Is ‘Daang Matuwid’ (straight path) enough for the Philippines to catch up?

If we are to believe President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III and his minions, the Philippines’ only hope for a bright future is to continue the “reform” agenda set in motion by the current administration. But of course they will say that — because the current party in power — the Liberal Party — wants to stay in power. This means assuring that someone from its ranks bags that lucrative seat in Malacanang in 2016.

Whether the effort to remain in power past 2016 is motivated by a genuine concern for the continuity of these reforms or to keep President BS Aquino out of jail is beside the point. The point is, can the Philippines afford to rely on the nebulous notion that keeping on the straight and narrow will get it places?


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Funny that we would use the straight path as a metaphor to illustrate the Liberal Party’s key strategic philosophy. Any motorist would know that the idea of staying within your road lane in order to get from point A to B (like one would be able to in better-designed roads in the First World) in Metro Manila is a foolish dream. You need to actively swerve, cut-off slower sods, and muscle your way into positions of advantage over the entirety of your road trip in Manila. People who follow the rules don’t get anywhere (or end up arriving at their destinations two hours late).

The reality is that to get to the top involves not just going with the flow and being told how to do things. The Philippines has a hell of a lot of catching up to do. Incremental gains from “reform” that merely tinkers at the fringes of the status quo will not cut it if Filipinos are to aspire big. What Singapore achieved — to get from Third World to First World — within a single generation takes progress in leaps and bounds.

In short, keeping to the straight-and-narrow, which essentially means merely doing no wrong will only get you so far — perhaps only just enough to keep the Philippines falling further behind. If Filipinos aspire to catch up and overtake the likes of Thailand and Malaysia (who were, just a decade or two ago its developmental peers in the region), it has to find the bumpier curvier road to traverse at twice the speed.

Too hard?

There you go.

See, nothing worth achieving is easy. The trouble is, merely being compliant with the law is already an immense challenge for Filipinos who are, at a fundamental level, habitual law-breakers. For other more progressive societies, being compliant with the law already serves as the baseline. What does that say? The straight-and-narrow should be seen as Point Zero. Progress on top of the straight-and-narrow is when we get to the positives. At the moment, the Philippines is in the negative and trying to get to Point Zero. There is nothing “positive” about being in that position. The Philippines is, by all measures, at a negative state, if we use that cold standard of achievement.

The common wisdom amongst ordinary Filipinos eking out a living is that walang yumayaman sa pagiging empleyado (“nobody gets rich by being a mere employee all his life”). At some point you gotta take a big risk, get around to being your own boss and do things your way in order to start raking in the big bucks. The Philippines needs to do the equivalent of that. Muddling along in mediocrity and even achieving Point Zero levels of “development” won’t turn it into another Singapore. Filipinos need to innovate and churn out original ideas, products, and services that will differentiate it on a crowded planet.

That is the challenge a true leader needs to issue to his countrymen — not that Daang Matuwid that only serves to pander to that all-too-familiar Loser Mentality that imprisons Filipinos minds.

It is time Filipinos (1) find that sort of leader and (2) take the initiative to challenge themselves with aspirations to higher standards of achievement.

24 Replies to “Is ‘Daang Matuwid’ (straight path) enough for the Philippines to catch up?”

  1. The difference between the Philippines and Singapore is this:
    80% = the “nature of the person” multiplied by 100 million,
    20% = the “nature of the land” multiplied by 7,000.

    Singaporeans have an average IQ of 108, the highest in the world. Filipinos are 22 IQ points less intelligent. Also, the small main island of Singapore has a very strategic location if you look it on the map, which makes it economically advantageous in the first place. But let’s say geography is a non-factor. “To challenge themselves with aspirations to higher standards of achievement” is a huge understatement. If you’re looking to follow the lead of Singapore, you’re going to have to change the nature (read: filogic and filethic) of the people on a grand scale of 100 million. That’s more like it

    1. The following graphic I made a few years back illustrates the key difference between Singapore and the Philippines. Singaporeans deliver more bang per head. Filipinos, on the other hand are just good at delivering more babies per bang… 😀

  2. [Muddling along in mediocrity and even achieving
    Point Zero levels of “development” won’t turn it
    into another Singapore. Filipinos need to
    innovate and churn out original ideas, products,
    and services]

    Once again, benignO, you’re exactly right. While Straight Path sounds good, it’s just a concept. Philippines needs immediate and massive results and has ZERO time to waste waiting for Presidents and Politicians.

