Filipinos will exchange their digital souls for a taste of heaven on earth

Freedom of the press, Chinese version. [Photo source: Manila Bulletin]

By Andrew Lim

The following is a scenario-building exercise based on recent developments in the Philippine telecommunications industry, with geopolitics, national security and the West Philippine Sea conflict as backdrop. It may be fictional, but the institutions, personalities and their capabilities are based on real life.

For this exercise, we will make use of the following roles: Chinese President-for-life, Politburo members, Defense Minister, State Security Minister (intelligence), Information Industry Minister (includes telecommunications) and Foreign Affairs Minister. These are very relevant positions as they have the authority and wherewithal to direct resources in shaping Chinese foreign policy.

The following is an imagined conversation of these characters after China Telecom (in partnership with Davao-based Filipino businessman Dennis Uy) won a bidding to become the Philippines’ third telecommunications company. These conversations are conducted in China’s corridors of power, in high-level meetings, over the phone and emails, walking in secured gardens, over Chinese tea.

* * * * *

CHINESE PRESIDENT-FOR-LIFE: Well, that’s good news. China Telecom has now penetrated the Philippines, and that will aid us in our larger plans for the area and help fulfill our global ambitions. Ganbei!

POLITBURO MEMBER: Yes, sir. There are rumblings in the Philippines, but it is muted. I think unlike the NBN-ZTE, we could get this thing going. Duterte has frightened Filipinos into obeying him, ha ha ha.

STATE SECURITY MINISTER: Correct. The US also seems to be preoccupied with so many things, it’s unlikely to do anything substantial. Trump has managed to mess up their intelligence services and State Department, ha ha ha.

POLITBURO MEMBER 2: We still need to be careful. Oracle has confirmed our hijacking of US internet traffic in 2017.

CHINESE PRESIDENT-FOR-LIFE: We can establish our Points of Presence in the Philippines, am I correct?

INFORMATION INDUSTRY MINISTER: Definitely, sir. We can now position ourselves in the Philippines’ internet backbone. That allows us to divert, or re-route internet traffic with undetectable minimal delays. That gives our intelligence services opportunity to analyze.

CHINESE PRESIDENT-FOR-LIFE: Is that new DICT secretary Honasan good?

STATE SECURITY MINISTER: He’s a former soldier, a senator but on technical matters he’s no good. They laugh at his Nokia 3210, ha ha. Perhaps his idea of cyber security is Norton Anti-Virus? Ha ha. The previous one- Rio- that’s a professional.

CHINESE PRESIDENT-FOR-LIFE: May we ask the Foreign Affairs Minister what he thinks of his counterpart?

FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER: The new guy- Locsin, is much, much smarter than the previous one, who was such a pathetic yes-man and doormat. Locsin-he loves his rice bowl very much, he sometimes brings his rice cooker when invited to meals. He has no stomach for conflict. In private speeches, he has compared the Philippines’ foreign policy posture to that of a person “embracing a giant bear tightly and dancing with it”. He’s ours.

CHINESE PRESIDENT-FOR-LIFE: Any updates from the Defense Minister?

DEFENSE MINISTER: We have finished our “ weather tracking systems” in the disputed areas, sir. We can now implement area denial to any opponent, air or sea. We are still working on the submarine bases -these are harder to finish, as you understand.

The US will make symbolic “ freedom of navigation” flights and voyages from time to time, but that is all they can do.

With access to the Philippines’ internet backbone , I believe we can do total surveillance of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police communications as well. We will be five steps ahead of every step they think of.

CHINESE PRESIDENT-FOR-LIFE: Good. Trump’s trade war is a headache, but we have more cards to play. Now I want to discuss our long term projects in the Philippines vis-a-vis our global ambitions.

INFORMATION INDUSTRY MINISTER: Well, with virtually no opposition, sir, we can implement several of our security surveillance programs, facial and gait recognition software, our social credit system (a totalitarian system where everything about a person- financial, personal, health, travel, phone and internet data is given a score to determine social standing and limit activity). They already have some sort of National ID system, but it’s still primitive.

