Why appeals for discipline and consideration is an exercise in futility in the Philippines’ current incarnation

So there you have it. Just a few days after the HPG’s handover of the traffic control of EDSA from the MMDA, one exasperated trooper blurted out what level-headed Pinoys have been complaining about their co-citizens since Day 1: Maraming pasaway.

Granted that the monster EDSA had become has been the result of years of neglect and toothless incompetence of the present government, one can’t help but wonder how things would be if every person in that major highway knows his place in the bigger scheme of things. But as that cop had unwittingly proved with just a single statement, Filipinos—or at least Metro Manilans—are an unruly, opportunistic lot.


Subscribe to our Substack community GRP Insider to receive by email our in-depth free weekly newsletter. Opt into a paid subscription and you'll get premium insider briefs and insights from us.
Subscribe to our Substack newsletter, GRP Insider!
Learn more

That observation may have been what prompted a lot of people to accept and even support the brand of Wild West governance Rodrigo Duterte had been practicing in Davao for years. Where the rules of one governing unit takes precedence over rights and, at times, proper investigative procedure in dealing with criminals. There are a lot of arguable points on that approach from moral, ethical, and humanist standpoints. One could even argue that such approach is a blatant shortcut that eschews proper expected behavior of an ideal leader but that’s another story altogether.

Thing is, Duterte’s style—abominable or not—made such a distinct impact on the Pinoy psyche because it speaks the language most Pinoys know and respond to: Intimidation. Or in that popular Tagalog expression: Unahan lang yan sa sindak. No doubt using fear and severe punishments as a means to keep everyone in line.

The type of iron-fisted rule that bleeding hearts and so-called progressives like human rights groups had condemned as barbaric and uncivilized. Maybe so. But in light of those accusations of barbarism and savagery, there are some questions that need to be asked:

  • How does one define civilized?
  • Can the Philippines be considered a civilized country in the first place?
  • Do the majority of the people residing in it behave in a way that’s expected of a civilized citizen?
  • Are the rights accorded to every citizen balanced by a sense of responsibility and duty by making sure they behave collectively as a single unit to achieve a common goal?
  • Do people who recognize their roles and responsibilites in the society outumber those who do not?

For lofty concepts like human rights, liberty, and that overused ‘freedom’ to take flight, you need a society that at least behaves like it recognizes these concepts and the responsibility that comes to continue practicing it. But applying concepts like that to an apathetic and ruggedly self-serving population and expecting the people to comply appropriately on their own accord is like patting a lion’s head and expecting the predator not to eat you because you were nice to it.

The tricky part about the concept of democracy is that citizens are expected to place safeguards and limitations upon themselves and proactively participate in nation-building. And when individual initiative fails, the law enforcement agencies take over to maintain peace and any semblance of order to make sure the wheels are still turning despite minor interruptions caused by erring citizens.

Ironic because the Philippines is regarded as a champion of democracy and freedom especially after the 1986 People Power revolution. But look around these days and try to see if there really is some freedom for everyone to enjoy. The Metro Manila traffic alone is robbing people of valuable hours with which they can spend productively outside their jobs.

If we are to depend on the Pinoy’s innate “goodness” and “sensitivity”, as the recent appeals for more discipline in the road by the traffic adminstrators, then we might as well carve our individual epitaphs because we are doomed. It will never happen.

‘Lack of political will’ had been a very catchy buzz term these days. It implies the governing body should be stern and not afraid to lose popularity for employing drastic measures to keep the general population in check.

But then looking back at some of the applicants who possessed a semblance of that “will” who were never given a chance to serve and the jokers who pranced and preened their way via cheap thrills to get the votes, is simply head-scratching: That it has to come to force Duterte to run for everyone to realize the urgency for a much-needed spanking.

[Photo courtesy Inquirer.net.]

15 Replies to “Why appeals for discipline and consideration is an exercise in futility in the Philippines’ current incarnation”

  1. Trying to unravel the Pinoy psyche seems to be leading to a new distinct scientific discipline in itself owing to how convolutedly complex of a labyrinth of dark tunnels Pinoys have dug themselves into.