    Interestingly, Pres SONA didn’t mention Emergency Powers he needs to resolve Power Capacity issues, which is a good place to begin if we’re serious about progress.

  3. You never change things by fighting the existing reality.

    To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

    1. @ d_forsaken, EXCELLENT!!!! Buckminster Fuller saying, It’s our company slogan, and I put it on the Home page of our website.

      I’m happy to know some one else uses it, and it’s exactly what we need to do for Philippines.

  4. I agree we have a lot of catching up to do.

    If we want a shortcut to reaching “Singapore” status, let the Chinese rule this country. We have lots of Filipino-Chinese around – just quietly doing business. Why aren’t they running for government positions? Is Alfredo Lim the only one who cares enough to put Chinese blood into PH politics?

    Note: Singapore is basically the “Chinese” part of the former Malaysian unified country. They chose to break away and look at them now -> Decades beyond brownies like PH.

    If the Filipino Chinese don’t want to directly meddle with Politics in this country, then we should have a law that assigns each Filipino government official to a Chinese, Korean, or Japanese adviser – that would help upgrade their logical thinking process closer to the Zaxxun mindset.

    Also, every official down to the barangay level is required to visit Singapore – to have their jaws drop and put some sense back into them (as if there was any sense in their coconuts to begin with).

    1. Hi, zaxx. You have really thought this through. I am impressed, and agree on all points.

      I was always curious why the Phil / Chinese community stayed in stealth mode (except for Henry Sy). We need their skill sets, but if they choose to remain shy, no problem.

      Actually, Singapore will come here to do some scientific research with me and they would be happy to guide us with planning.

      ASEAN + 3 is beginning to accelerate, so there will be a lot of intellectual exchange, and Singapore would be happy to guide us.

      I also agree on sending small delegations abroad. It will be very enlightening

      1. Hey Go RICO. Thanks. And I’m glad to find someone actively doing something other than mere talk and whining around here.

        It’s funny you mentioned ASEAN+3. It just dawned on me that it looks like Japan eventually got their “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” after all – but in a peaceful way.

        I’ve worked with a lot of Japanese – and I know their secret sauce. I think they’re in the best position to lead ASEAN+3. Our northern neighbors + Singapore have a lot to teach Filipinos.

        Something like the EU is shaping up around here – and the more interchange/interaction of intellectual minds across borders – the better for PH. So keep it rolling…

        1. Likewise, zaxx, it’s good to meet someone with positive attitude. Now the last SONA is behind us, we can focus on the serious business of creating a new economy.

          I noticed other comments are trending to the future now, so GRP can return to normal.

          I spent my early years in Japan and it changed my life. I envy you being able to work with them.

          Yes, ASEAN + 3 will be a great opportunity for Philippines to grow fast, but Philippines needs to send delegations of the best and brightest, not the usual hacks or we’ll lose face and Singapore and Japan will leverage the perceived weakness.

          Frankly, ASEAN is the reason for PRC’s set up in S. China Sea, as a physical wedge between Singapore, Philippines and Vietnam, so we need Japan for balance. Not to worry, just need to keep our eyes open.

          Re: business at home, timing is good to develop some progressive technocrats as leaders. If any names come to mind, please let me know.

          Gotta get back to work now, zaxx. Stay in touch. CHEERS.

    2. barangay officials came from poor families with low educational background (mostly but not all). they end up in corruption and nepotism. i know this because our brgy. captain is one of the corrupt. he now asked his wife to run for he position in next year’s election.

      we have a lot of brilliant minds but they disdain public service because of corruption. we need to clean the government.

      let’s go for Federal Parliament or Semi-Presidential Federal Parliament

      Malaya integrated Singapore and became Malaysia. so that “si” in Malaysia is Singapore. i don’t know why they didn’t remove “si” until now.

      1. Hi, Andrew. I saw your reply to zaxx and couldn’t resist commenting.

        Like you, I considered a Federal Parliament or Semi-Presidential Federal Parliament, but I realized that if it’s taken them 30 years to define “Political Dynasty”, it would take 3,000 years for the Politicos to switch from a Constitutional Oligarchy to a Parliamentarian System, and we’d still be stuck with the corrupt Barangay Issues.

