Is good government possible in the Philippines?

By Chemrock

“In defeat, malice; in victory, revenge” quote from the TV series “Yes, Minister” characterizes the perennial political battles in the Philippines. There is no ideology, no platforms. A senatorial candidate admitted he does not know what is the job of a senator. It’s all personal, very personal. And so, as often the case, it gets very ugly. Long after an election is over, losers continue to dig and chip away at the winners’ credibility. Winners invest time and effort to neutralize the influence of the failed opponents. The administration gets distracted, projects get derailed, and the press harvest the spectacle of mudslinging, escamotage, slime and muck that is trending the normalization of Philippines politics. More insidiously, the animus injuriandi spawned from politico-dynastic feuds intoxicate the majority of an electorate easily persuaded by populism, leading to generational support of tainted trapos.

This mid-term election saw democracy-inclined candidates suffer a big defeat while those linked to or supported by Duterte won big time, especially the Senatorial race where not a single opposition bet was elected. This time round, even though Comelec has to explain lots of inconsistencies, there were no sour grapes like Bongbong Marcos and Tolentino to cry ‘stolen votes”. To some, it seems the good guys lost. And so in 2019 there was no malice in defeat. Good guys, being good guys, harbor no malice.

On the other hand, victors drunk on the hubris of ballot boxes, destined for neophyte Senatorial seats, demand chairmanship roles in preferred committees. Incoming governors demand incumbents to stop funding ongoing projects that are destined to be scrapped by a new crop of officials. In social media, DDS army cock a snook at dilawans. Absence the magnanimity and graciousness of a cultured society.

Good government can only come about from the election of good officials, not people who ask “What are we in power for?”. Psephologists will be challenged to explain how this cohort of newly elected officials can add positive values to governance when two plunderers, a lead player in the extra-judicial killings, and 9 personalities without a single strand of independent muscle in them, can get elected into the Senate.

I survey four main criteria for a country to work to develop and progress,  and weigh and measure the Philippines against these. From my vantage point, the likelihood of Philippines producing a good government leading to economic development and betterment of the people, is very remote in the short to medium term. In the longer term, it’s best not to speculate since the best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley.



At the apex of good governance is the leadership, a corp of strong and fair-minded individuals who has untainted moral background that can command respect and has visionary prowess. This leadership must be solidly united, free from public bickering so that they send clear signals to the market and the people.

Malacanang, at the moment, is populated by people who can’t see beyond the next presidential rape joke. The political landscape presents an absence of depth of potential leaders in the country who are gifted with the kind of vision necessary for one to lead a country. Hardly has there been anyone who has articulated or has canvas-painted a big picture scenario for the direction of the country. It is a fact of life that all countries live under the shadows of games that the superpowers of the day play. Today these are US, Russia and China. The crème de la crème of Philippines society display a pathetic absence of any sense of the greater geopolitics at play in the region and how national policies need to be crafted to strategically manage this. Ferdie Marcos had it in him, Pnoy seemed to grasp it. Outside of politics, Richard Heydarian occasionally articulates it somewhat. Beyond this, the knowledge bank seems to be a blank. Two examples to illustrate this.

Immediately after the US exit Saigon in 1978, Soviet naval vessels were at the Cam Ranh Bay and their fighter jets in Danang. The Soviets were poised to expand their influence via their client state Vietnam which, with sky high confidence after defeating the French and Americans, immediately invaded Cambodia and Laos. It looked like the domino theory was rolling. Yet the Philippines started on a national discourse to get the US to leave Subic and create a power vacuum. The good fortune for the SE Asian countries at the time was events in Afghanistan and Poland diverted Soviet attention and hardware away to that part of the world closer to their borders.

All countries start their quest for economic success with a low-wage industrialization strategy. The Philippines have forever focused on political dynastic wars and has never been able to get its act together. It failed to see the rise of the Chinese economy which by the 1980s was the factory to the world. It became too late for the Philippines to embark on low-wage industrialization.

Without capable leadership with visions beyond the horizon, the country fails to plan strategically.


Clean government:

A clean government is a good government. It is the holy grail that many young new states fail to achieve. Post colonial era, Africa was full of new states of the Commonwealth that started off well building on the good institutions inherited from the British. Kenya, Tanzania, etc, were poster boys. Invariably, a cesspool of dirty political families dragged these states to the ground.

The Philippines has the ignominy of 2 presidents in the list of top 10 plunderers in world history. It is a country where corruption is not only endemic, but culturally ingrained. What hope is there when the greatest thief in the world is given the honor of lying in a cemetery reserved for national heroes, a first lady who has been sentenced by the Supreme Court for graft but never spend a minute in jail, a custodian of billions of dollars plundered by her father gets elected in the Senate.