We can do beta-testing of many of the future versions of these programs on Filipinos. Even deep-fake videos (hard to detect doctored videos) for insertion in fake news and troll activities. That will help Duterte maintain control over his country.

Many, many options.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER: But if there is public outcry?

INFORMATION INDUSTRY MINISTER: We have counters to these… how many Filipinos can resist a free cellphone for example, with some free minutes of internet access for starters? They will eagerly hand over their digital souls for a taste of heaven on earth, hi hi hi.

CHINESE PRESIDENT-FOR-LIFE: (smiling) It will really be a Chinese century, then.

* * * * *


1. Oracle’s internet analysis division has confirmed the findings of a US Naval War College paper on China’s re-routing of US internet traffic to pass through China instead of just US to US points.

2. In a previous post, we explored the expansion of Chinese presence in the West Philippine Sea in the first few months of Duterte’s administration.


32 Responses to “Filipinos will exchange their digital souls for a taste of heaven on earth”
  1. Two articles caught my attention this past week, related to the scenario that Andrew Lim has drawn up.

    The first reports the activities of Chinese author Ma Jian who is banned from the mainland but recently gave a talk in Hong Kong, with the following report:

    On Saturday evening, Mr. Ma told a packed auditorium that the totalitarian society that George Orwell had described in his dystopian novel “1984” had now been “completely and totally” realized in China. He also said he saw repression and propaganda in the Chinese mainland today that was eerily similar to that of the Cultural Revolution.

    He said he feared that building the “China dream” that Mr. Xi envisions would require erasing China’s recent history.

    “If we ignore history, what follows will be something even more horrible,” he said.

    Te second is an article by Richard Heydarian who describes the anger within the Duterte camp that China is holding its infrastructure lending because the Philippines won’t concede on its legal 60/40 investment requirement, favoring the Philippines, in the West Philippine Sea. The Philippines has quietly pivoted militarily back to the US. The US is firming up its pushback against China’s militarization and control over international waters. Heydarian writes:

    The Philippines has also been frustrated by China’s failure, so far, to actualize its earlier promises of huge economic investments, with Zhao Jianhua, the Chinese ambassador to the Philippines, reportedly blocking big-ticket projects amid disagreements over a resource-sharing agreement in the South China Sea.

    • andrewlim8 says:

      1. Hong Kong is already viewed as ” just another Chinese city.”

      2. Duterte has no more cards to play, and he cannot run back to the US, specially with the Democrats’ resurgence.

      • NHerrera says:

        … and he cannot run back to the US, specially with the Democrats’ resurgence.

        May we have more discussions on this point, not that the US support is the only option, but, I believe, a major one. [I am not debating the point of andrew, not having enough, kowledge/ ideas.]

        Is it possible we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg, good as the TSH is at seeing behind the rocks?

        • I don’t think the political scene in the US will affect Trump’s Asian policy much. China’s ways are troublesome to both Democrats and Republicans. Remember that Obama was trying to pivot to Asia, but did not get there because of ISIS and other distractions. Trump is firming up pushback against China on trade, theft, and seas . . . and I don’t see Democrats complaining about that at all.

  2. madlanglupa says:

    What plans they have, it is conquest without even firing a shot.

  3. edgar lores says:

    1. Andrew, brilliant!

    2. This post has a fly-on-the-wall quality.

    3. It should make China tremble that we are on to them.

    4. They have no idea that we are using a technique that Chinese vendors are famous for — the bait-and-switch. They have partly taken the bait — the WPS. And we won’t tell them in what form the switch will be.

    5. All we can say is that their fate will be the same as all who have attempted to seek world domination. The Romans. The Portuguese and the Spaniards. The Mongols. The Persians. The Ottoman. The British. Nazi Germany. And arguably, the US.

    6. Like all other ambitious conquerors, the Chinese will ultimately have eggs on their faces. But unlike the others, the eggs will be — century eggs.

  4. Francis says:

    Just the CPC’s treatment of Xinjiang alone is enough to believe that China is more than likely dealing with us in bad faith.