        I recommend we build from the Provincial / LGU Level, setting up each Province to Generate it’s own Power and Produce it’s own Fuel, and we provide the high paying jobs and free College Education for all students

        That’s pretty good leverage to attract and promote quality leadership at the Barangay level.

        The Government keep their seats in Legislature the same as now as long as they don’t interfere with progress or bother the people.

        How does that sound?? CHEERS!!

        1. agreed. that’s one of my alternative solution as well. empowering the LGUs. devolve economic/financial control. 60-40.

          the problem is that even the provinces are being controlled by corrupt, wealthy families hence, honest businessmen and public servants can’t flex their muscles.

          in order for the Federal parliament / semi to be realized, the country must have a strongman at the top. sadly ‘The Dark Knight’ won’t run for the office. he’ll start cleaning the government first then shift to Federal-Parliament. full support on law enforcers, education, teachers and farmers.

          in order for our plans to work, we need someone with “political will” to turn our ship on the right direction. of course “support” of the people is required in order for it to work. it’s an interplay between good government and inspired/disciplined people.

        2. Again, you’re correct, Andrew. The key to earning support from the LGU is to first create jobs for their people (votes) and economic development for their communities (revenue).

          We have built a sustainable economic development model where farmers with 1 hectare can each earn P750, 000 Year for 20 years, and the LGUs get credit, so everyone is happy.

          In short, offering that kind of opportunity ($P$) makes it too expensive for Politicians to buy votes and the Powerful Families can resist, but they can’t compete.

          To ensure food security, we first provide farmers with a rice growing system that increases yield from 3 Tons to 16 Tons per Ha to keep the yield high and the price low so it doesn’t disrupt the economy, and then we use the remaining 5 Ha for energy crops where farmers earn their “Big Money”.

  5. A leader with a strong patriotic conviction for his own country Is what the Philippines needed to get out of his third world status. A leader who is ready to sacrifice his well being , a leader who has charisma to lead others. A leader who instill to improved the life of his country men….but who that could be???? he needs international support and financial investment….but how if the country is corrupt and only the the few specially people who run the goverment are the only ones who got rich and well off…..we from the outside the country see things that people inside cannot see….you got a leader who starts fighting this corrupt politicians and what did he get???????a very stupid response of negativity….who among others will be inspired to continue on ….the people of this country who needed help are the ones destroying this image that was gained…..Now tell me ……..what will the next president will likely do??????God help the Philippine people and this Land they called Pearl of the Orient Seas…..for I don’t see to future for its people are not ONE…..they don’t have a team work mentality…..they are survivors of their own alone…

    1. @Cezar, I agree with you on ALL counts. I can assure you, if Philippines finds the one they will follow, International support will come quickly.

      Countries always respond to help Philippines in time of crisis, but they are really unhappy with the way aid never gets to the people because of corruption.

      The key will be to find our leaders and KEEP THEM OUT OF GOVERNMENT. That’s the root of all evil.

      We can succeed from the grassroots, and make the Government irrelevant.

  6. Aquino’s “straight Path” (Daan Matuwid) is money from the: DAP, PDAF, Pork Barrels, etc…going “straight” to the pockets of Aquino, Abad, his minionss, his partymates, his supporters, his family, etc…

    It is up to the Filipino people,to find a good leader,to lead the country,as a whole.

    We bloggers, have given our best, to write ways to do it. People can dessiminate or spread, what they had read in our blogs.

    We have a dysfunctional political and economic system. We have dysfunctional people who are our leaders. We are in a deep hole…we have to dig ourselves out of the hole.

    1. Well said, Hayden. We’ve given this Government 30 years and they continue to fail.

      There is vast talent in this country, no reason to continue to wait on the Politicians, we can do it ourselves, better, faster and cheaper.

  7. I always had my own saying in life, “If what you’re doing is so easy, there’s something wrong with it.” The easy way has always been the wrong way.

    There is no shortcut to success or greatness. That’s one thing we Filipinos must realize the most.

  8. Daan Matuwid, as a concept or notion, was a good start. ADB estimates that 40% of the PHL Budget goes to corruption. Gosh, that is Php 4OB for every 100B; that is a lot of money wasted when you think Budget now is multi trillion. No wonder they could give P500 to 1000 per voter during election and still spend 10to 15B per presidential candidate for watchers, TV ads, and sorties. Only crazy guys can run for president in PHL. It is a competition on who got the most kickback, and that is what we call election.