The majority of people seeking elected office is not driven by a calling to serve but for the opportunity to build wealth and dynastic power. The political leadership is sorely lacking in people with honor and a sense of trusteeship who ensures the people around them are equally trustworthy.

Corruption has a national cost and inhibits development. What hope is there when a presidential daughter, who is priming herself for a presidential run one day soon, declares dishonesty is not an issue in an election? Indeed, what hope is there when corrupt officials are viewed by the electorate as electables?


Effective Civil service:

What makes a good civil service? It has to be honest, efficient, competent, impartial and most importantly, apolitical. One of the greatest qualities of administrators of the civil service is a fine acumen in character assessment that facilitates the selection of good and capable staffers. Career advancements are on the basis of merit.

It’s not fair to criticize the individual civil servants for most of them are probably just ordinary Filipinos trying their best to make a living. If the wheels are not grinding well, the fault lies in the thousand core top civil servants responsible for the efficient running of the government.

In the Philippines, these positions are unfortunately highly politicized and career advancements rely heavily on connections. Blind loyalties get in the way of impartiality and conflicting goals. Practically every office in town is graft ridden with the top of the heap of decadence being the unmanageable Bureau of Customs.

The present administration practices Executive interference regularly, and positions are often given as otang na loob – reward for favors rendered. This practice has seen the corrupt, rabblerousers, scalawags and bartop dancers entering public service. There is temptation to wonder if the pivot to China is one such otang na loob.

Cleansing a government requires a disciplined leadership and the scrub is top down. It would be difficult to find leaders with such strength and moral authority derived from unquestionable integrity. Hard qualities to come by anywhere in the world, what more to expect from Philippines.


National Unity:

Nations fail because of social divides. Without unity or solidarity, development is impossible.

A majority of countries of the world are pluralistic. With multiculturalism, fault lines are along race, ethnicity, religion, class, regional, and issue-based. These problems have germinated civil wars, torn countries apart, balkanized countries.

The Philippines have been blessed with no such fault lines, except maybe in certain areas in Mindanao in the Muslim strongholds. Yet it has never been able to rise above levels that others do, even those with deep fault lines.

The Philippines has no fault lines in the traditional sense, but it is terribly divided by what I call cult lines. Patronage politics, tribal loyalties, and a proclivity for personality worship has worked to ensure that rationality no longer resides in the minds of the electorate. The political culture of “in defeat, malice; in victory, revenge” feeds right into this setup, fueled by the mass communication capabilities of social media. It is impossible to disentangle this social mess when leaders feed the frenzy as their very political standing depends on it.



It’s not nice to be a pessimist, but it’s my ultimate Boeing 747 gambit that in the short and medium term, it is unlikely the Philippines can have the economic success to modernize and uplift the people. A one-man-one vote system leads to the tyranny of the majority. If the majority prefers tainted politicians to lord over them, then democracy is dead, long live democracy.


44 Responses to “Is good government possible in the Philippines?”
  1. Many thanks, Chemrock.

    Governance 101!

    Most learn Crookery 101 over there.

    • P.S. most weaknesses of the Philippines are systemic and societal. No single admin can fix it at once.

      P.P.S. the cult/groupie nature of the society makes objectivity hard, scapegoating trumps accountability and correcting mistakes.

      • edgar lores says:

        The weakness is also individual.

        Of individuals trying to take advantage of each other, preying on each other.

        Of government officials trying to take advantage of their positions.

        Of “spiritual” leaders milking their flock.

        There are a few genuine leaders. Leni comes to mind. And PNoy.

        One can only weep.

        • Pastor Quiboloy: “let us prey”.

          Though both PNoy and VP Leni have their weaknesses as part of the culture that produced them, those that howl about them like macaques only to accept worse leaders are not at all credible.

        • NHerrera says:


          A movie scene comes to mind. A character —one of the bad guys responsible for making the good guy unknowingly drink a glass of radioactive milk — when asked by another of the BGs the chances of recover of the good guy, said, unsurvivable.

          Similarly, the chances of the PH working back to its pseudo democracy and becoming better: unattainable.

          In the best of times, democracy could not find fertile ground in the PH for reasons repetitively cited here in various terms, including the current blog. More so in this era when countries previously admired for their democratic ideals and practices are in crises themselves.

          Indeed: democracy is dead; long live democracy.

          • NHerrera says:

            In reference, please read the recent posts of caliphman, Joe and edgar in the previous blog about the surreal nature of politics [democracy] in the US, UK and Australia.

            May I say: Pilipinas, hindi ka nag-iisa?

        • chemrock says:

          Edgar, you are describing ‘panier de crabes’ – French for basket of crabs

  2. Sup says:

    Is good government possible in the Philippines?