    If one has time—I would sincerely recommend giving these series of articles a read, the “Drop Your Pants! The Party Wants to Patriotise You All Over Again!” series, which dissects Chinese patriotism, nationalism, propaganda.

    I sincerely recommend reading all five articles—the series alone is a (frightening) dissection of what goes on in the minds of the Chinese leadership, shaped by both centuries of classical Chinese thought and the fiery decades of Marxist and (more importantly) Maoist thought…

    The link itself directs to the final part of the series which discusses the inherent “militant” tendencies in China, the very “militarized” state of mainland culture—something which has worrisome implications for small fry nations like the Philippines.

    (I almost do not know whether to be grateful or envious with the fact that relatively nothing in contrast goes on in the minds of our ever small-minded “elite.”)

  5. Gemino H. Abad says:

    Thank you, Joe! Thank you, Andrew! I share this sober, discerning Forum – the Society of Honor, truly — with my close friends. Honor, freedom, justice — in human history — have always prevailed. Despair in our present troubled world is “carrion comfort” (to quote Gerard Manley Hopkins).

  6. NHerrera says:

    Thanks, Andrew. The scenario you painted promises to be one that will enliven discussion here as many of the TSH articles have.

  7. karlgarcia says:

    Slightly off topic.
    Just few weeks ago, we praised Puerto Princesses for being the first carbon neutral city in South East Asia.
    Then now due the power outages in Palawan, the president threatened takeover with the help of moneyed China.
    I guess Puerto will no longer be carbon neutral when that government takeover happens.
    So far his recent threats are not viable, like AFP taking over BOC.

  8. NHerrera says:


    While on the general topic of selling one’s soul for a taste of heaven on earth, I find the following a little related.

    Trump likes to state that he and Macron are two of a kind.

    I wonder what tweet will come out of the speech of Macron — while Trump was “seated stone-faced in front of him” [as reported by CNN] — at the 100th year memorial of the end of WWI which contained this line:

    “Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism,” Macron said. “Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism. By saying ‘our interests first; who cares about the others?’, we erase what a nation holds dearest, what gives it life, what makes it great, and what makes it essential — its moral values.”

    • karlgarcia says:

      Maybe Trump got affected temporarily by Macron’s admonishing that he does not do diplomacy through tweets, that maybe the reason for not yet tweeting about the speech.

  9. chemrock says:

    The blog title points to the same gut feeling I have about Filipinos — that they simply don’t have any sense of the famous quote “for whom the bell tolls”.

    And whilst Andrew may be painting a fictional scene, the reality is just as scary. Edgar’s mention of the tactic of ‘bait and trap’ is no joke. It is systemic in Filipino dealings both in business and government, whether B2B, B2G, G2G. Not too sure, though, which inspired the other. Seems Duterte is unable to outsmart China, a country famous for ‘bait and trap’, by applying the same tactics against them. So we reached an impasse. No Chinese funds are forthcoming for BBB projects, the economic platform on which this Admin will lead the country to a whole new level of prosperity. No fundings means budgetary mess.

    The Admin plays the ‘War” bogeyman to critics of their WPS politics. Whilst no one seriously believe war can break out anytime soon, none too can see any quick end to the status quo. Meanwhile, China strengthens their position with further inroads into Filipno economic spheres. Philippines continues to paint itself into a corner. With rising nationalism in US and China, hostility is a clear and present danger. Not so much of a military conflict between China and Philippines arising from some direct actions. The danger is from Philippines being used as the locale for 2 increasingly nationalist countries to cross swords.

    I see some similarities to the situation in late 1941. With war threats on the horizon, Pres Quezon continues with his hectic junkard trips and was often an absent president, living up to his motto of “I prefer a government run like hell by Filipinos to a government run like heaven by Americans” . It was left to McArthur to re-organise the Army of a miserable 4,000 men. American Florence Horn, on a visit, wrote of the time :

    “Right now, the Filipino is like a super in a giant Max Rheihart (MR was a popular radio show at the time) spactacle. Churchill, Hitler, Roosevelt and Hirohito occupy the limelight. Right now a baby spot has somehow cast its glaring light on the Filipino. All he wants is to get of that stage, somehow, anyhow, but which way and how? Whatever he does is either to be tragic or silly.”

