not happy with Spore’s stand on the WPS.

          • a distant observer says:

            Since you refer to the Gini index, the Philippines is not a very good example. The Gini index takes a value of 0 when the wealth of a country is perfectly distributed among all its citizens and a value of 1 when one person possesses all the wealth while all other citizens possess nothing at all. The Philippines has a Gini index of 0.46 (for income) and 0.717 (for wealth). If one compares the Gini for income only, the Philippines ranks as 117th least “equal” economy in the world! I personally consider any Gini index value (after taxes and transfers) above 0.4 as high. A quick comparison between the Philippines and a selection of (earlier mentioned) countries: http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=gini+index+philippines,+switzerland,+singapore,+usa,+norway
            Let’s agree to disagree on our different suppositions that small countries are more manageable 😉 Many successful larger countries break their vast territory into smaller ones by having federalist mechanisms in place. But that’s a whole different discussion.

            For your points 4f and 4g, France for example has this École nationale d’administration (ENA), a highly competitive school that allows bright minds to pursue an education and professional track that is aimed at serving the public.

            I didn’t know about this unloading of military equipment in HK, but I will have a look at it. Thanks for the hint!

      • Francis says:


        On the response to #1—size—I think, in my opinion, that the size of a city-state still makes its experience vastly different from that of a conventional nation-state like the PH. Nations are brought together by common feeling. I admit that technology ensures a certain degree of intimacy—we Filipinos are now somehow one with our telenovelas, love-teams and variety shows—yet, I would like to note that the “common feeling” between a citizen and/or member of the elite from Visayas and another from Luzon cannot compare to a common feeling between Singaporean citizenry and/or elite, as technology can’t quite match the intimacy of regular face-to-face contact. That intimacy makes Singapore especially malleable—in a way PH is not.

        Nevertheless—fascinating. In particular, I like three points—esp. the last two of these:

        •I like 4d. Transparency is always good. And goodness, Filipinos shouldn’t expect public officials to be ever-sacrificing saints. They’re servants, not slaves of the people. A good heart for an official is always necessary—but good pay helps a lot and it wouldn’t hurt.

        •For me 4f and 4g are the secret sauce in my opinion. Everything else on the list of points mentioned is worthless without the two. This is a sign that good practice is truly entrenched; potential leadership becomes leadership through a steady track that bathes them in the excellent ethos of a driven bureaucracy.

        In fact, from this, I would like to make a hypothesis: the more personalized an authoritarian/”disciplined” regime is, the less effective/prosperous it is. South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and China good. Gaddafi, Saddam, Marcos, etcetera bad

        Someone remind the Dutertistas that Japan—the staple for the “disciplined” East Asian type, the nation that (albeit brutally) etched its model for development onto South Korea—never once was ruled by a dictator. Good “disciplined” regimes are a team effort; creating “volunteer organizations” named after yourself is not a good sign.

        • chemrock says:


          “That intimacy makes Singapore especially malleable—in a way PH is not”
          I like that comment. Its dito what LKY meant when he said there’s a certain gel that’s missing in Philippines society to pull them together.

          I agree on your point on “personalised” dictators. It’s the psychopathic types that want to personalise their reign. I would add Soekarno to your list. LKY had specifically made it a point that there will be no statutes, buildings or roads named after him and that his humble house be demolished after he is gone.

      • LG says:


        I think of LkY as a meritocrat who is fearless and unthreatened of his kind…distinguished himself from them by his singular, unwavering vision and drive for Singapore…that includes searching for such kind and pay their worth to accomplish the vision.

  21. edgar lores says:

    I was struck by the two comments of @jp here. They have the hallmarks of a troll — drop in, jab, no explanation, and no rebuttal.

    D – drop in
    J – jab
    N – no explanation
    N – no rebuttal

    A djinn.

  22. karlgarcia says:

    locally, there are still governors,mayors,barangay captains who get elected time and again.
    Nationwide we either go people power, or attemot a coup.
    I guess, it would be better if unity is built locally, not united in voting for a dictator,but united in voting againstca dictator.

    • karlgarcia says:

      We have strict rules, we have too many laws. An execuyive that can execute laws,implement them and maje prople comply without instilling fear is the brand if dictatorship that may be acceptable,it dies not have to be benevolent.
      But in just the proposal stage, we question. We question the RH, we question Waste to energy.As long as many will agree we question,but when the time comes when nonody is listening,we stop.

  23. karlgarcia says:

    I attempted to listen to Duterte’s ramblings and mumblings in his speech at Bicol, but why oh why does he keep on lecturing about history, then just say the only solution is federalism.

    I wondered if those who applauded understood his speech.

  24. Wendy says:

    JoeAm, this made me frustrated. And yes, depressed. But it’s what is happening and most people are helplessly watching its unfolding, wondering what and how “big” a catalyst will it take to move the masses. People who’ve been there are tired. I know I am.

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