    Very good..just ask Dennis.

  3. Pablo says:

    A depressing but very realistic view of the situation.

    Maybe there was one critical point underexposed: national unity.
    When nations got their independence I saw that nations which had a history did well and nations with arbitrary borders and without a common history are (still) suffering. Probably that is one of the root causes for many problems. Independence was more like a gift, the original inhabitants were and are still marginalized and the population is a mix of many nationalities with Spanish as the main component, no common denominator. In the US, the fight for independence brought people together and it took 200 years to build a unity; and they STILL are not there. It is the question if Philippines will be granted the opportunity to ever build an identity (to be proud of) before the nation gets swallowed. It takes more than a collection of nice people (not talking about the leadership, but the common folks) to build a nation. And no nation means no future.

    You referred to Vietnam, a country with thousands of years of history. I am not so sure that the Russians had the opportunity to play a big role, the Vietnamese had a devastated country and needed support and they got it from the Russians as the Chinese “friends” were too suffocating. Matter of necessity and opportunity. But the background picture was a country which was fiercely independent and paid a hefty price for it. That build unity and you see it everywhere in the country. And now the Americans are valued friends.
    I miss that very much in Philippines. Here it is OK when the Chinese sink a Philippine vessel in the Philippine Sea. In Vietnam, local Chinese businesses would face their Kristallnacht.

    Well, a country not worth fighting for is a country being swallowed. I did not forget the extremely heroic acts by Filipinos and Filipinas during several wars, WWII as the latest ones, but that was different. Being swallowed does not equal being attacked and occupied, right?

    You never know what the future brings, but the odds indeed do not look good. Not short term, nor medium, nor long term.


    And then…..
    …… neither you nor me added any consequences to this analysis.
    Maybe an opportunity for another discussion sometime when more parties gravitated to the same conclusion?

    • Being swallowed.. sounds like the Philippines is in the stomach of the dragon, yet alive.

      I did not know that dragons are like boa constrictors when it comes to digesting, but I guess the Chinese kept it secret for so long.

    • chemrock says:

      “When nations got their independence I saw that nations which had a history did well …”

      Very good observation. After WW2 came the era of anti-colonialism. People fought and died for independence. All thought that independence meant a return to some idyllic past where the people can then live in tranquility. The things that awaited them were old quarrels, old wounds, old enemies, old hate … and for many, new enemies. Those countries that do well are as you observed, those with a long history. Civilisations like India and China have withstood the test of time and everywhere in their countries are monuments of their ancient history that provide succor and sustenance, comfort and confidence, to overcome insurmountable difficulties.

      If I may be allowed to be sarcastic here, Philippines too have one such relic, but it points to the very lesson that this blog teaches.

      “…Vietnamese had a devastated country and needed support and they got it from the Russians as the Chinese “friends” were too suffocating>”

      Just a point to correct history. China poured in over US$20b into Vietnam in the 60/70s (a heck of a big figure in those days, made even bigger by the fact that China was itself a backward country then), That is why China was absolutely pissed off that the Viets took to Lenism instead of Maoism. They considered it a betrayal. However, in a meeting with Lee Kuan Yew, Deng Xiao Ping said China felt betrayed, but no regrets —- because they defeated US. We have to understand this in the context of world history. After WW2, the capitalist world was at war with Lenism that sought to establish a monolithic one world communism. But soon, the communists were’nt sharing a one world view. It split into Lenism and Maoism. China had a long drawn out border dispute with the Soviets and they came close to a war in 1960s. Soviets had the means to pump in aid and arms into Vietnam. Chinese had no modern arms, that was why the Viets welcomed Soviets. China expanded their influence to SE Asian countries by suporting local insurgency groups by training and some old weaponries. They were blasting communist idological talks out of their long range transmitor in Yunnan to our part of the world for decades. Lee was finally able to convince Deng to stop supporting the local Reds in SE Asia.

      Because of the Viet experience, China is not too keen on Duterte’s build build build. They knew Philippines cannot be trusted, with the long association with US and the people’s high trust of the US. That is why China views build build build from the perspective of a commercial monopoly, not economic aid. Malacanang is too naive to see through it.

  4. popoy says:

    MY BAD to copy and paste part of the first paragraph:

    “In defeat, malice; in victory, revenge” quote from the TV series “Yes, Minister” characterizes the perennial political battles in the Philippines. There is no ideology, no platforms.

    A senatorial candidate admitted he does not know what is the job of a senator. It’s all personal, very personal. And so, as often the case, it gets very ugly. Long after an election is over, losers continue to dig and chip away at the winners’ credibility. Winners invest time and effort to neutralize the influence of the failed opponents. The administration gets distracted, projects get derailed, and the press harvest the spectacle of mudslinging, escamotage, slime and muck that is trending the normalization of Philippines politics.”