    As a slogan, it is understandable that it had to catch the imagination of even the ordinary folks. Unfortunately, it remained just a slogan. No policy, no system, no seriousness in institutionalizing it, was put in place to support it. It was all lip service. Worse, KKK, Liberal Party, and PNoy himself and Abad went against it. You have the scandals of PDAF, DAP, Malampaya, MRT, LTO computerization, LTO plates, driver’s license, peace by capitulating Php 75B to the enemy, etc etc., and that is supposed to be the definition of the best President the country ever had. Well, tell you what, that poisoned everything that is good. Who will now believe any slogan, any platform, any vision by any candidate.

    Candidate can still pursue an anti-corruption campaign, but he has to use imagination to say that it is definitely not the same as Daan Matuwid. The moment they perceive a similarity, that candidate is a goner.

    Who needs enemies, when there is one in the Palace being given free luxurious board and lodging, but who is really the Bald Barbarian From South China Sea who landed in Tarlac, who gave Spratlys and about to, the ARMM region, and who continues to ravage the land and its institutions, and more critically, the minds of the gullible. They keep saying he loves music, beautiful women and fast cars — that is to hide he is the Bald Barbarian, the illusion and daydreams of an autistic that became a reality. He is the Wolf of Wall Street, este Times Street in Quezon City pala, the capital of carnapping. Now, the gullible have learn the Art of Noynoying.

    1. Anti-corruption or, for that matter, anti-any-crime is important when you are a country where crime and corruption rules. The modern normal of course is an order where crime is under consistent control (not zero, which is an unrealistic target, but controlled).

      When you get to the latter state, it means the police and justice systems are doing their job. That is, of course, something to celebrate — when you were once in the negative: where doing one’s job was considered more the exception than the rule. Point Zero is the other way around — a society where people doing their jobs properly is the rule rather than the exception.

      Getting to Point Zero is good (as far as corruption is concerned) but it should not be made the singular rallying point of an entire presidencey. In parallel with that should be initiatives to get the Philippines to exceed Point Zero and compete at the level that Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam are at the very least or at the level Singapore and Taiwan are at best.

      1. Gentlemen, I am IMPRESSED!!! All comments are positive and constructive. Thank you!!!

        Can Philippines catch up?? ABSOLUTELY!! However, we must learn from the mistakes and missteps of others to avoid unintended consequences.

        Example, progress China accomplished in 30 years took the West 100 years to achieve, however, China failed to plan for 100 years worth of pollution compressed into only 30 years, and the country may not survive.

        “Solving for ZERO” is easy, but it should be applied in parallel; ZERO Debt, ZERO Gov PPP or Subsidy, ZERO Poverty, ZERO Unemployment, zERO Hunger, ZERO Waste, Zero Emissions, ZERO Corruption, Politicians, Bureaucrats or Tiny Dynasties,etc.

        I don’t have a cool graphic like benignO, but his illustrates what we need to accomplish.

        Philippines has the talent and the desire, we just need to add technology, poise, precision and execution and we’ll be a powerhouse. CHEERS.

      2. Indeed. Seeing the world as a glass half full rather than half empty is good, but it depends on which half is on top of the other.

        If the half-full part is above the half empty part, well, that’s not a very realistic state to sustain.

  9. In many ways Noynoy’s ‘Daang Matuwid’ mirrors the ‘Tama Na, Sobra Na, Palitan Na’ of his mother. It drew strength from promising a change from an administration perceived to be rotten. Unfortunately, like any campaign built on slogans, harsh reality exposed the sandy foundation. It only promised what it WOULDN’T do (like ‘wang-wang’) but fell short on what it WOULD actually do. So Aquino was lost in his own little world of ‘I’m keeping my poromise, I didn’t steal anything’, and assumed that his minions would follow his example. Too, he was not proactive anough. While his anti-competition and Cabotage laws are commendable, his administration ignored the most basic factor keeping FDIs away, namely the foreign ownership restrictions in the Constitution. That, at least, would have provided some boost to am investment climate already reeling from poor infrastructure, bureaucracy and inefficiency.

  10. We have been overtaken by our neighbor in ASEAN like Vietnam. Why? because Aquinomics doesnt care about creating jobs and putting food on Filipino families tables. It is populist — full of false promises with no sound basis in reality.

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