    But to make things simpler, the best way to handle and manage Pinoys is by treating them like a bunch of unruly 3rd graders.

    Left alone to their own devices with Freedom – is not the way to go.

    There’s one thing a 3rd grader will understand – a big solid Rod that can really hurt ones butt. Call it intimidating iron fisted rule if you will – bit that’s the most effective language in a land of anarchy.

    If only Marcos, had been a righteous authoritarian rather than a corrupt one – we would have been a Singapore by now. I agree Phil needs the likes of a DU30.

  2. The problem with the Filipino psyche is that it is obsessed with winning over others. They treat everything as a contest where they try to become more “mabeauty” than the other. That applies not just to consumerism and “talent contests,” but even on the road, wheer they believe everyone else driving along with is an enemy. Thus, Filipinos end up doing things that hurt others, but they themselves get hurt too.

    Filipinos should drop their desire to win. They should realize that winning isn’t everything, neither is it the only thing. It’s NOTHING.

    1. Exactly, Chino. The concept of win-win positioning has not penetrated the culture, their attitudes, and their ways of doing things on a daily basis. I win – You win has more advantage than win-lose positioning. I win – you lose is very much a short-term way of thinking. Look at all the successful people, they think win-win and they think long term.

  3. The Filipino people–not just the Manilenos—“are an unruly, opportunistic lot,” and it show in every aspect of our lives and on how we treat our country and one another.

    Although I’m not a fan of Ferdinand Marcos, or any crooked politicians before and after him, he was very accurate in describing our people as an “unwieldy” bunch who refused to be governed by their own kind, and aptly declared Martial Law to suppress any potential “en masse”uprisings instigated by his political enemies.

    Rodrigo Duterte is effective in Davao because he also understands the “unwieldy” mindsets of our people, shadowed Marcos’ leadership style of “intimidation,” and efficiently applied the only method that our people will respond to: committing unspeakable violence on those who challenged his authority.

    The Filipino people are civilized in ways the majority of the population conduct themselves according to the accepted protocols established by the international communities: the country is not plagued by constant political uprisings or civil wars, the people are religious and educated, Filipinos dote the globe and cordially adhere to their host countries’ way of life, and our government is recognized–although not necessarily admired nor respected—by members of the United Nation.

    I supposed these positive descriptions makes the Philippines a generally accepted civilized nation.
    However, in spite of the basic qualifications that make us number among civilized nations, and some Filipinos will argue a “world class” nation, we still think and live our lives in a very distinct and similar manners in which our ancestors had lived theirs centuries ago: tribal and feudal-like.

    We are tribal because our subconscious still insists that—in spite of living under one Republic and one flag—we are still separated by our respective regions, provinces, dialects, religions, values, traditions, attitudes, and ways of life.

    We are feudal because we are ready to compete, and outdo, one another for our country’s resources and opportunities; fight to maintain our status quo and sense of importance; and readily adopt foreign cultures and lineages (mainly Caucasians) because we are ashamed of our indigenous features and primitive backgrounds.

    These are the reasons why Filipinos “are an unruly, opportunistic lot,”

    1. I also think this is most likely true of all nations around the world….at some point,humanity will need to embrace our differences,embrace everything that makes us unique,rather than drawing xenophobic lines that divide,separate and ultimately turn our backs on one another…

      1. Biffa Bacon,

        I try not to compare the Philippines’ problems to other countries’ problems; way too many Filipinos are already doing that, to try to undermine or deflect the attention from the root of our problems as Filipinos: ourselves.

        I just shared with Get Real Philippines my experience and observation of our people—who we are, what we are, and why we do what we do. And I’m not exempt from those observations, criticism, or however one wants to look at my comment.