    Is it possible for any developing country to have an Incitatus as member of the Senate? For a country’s leader to have the wiles and sanity of Caligula? Nah, because history is only a written record of the past, Eh.

    “But what if Caligula actually did plot to create Rome’s first equine official? According to historian Aloys Winterling, author of “Caligula: A Biography” (2011), insanity isn’t the only logical explanation for such behavior. In his book, Winterling makes the case that many of the emperor’s wackier stunts, including his treatment of Incitatus, were designed to insult and humiliate senators and other elites. By bestowing a high public office on his horse, then, Caligula aimed to show his underlings that their work was so meaningless an animal could do it.”

    • chemrock says:

      Roman Senate sure had a better deal than Philippines Senate. A horse is worth a few thousand Stones. Bato might disagree.

    • popoy says:

      To mind scatter a comment: Noli was an exposure of a social canker by a peacenick named Ibarra and Fili was a call for social upheaval by a warnick named Simon. A medical doctor can drive the scalpel deepest to hurt and cure a permanent hypochondriac. Hypochondriasis could be the disease of a country which Marquis de Sade can consider as mere masochism of a politically self-induced coma. If this be magnified to specify the ramblings of a fool, a sarcastic cynical book will be inadequate to explain the intellection.

  5. sonny says:

    Joe’s previous piece on the Philippine future: simply the image of a butterfly in a storm;
    Chempo’s current piece on the Philippine body politic: definitely the picture of roadkill. No sane pathology for now. 😦

  6. Ireneo, Joe, and caliphman, and edgar, et al. are opining about how they are feeling “alienation” in the other thread— US, and Australia and Israel not just the Philippines is also causing this apparent alienation.

    I say it’s always been like this. Maybe y’all have confused the ideal for the reality, but having come of age seeing the 3rd world first hand, and many times also tipping the balance there one way or the other. It’s all dirrrty to me.

    I remember first coming to Joe’s blog, and since my Philippine experience is from the mid-2000s, hence my impressions of the place from the mid-2000s, time specific, Joe once explained and this was circa 2015 that the Philippines has changed now for the better. Thanks to PNoy and Roxas, again this was 2015.

    that’s why when you all seem shock about Tok-Hang, etc. I’m all like hey even in mid-2000s they were doing “salvage” ops (that’s what they called them). Or actual rapes by rich boys on unsuspecting poor girls just excited to get a ride in a nice car. the 3rd world is the 3rd world— the 1st world is just hanging by a thread and could easily revert, and why old Ben Franklin said, “a Republic, madam, if you can keep it”.

    all this democracy stuff isn’t natural to humanity, it’s but a blip in the wider scope of things.


    as for chemp‘s good gov’t vs. bad gov’t. the British and the Dutch, Spain and Portugal, laid out the groundwork for all this, mostly the British did. The Philippines had the Catholic Church and the Crown, but the US came by and set everyone straight— this is why the bulk of low level bureaucrats are Filipinos in the US.

    Two quotes came to mind whilst reading this piece.

    “This is Marlow’s description of the manager of the Central Station, the big boss:

    He was commonplace in complexion, in features, in manners, and in voice. He was of middle size and of ordinary build. His eyes, of the usual blue, were perhaps remarkably cold. . . . Otherwise there was only an indefinable, faint expression of his lips, something stealthy—a smile—not a smile—I remember it, but I can’t explain. . . . He was a common trader, from his youth up employed in these parts—nothing more. He was obeyed, yet he inspired neither love nor fear, nor even respect. He inspired uneasiness. That was it! Uneasiness. Not a definite mistrust—just uneasiness—nothing more. You have no idea how effective such a . . . a . . . faculty can be. He had no genius for organizing, for initiative, or for order even. . . . He had no learning, and no intelligence. His position had come to him—why? . . . He originated nothing, he could keep the routine going—that’s all. But he was great. He was great by this little thing that it was impossible to tell what could control such a man. He never gave that secret away. Perhaps there was nothing within him. Such a suspicion made one pause. “Heart of Darkness”

    Note the adjectives: commonplace, ordinary, usual, common. There is nothing distinguished about this person. About the 10th time I read that passage, I realized it was a perfect description of the kind of person who tends to prosper in the bureaucratic environment.”


    “Strong combat leadership is never by committee. Platoon commanders must command, and command in battle isn’t based on consensus. It’s based on consent. Any leader wields only as much authority and influence as is conferred by the consent of those he leads. The Marines allowed me to be their commander, and they could revoke their permission at any time.”
    ― Nathaniel Fick, “One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer”


    On one hand it’s great to have a machine in place that’s objective and only cares about the public good, ideally (ie. doctrinal & robotic), but on the other , space must be made to accommodate true leadership and out of the box thinking (creative & new). The balance here is the rub.