    • Interesting assessment. I don’t wholly understand China but it seems to me she is reeling a bit from the trade tariffs, and trying to counter the pushback from Malaysia, Australia, Viet Nam and other nations by posturing as the open arms into which they can retreat from US-driven isolationism, arrogance, and unfair practices. The problem is in the doing, however, because for China there really is only one way: China’s way. Everything else is a utilitarian manipulation. Nation after nation is discovering that. No matter what the words or stern lectures coming from Chinese diplomats say, she has no intention of being warm or loving or respectful toward any nation in her way.

      If war were to break out, it would be like all wars, mean, brutal, and bloody, but China simply does not have the military might to match what the US and allies like Japan can bring to the battlefield. One would expect them to wise up, but that is like expecting Duterte to stop mumbling and cursing or Trump to stop tweeting. It isn’t in their genes. So we sit and watch, somewhat deerish in the headlights that are approaching from both the east and west.

      Related is China’s appeal to ASEAN . . .

    • NHerrera says:

      While we are on China, here is something about the Russia-China alliance in the news lately.

      George Friedman of Geopolitical Futures writes of the propaganda “optics” associated with the Chinese Import Forum in Shanghai, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Russia-China Alliance which he labels as an illusion.

      On the latter, of course, is the age-old suspicions between the two countries and the following statistics, which shows, on trade import terms the illusion that Friedman speaks about.

  10. karlgarcia says:

    According to the Daily express, an alarmist Chinese General said that all it takes us an accidental collision for war to erupt.

    But I am not sure if another Daily express article is reliable because it said the UK will sell arms to China.

  11. madlanglupa says:

    OT: It’s announced.

    • I would add that the return will be positioned as a great international triumph by Duterte’s trollish supporters, and, further, few will ever read of the entire context for the removal of the bells to begin with.

  12. I can imagine XI smiling and clapping his hands softly 1-2-3 with delight in the last sentence.

  13. I’m reminded by this scene from “Life of Brian”:


    REG: They’ve bled us white, the bastards. They’ve taken everything we had, and not just from us, from our fathers, and from our fathers’ fathers.

    LORETTA: And from our fathers’ fathers’ fathers.

    REG: Yeah.

    LORETTA: And from our fathers’ fathers’ fathers’ fathers.

    REG: Yeah. All right, Stan. Don’t labour the point. And what have they ever given us in return?!

    XERXES: The aqueduct?

    REG: What?

    XERXES: The aqueduct.

    REG: Oh. Yeah, yeah. They did give us that. Uh, that’s true. Yeah.

    COMMANDO #3: And the sanitation.

    LORETTA: Oh, yeah, the sanitation, Reg. Remember what the city used to be like?

    REG: Yeah. All right. I’ll grant you the aqueduct and the sanitation are two things that the Romans have done.

    MATTHIAS: And the roads.

    REG: Well, yeah. Obviously the roads. I mean, the roads go without saying, don’t they? But apart from the sanitation, the aqueduct, and the roads–

    COMMANDO: Irrigation.

    XERXES: Medicine.

    COMMANDOS: Huh? Heh? Huh…

    COMMANDO #2: Education.


    REG: Yeah, yeah. All right. Fair enough.

    COMMANDO #1: And the wine.

    COMMANDOS: Oh, yes. Yeah…

    FRANCIS: Yeah. Yeah, that’s something we’d really miss, Reg, if the Romans left. Huh.

    COMMANDO: Public baths.

    LORETTA: And it’s safe to walk in the streets at night now, Reg.

    FRANCIS: Yeah, they certainly know how to keep order. Let’s face it. They’re the only ones who could in a place like this.

    COMMANDOS: Hehh, heh. Heh heh heh heh heh heh heh.

    REG: All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?

    XERXES: Brought peace.

    REG: Oh. Peace? Shut up!


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