        1. Oh I’m not criticising your comment at all,only making the observation that these seem to be problems of human nature,and not confined to this country or that country,they are common issues that exist all over the world…

  4. Are filipinos that leave their country to live and work abroad an undisciplined lot ? No…to the contrary,they generally abide by the rules,set examples to others and are productive…structure and discipline are good things,and if you cant do it yourself,it surely will be to the benefit of all to have it imposed on you by a strong leader..WHAT THE HELL IS SO WRONG WITH ADMITTING YOU CANT DO IT BY YOURSELF,AND YOU JUST MIGHT NEED SOME HELP???? IS IT THAT RIDICULOUS THING CALLED FILIPINO PRIDE??? WHAT A JOKE !!! GET REAL PHILIPPINES !!!

    1. You , just hit the bulls eye question , why Filipinos when they go overseas , they became disciplined and follow the rules of that country and they became productive OFW, the answere is because they know if they break the law they cannot get away with it and no one will help them out if they get trouble . While back home , they can bribe , they would know a politician who can get them out . In others words , they can get away But . In the Philippines , Laws are made to be broken and get away with it , instead if diciplining the population . The law makers are the first law breakers and everybody do the same . There should be no mercy for the law breakers , they should be punished in accordance with the law , no exemption.

  5. First, we are not a Democracy. We are a Feudal Oligarchy.

    Maybe, the Iron Hand of Duterte worked in Davao City. However, at national level, I doubt that it will work. There are too many negative forces, that Duterte will contend to, if he will be elected President.

    Our problems are too nuimerous. It will take a Superman to solve them. It is aggravated, when we elected a Mentally Retarded, good for nothing and useless, Aquino.

  6. even if Duterte doesn’t run, the fact that he left Davao as a ‘Singapore in the making’ by persuading the people there to adhere to a 30km/h speed limit, banning new year eve fireworks, and generally being considerate enough of others for the common good that life seems to have improved somewhat more than in other parts of the country is reason to hope that long after he’s gone, his legacy will carry on. But just as in Singapore, it’s not enough to have an orderly disciplined society: basic human rights need to be scrupulously adhered to – freedom of assembly, speech, press etc – to enable true democracy to thrive. Dissent is not treason.

  7. Duterte’s brand of governance may or may not work, BUT it is based in Neanderthalic thinking. For ONE example :executing Marijuana dealers as if they are ‘drug-pushers’. While most ‘civilized’ countries are realizing the benefits of the Marijuana plant (: of taxing revenues, pain killing treatment, cataract curing, and the fact that jailing someone for a substance less harmful than alcohol is assinine, and expensive) and are legalizing or at least decriminalizing its use, Duterte see’s it as a blight on society. The fucking guy is from centuries long gone and the Philippines needs to move forward, not backward.
    and that is only one example. The Filippines appears as a drunkard careening back and forth between extremes as it knows something is desperately wrong but hasn’t a clue how to fix it.

  8. “If the government had failed to establish the basics for political stability and social cohesion, the rule of law will have become an “empty slogan” in the back of SG.” – Lee Kuan Yew

    Remembering the incident of that pinoy tourist who arrogantly defied the rule of law in Davao City, if Mayor Duterte didn’t do what’s necessary, then the ordinance would have been an “empty slogan”. so he gave the arrogant mofo a choice via “political will” a stupid filipino would understand: bullets on the balls, go to prison, or swallow the cigarette butt. and that mofo paid dearly. the lesson is not to fear the mayor but to simply follow the law, something most filipinos lack.

    To me, sometimes you need to protect Lady Justice(that blindfolded chick with a weighing scale) by political will for her to work. so the ordinance is for all, that violator has been weighed and measured. he is punished by “The Punisher”.

    Mayor Duterte exist because there’s a negative variable in the equation of the Philippine Matrix. He simply completes the formula.

  9. “Dicipline” is a foreign word to Filipinos since all of them live their lives in a self-serving (“makasarili” and “kanya-kanya”) and aristocratic (“hambog”) manner.

    The truth is Filipinos don’t like nor trust each other, ashamed of their indigenous and primitive backgrounds, and feel they are all “world class” people just because they’ve been westernized and can speak English.

    All of these personality traits are the necessary ingredients for disaster. And that is what the Philippines is today: a disaster.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.