    Three books, novels IMHO created this balance for us in the U.S. And all three are products of WWII,

    1. “Catcher in the Rye” , written in England awaiting D-Day, then during D-Day and in the Battle of the Bulge, eventually in some field hospital in Germany for shell-shocked troops. Totally not about WWII but a character Salinger once wrote about before enlisting, but the point of the novel is the balance of the two competing thoughts outlined above, though it leans too much on defiance maybe.

    2. “Slaughterhouse Five” , about the Dresden bombings, but not. a weird story to say the least, but deals with the above balance, with apathy— Spinoza’s “Sub specie aeternitatis”, perspective of the eternal, gone awry. Vonnegut was a scout for the infantry captured during the Battle of the Bulge taken to Dresden; Salinger was military intelligence, he spoke French and/or German.

    3. “Catch 22”, Heller’s Army Air Corps experience in a novel is IMHO the one that strikes the perfect balance, as it addresses the craziness of bureaucracy at the platoon and the whole Army level, even life in general. Lt. Milo Minderbinder is that balance. but satire is the best approach, not defiance or apathy. That was my take away.

    If Filipinos were to only read 3 novels, these three are it.

    Prior to WWII, there wasn’t even a democracy to be feeling “alienation” from— American press was all for propaganda, many times leading to wars; fat cats abound and dictated national policy, corruption was the norm. Post WWII, new arrangements were made the U.N. , Bretton Woods, World Bank, etc. (that was for Micha 😉 )

    But what kept Americans always reminded by the first 2 concepts above of bureaucracy and true leadership, were those 3 novels, sure other novels hitting the same chords, and movies and TV shows came around, but those where the original three that packaged WWII in a nice understandable knot.


    There should be no “alienation” to be had, all this idealized stuff is only a half a century blip, we’ll return to power is power, might makes right— it’s the only thing we understand. All of humanity. 😉
    Embrace the Suck.

    • Micha says:

      I’m with you on the myth of democracy. The structure of governance as well as the economic arrangement in all countries that claim to be democracies are so skewed for the oligarchy it’s a marvel of propaganda why the proles get suckered into the myth.

      The rituals and iconography are all present but after the hoopla of elections, the proles don’t have a say on important policy decisions.

    • chemrock says:

      Re Maslow’s description of buraucrats –

      Someone said there are 3 types of graduates — A type that are brillianr scholars, B typet are the regular guys, and C type are the stragglers.

      The C types are the risk takers and street smart types, their character make up is such they are not bookish. But make no mistakes, they are intelligent people.

      It is the C types that go one to own their own businesses. But they are smart enough to know that they need brilliant people to run their organisations. So they pay better and employ the A types.

      The B types mostly end up as bureaucrats.

      Back in the 70s, Singapore took a paradigm shift. Lee Kuan Yew made a policy change to recruit the best into the civil service. He used to tell it this way. Imagine we recruit a batch of graduates into the legal service. After learning the ropes, 3,4 years later the brighter ones leave for private practice where the pay is much bigger. A tax evader, or a criminal, hires the best lawyer. Top brilliant lawyers vs mediocre public prosecutors — the criminals win. Does’nt make sense.

    • caliphman says:

      Good article for those who confuse democracy and liberty which are political concepts with capitalism, economic freedom, and socialism which are economic.

  7. caliphman says:

    Chemmy, I think in the Philippines a good national government is possible but improbable for the reasons you cited in your excellent article. I say this because I consider the administration of Ramon Magsaysay for the large part was such a government. By personal example and in the way he dealt with his officials and family members, he had a policy of zero tolerance for corruption in the government. Were most if not all the factors weighing against a clean government cited in the article operating during his administration? Yes they were. But if anything is to be gleaned from Magsaysay and Duterte, both very popular and charismatic leaders with the power to institute radical governmental change, a complete restructuring and culture shift from the bottom is not required. Just as these two presidents came out of the political landscape barely blips on the national radar, so there is still the possibility that another will emerge to lead the government and country back to the path of good government. It will have to be put into place from the top down and hence there is no assurance the next leader will continue any reforms. In Magsaysay’s case his influence did not survive the plane crash that ended his presidency.

    Of course, the likelihood of that happening peacefully and lawfully is much less when all democratic processes and institutions have been dismantled and a dictatoship or dynasty grips the reins of power.

    • chemrock says:

      The good they die young, as in Magsaysay.

      I think Philippines need a benevolent dictatorial Alpha type president to sort things out. 6 years is too short a time for decent democratic types like Pnoy to accomplish much.

  8. karlgarcia says:

    We cannot legislate good government.
    We have strict procurement laws, but each LGU has its own disadvantageous to the government overpricing thing from broom sticks to school buildings.

    COA does flag such issues, the ombudsman files cases, sandiganbayan convicts, but we will always have the Imelda Marcoses.

    Popoy here has been sharing his experiences on the academe and the practical side of public administration and good governance all he can do now is to be poetic and cryptic about it.

  9. karlgarcia says:

    I posted a link of Swiss direct democracy (more than once) and asked Irineo’s inputs.
    It seems that even if power is given to the people to participate, it ends up being a logistical nightmare so you end up with people not participating much.

    One last thing.
    Alienation, and LCX’s monologues on ww2 and post ww2 novels, reminded me of this song.

    State of the Nation
    I see them marching off to war
    They’re looking so heroic
    I’m told they won’t be gone for long
    But that’s a lie and they know it
    Ten thousand gone they won’t return
    Never to be seen again
    Strategic games is all we learn in the end
    But they say:
    Don’t you worry about the situation
    (A message from the telephone)
    They out there fighting for the state of the nation
    (I’m waiting a chance to come home)
    They always have to fight the alienation
    (I realize I’m fighting alone)
    When nightmares memories fades to dust
    We’ll get back on our feet again
    This war has nothing to do with us
    But somehow we’re still involved in it
    Don’t you worry about the situation
    (A message from the telephone)
    They out there fighting for the state of the nation
    (I’m waiting…

    • Reminds me of my stint in Viet Nam. I should have known when the first night in-country, the Vietnamese rock band at the bar was playing “We gotta get out of this place”.

      • karlgarcia says:

        This is the first time I will ask you about Vietnam.
        Did you feel back then that the war does not have anything to do with America?
        What about now?

        • Back then, I was doing service for my country. It was right and good, through training and my US stint as an instructor at artillery Officer Candidate School. In country, it became confusing when it was clear that the South Vietnamese were not really committed to the fighting, it was brutal fighting, and the nonsense of the Army got the better of me (I was disciplined for driving my own jeep). One of my men got hospitalized for burns. I visited him in the hospital and the place was a horror house of pain and howling from the truth of fighting. I was there at the time when stateside protests were building and many Americans were starting to hate on the war and those waging it. When I got out and home, I joined the protests. I had gone a full 180 degrees on the war.

          • I rather admire John Kerry.

          • chemrock says:

            Joe, I’m doing a compilation of Lee Kuan Yew;s speeches, interviews and I’m rediscovering a lot of history and his role as a travelling salesman all over the world to drum up support for SE Asian countries during the 60.70 era. Actually he did a lot of behind the scenes work that helped many of the West craft their policies on the East Asia. Take for example — he was talking about ‘freedom of navigation’ way back in 60s when contemplating the security threats in South China Seas with the approaching British withdrawal East of Suez.

            About Vietnam, he disagreed with deployment of US combatants. He felt it better to use US advisors and trainers, and get the South Vietnamese to do the fighting. He was also against the draft. But having got into the fighting, Lee felt US should’nt withdraw because it will be a big psychological boost to all the communist forces everywhere in the world, especially in Asean countries. He had some ideas on how the US could wean themselves out of the fighting without a full withdrawal.

            He saw a lot was going wrong with the way the war was being fought by the US. The tactic was wrong – full massive hardware, but there is no enemy division to use it against. He felt US loss the war not on the battlefield, but the domestic public killed the war.

            I thought a big reason for the battlefield losses was due to Mcnamara’s Folly. For those who don’t know about this. Although there was great publicity of fights against the draft at universities, the truth was it was difficulty for the Army to get all those middle and upper class university kids without huge political costs. So Mcnamra came up with a programme to use low IQ draftees. So all those hillbillies and all those living in the moutains and god forsaken places were called up. Many could’nt understand what was going on, let alone take instructions and learn how to fight. Hundreds of thousands of these kids were sent to Vietnam. They were known as Mcnamara’s morons. They put themselves and their mates in danger in the fields..

            The loss of young American lives was a great tragedy, including of course all those innocent civilians. We the older generation in Singapore feel a great sense of debt to those fallen GIs. Thank you for contribution.

            • That does not wholly fit my own experience. My basic training had kids (young men) from all strata of society, rich and educated, poor and uneducated. Officer Candidate School had mostly college educated people. But the demands for bodies strained the army’s ability to field competent officers. For artillery, my branch, they were cranking out 120 lieutenants every couple of weeks and sending them off to make life or death decisions they were not mature enough or experienced enough to make well. The fighting men were courageous and disciplined, and human, for all the flaws that brings to the field. I can only speak highly of them.

        • “Stuart A. Herrington was an American intelligence advisor assigned to root out the enemy in the Hau Nghia province. His two-year mission to capture or kill Communist agents operating there was made all the more difficult by local officials who were reluctant to cooperate, villagers who were too scared to talk, and VC who would not go down without a fight. Herrington developed an unexpected but intense identification with the villagers in his jurisdiction–and learned the hard way that experiencing war was profoundly different from philosophizing about it in a seminar room.”

          Joe and chemp,

          I believe this book is set around the time when Joe was there, or maybe before, but he echoed the same sentiments as yours above , chemp.

          Joe, I’ve seen the film “Born in the 4th of July”, in your estimate how many Vietnam vets actually joined the protests back home? were you guys organized or did you pretty much just joined the hippies?

          Maybe more blogs about your Vietnam experience to reach the AFP and folks in Senator Trillanes’ generation, Joe. Just an idea.

          • Good idea, but I’ll have to think about it to figure out the lesson plan. I just joined the hippies. The most surreal scene was about 10 protesters (among about a thousand) seeking shelter from the rain under my camouflage poncho liner whilst listening to Kunstler, Hayden, and Rubin speak as FBI agents walked the road taking down license plate numbers. I drove that day.

    • Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnnie Ray
      South Pacific, Walter Winchell, Joe DiMaggio
      Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Studebaker, television
      North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Monroe
      Rosenbergs, H-bomb, Sugar Ray, Panmunjom
      Brando, “The King and I” and “The Catcher in the Rye”
      Eisenhower, vaccine, England’s got a new queen
      Marciano, Liberace, Santayana goodbye

      We didn’t start the fire
      It was always burning
      Since the world’s been turning
      We didn’t start the fire
      No we didn’t light it
      But we tried to fight it

      Joseph Stalin, Malenkov, Nasser and Prokofiev
      Rockefeller, Campanella, Communist Bloc
      Roy Cohn, Juan Peron, Toscanini, Dacron
      Dien Bien Phu falls, “Rock Around the Clock”
      Einstein, James Dean, Brooklyn’s got a winning team
      Davy Crockett, Peter Pan, Elvis Presley, Disneyland
      Bardot, Budapest, Alabama, Krushchev
      Princess Grace, “Peyton Place”, trouble in the Suez

      We didn’t start the fire
      It was always burning
      Since the world’s been turning
      We didn’t start the fire
      No we didn’t light it
      But we tried to fight it

      Little Rock, Pasternak, Mickey Mantle, Kerouac
      Sputnik, Chou En-Lai, “Bridge on the River Kwai”
      Lebanon, Charlse de Gaulle, California baseball
      Starkweather, homicide, children of thalidomide
      Buddy Holly, “Ben Hur”, space monkey, Mafia
      Hula hoops, Castro, Edsel is a no-go
      U2, Syngman Rhee, payola and Kennedy
      Chubby Checker, “Psycho”, Belgians in the Congo

      We didn’t start the fire
      It was always burning
      Since the world’s been turning
      We didn’t start the fire
      No we didn’t light it
      But we tried to fight it

      Hemingway, Eichmann, “Stranger in a Strange Land”
      Dylan, Berlin, Bay of Pigs invasion
      “Lawrence of Arabia”, British Beatlemania
      Ole Miss, John Glenn, Liston beats Patterson
      Pope Paul, Malcolm X, British politician sex
      JFK, blown away, what else do I have to say

      We didn’t start the fire
      It was always burning
      Since the world’s been turning
      We didn’t start the fire
      No we didn’t light it
      But we tried to fight it

      Birth control, Ho Chi Minh, Richard Nixon back again
      Moonshot, Woodstock, Watergate, punk rock
      Begin, Reagan, Palestine, terror on the airline
      Ayatollah’s in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan
      “Wheel of Fortune”, Sally Ride, heavy metal, suicide
      Foreign debts, homeless vets, AIDS, crack, Bernie Goetz
      Hypodermics on the shores, China’s under martial law
      Rock and roller cola wars, I can’t take it anymore

      We didn’t start the fire
      It was always burning
      Since the world’s been turning
      We didn’t start the fire
      But when we are gone

      Will it still burn on, and on, and on, and on
      We didn’t start the fire
      It was always burning
      Since the world’s been turning

      We didn’t start the fire
      No we didn’t light it
      But we tried to fight it
      We didn’t start the fire
      It was always burning
      Since the world’s been turning

      We didn’t start the fire
      No we didn’t light it
      But we tried to fight it

      Artist: Billy Joel
      Album: Storm Front
      Released: 1989


      karl, that’s probably the best song for our generation, but it should’ve been updated with a fresh new verse, like…

      9/11, terrorists, fake wars, Housing bubble crash
      Gone to Iraq, when we should’ve stayed in Af-Pak
      W. Bush, Obama, Hillary lost
      MCU Ironman Downey made a lot of cash
      Trump’s here, now it’s clear that we’ve all lost
      Foreign debts, homeless vets, AIDS, crack, now its opioids
      Duterte, Xi, Kim, it’s all Chinese to me
      Who bombed the Jap tanker, smells of Tonkin again

      I’m no song-writer, lyricist, like Billie Eilish, but something like that.


      “Joe, I’m doing a compilation of Lee Kuan Yew;s speeches, interviews and I’m rediscovering a lot of history and his role as a travelling salesman all over the world to drum up support for SE Asian countries during the 60.70 era.”


      Looking forward to that blog. I’m especially interested in Singapores bureaucrats now, as well as its bureaucracies, agencies, etc.

      The Marine Corps does something similar re your A and B and C type grads. New officers whether from OCS or Naval Academy, etc. are subject to a sports draft (like NBA, NFL) in which each unit gets a pick round robin. to ensure each S-1 admin; S-2 intel; S-3 ops/training ; S-4 supply/logistics, comms, civil affairs, etc. etc. all get a shot at the best and brightest new officers.

      after their initial 2-4 years stint, then they can move around. or get out.

      In the bigger Federal bureaucracy, you got USGS and NPS rangers that are cull from the science departments, not the best and brightest, those tend to stay in academia or go to private sector. but still as passionate.

      Then you got the law enforcement agencies, that tend to cull from the military and sub-par colleges (mostly Christian colleges in the mid-west).

      As for your lawyer analogy above, here it’s the US attorneys that work hand in hand with the FBI (and US Marshalls), their turn over rate is high, due to private practice being there to swoop up former FBI agents and former US attorneys. The ones that stay tend to be political types, and or just enjoy power more than money.

      Over here the private sector is a huge pull, but bright grads still do their time in public service because it’s considered a stepping stone, ie. experience, top secret clearances, connections, etc.. I don’t see the private sector as a huge pull in Singapore though.

      The private sector pull is what ensures fresh blood always flowing into the public service over here; now granted there are agencies like the Social Security agency, HUD, the VA, which tend to attract more non-Whites, where there is no private sector pull, hence stagnant, essentially it’s gov’t work for the sake of gov’t work. Marlow’s from Heart of Darkness description above… 😉

      DMV is state gov’t, but if you go to any DMV in the US especially ones near the coastal states, 60-80% will be Filipinos, and other non-Whites.

      My point, there’s also this underlying strata within gov’t work similar to what I noticed in Singapore with Chinese on top, then Indians, then Malays. Sikhs tend to be higher, or many it’s just the headdress.

      Looking forward to you covering Singaporean bureaucracy, chem!

  10. karlgarcia says:

    I looked for a direct democracy article in the Philippine news, here is one.

    Drawbacks I see is the same thuggery, bribery and power play can still happen, especially here in the Philippines.

    We need a threat to opportunity/ weakness to strength converter if there is such a thing.

  11. buwayahman says:

    Unfortunately, our leaders are elected by the people. So aside from the points you mentioned, our society needs some sort of maturity to understand what it means to have good governance. The concept of check-and-balance, the roles of the separate branches of government, the importance of the Constitution — all this flies over the head of the common citizenry.

    Until our countrymen know whom to elect, our country is doomed to remain in the doldrums

    • I always stay it starts on the basketball court, where the typical Filipino’s sense of fairness is what is fair for himself. Now there is a bit of this in all sports, especially in most sports fans, this is simply the natural make-up of men and apes to see one’s own side first. Seeing yes, I broke the rules this time, I accept the referee’s judgement, takes exactly the kind of maturity most Filipinos do not have. If the judgement is against one’s group, howl howl howl, if it is against the other group “why are they bias for them”, the judgement is not seen as enough. is about “My Way”, “Our Way” and “Covenants”. The social contract postulated by Montesquieu is a kind of covenant. Confucian societies like Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore have their covenants too, in a different way of course.

      Mainland China is a massive attempt at “Our Way”, not at all Confucian. The worst aspects of neoliberalism and communism combined. A painful time is coming to the Philippines.

    • chemrock says:

      “The best argument against Democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” Churchill

      • With most Filipino voters, I think what governance really is is hardly understood. Probably for them a good mayor, governor, or President is one who takes immediate action and gives immediate solutions to whatever current problem they have, even via workarounds.

        While the entire world of “fill up this form, go to that government office” is something they are barely more comfortable with than when their ancestors had to go to the Spanish colonial offices or the Spanish friar, or face a Spanish court.

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