Duterte’s ‘revolutionary government’: Just another POLITICAL solution that will fail

‘Revolutionary’ governments have been a Filipino obsession since 1898 when the first such government was supposedly established by Emilio Aguinaldo to mark the Philippines’ so-called “independence” from Spain. Several “revolutions” later, including the recent 1986 EDSA “revolution”, Filipinos continue to pin their hopes on the anticipated revolutionary outcomes of these revolutions. What makes revolutions so appealing the Filipinos, it seems, is that these supposedly pave the way to a prosperous future.

It is easy, in hindsight, to take stock of the results delivered by these hopes in a better future that marked the euphoria following the 1898 and 1986 “revolutions”. They are similar to the same sort of hope that was in the air when the Philippines was granted “independence” by the United States in 1946 and then when Ferdinand Marcos launched his “New Society Movement” following his declaration of Martial Law in 1972. The short of it is that whether the momentous occassion involved a “revolutionary” transition of power or a sudden win for “freedom” (or whatever else was supposedly “fought” for), the long-term outcome was mostly that of abject disappointment.

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

Out of the 1898 “revolution”, an independent Philippines did not materialise — at least one recognised by the rest of the world (evidently something important to Filipinos as we observe today). The 1946 granting of independence to Filipinos, likewise, turned out to be the Philippines’ peak year and, from there, it was all downhill. The New Society Movement held promise — but much of the wealth this created is owed to oligarchic enterprise and not much to the capital-creation prowess (or rather lack of it) of the Philippines’ indigenous population. Finally, the 1986 EDSA “revolution” raged on the promise that where there is freedom, prosperity will follow. Sadly, that too did not turn the Phlippines into a competitive economy at the leagues of Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand which all powered ahead leaving Filipinos in their dust.

The lessons in all the dashed hopes that swirled around these “revolutionary” events in the Philippines’ history is that neither greater autonomy nor greater freedom translates to economic prosperity for the average Filipino. This lesson should then be applied when evaluating this most recent talk of “revolutionary government”, this time under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

As usual, the Philippine National “Debate” is missing the point of this issue by a mile. Much of this “debate” involves mere quibbles over legalities and technicalities, the predictable drawing of parallels with the Marcos regime, and speculations and conspiracy theories on people’s hidden agendas and sinister motives. In that regard, the Philippines’ political discourse, as usual, fails to offer real insight on this issue as it remains the sad meeting of small minds it has long been known as.

The true issue surrounding the effectiveness of any proposed political solution regardless of how “revolutionary” it is or not lies in the character of the Filipino. The right question Filipinos’ “thought leaders” should be raising is quite confronting:

Do Filipinos, as a people, possess the right character to seize the opportunities in the changes that will follow Duterte’s “revolutionary” government?

As was exhibited in the past, Filipinos have, throughout history, shown a lack of capability to capitalise on “more freedom” and “greater autonomy” (much less off full independence and unfettered “democracy”) to lay the foundation for real inclusive prosperity.Indeed, it can be generalised that political solutions do not deliver results for Filipinos — which brings to question the astounding energy Filipinos pour into their politics, their partisanism, and their political chatter on social media.

If such “revolutions” in national independence and transitions from “dictatorships” to free democracy throughout the Philippines’ history have consistently proven to be non-events as far as delivering tangible results to the ordinary Filipino (or to the overall value of the Philippines to the world, for that matter), perhaps it is high time we consider the common denominator across these failures. That common denominator is staring back at us when we look into the mirror.

16 Replies to “Duterte’s ‘revolutionary government’: Just another POLITICAL solution that will fail”

  1. Only this time I won’t agree with you Benigno. All revolutions from the past were all either US LED or US espionage backed. Aguinaldo was a traitor. Ninoy Aquino was a saboteur, so much more for Cory. Only this time, DU30’s revolution will succeed. ????????????

    1. Of course I want it to succeed. But we need to ask all the hard questions, like these ones:

      How exactly will this “revolution” be different from the others regardless of whether leads or instigates it behind the scenes? For that matter, what is specific aspects of this “revolution” makes it likely to succeed?

      The fact that it is led by Duterte is not enough basis to make it likely to succeed. There must be a more substantial basis than that to go on.

      1. The Philippines had been through this a lot of times. So what do we have to lose if it fails ones again under Pres .Duterte? if we think it is more likely to fail, then let’s just expect the worst but hope for the best.

  2. Just as what former Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew said, our country doesn’t need a democracy (or any form of government be it a federal or a Communist or a Fascist one), but we need DISCIPLINE in order to make a progress and feel a REAL CHANGE in our country. Revolutionary thing will not really work in our country, the Filipinos should discipline ourselves & in order to do that, we need GOOD EDUCATION to use that discipline by educating yourself, your family, your friends & your community and we should love & respect our country as well rather than loving ourselves. This is what I say, the simplest tips on how to use discipline.

    1. mrericx,
      I dont know much about PH schools/education but in my neck of the woods school doesnt teach me discipline. It is not even the task of a school to teach discipline. Discipline starts at home. Example: Dinner is at 7PM. If you are not there then you may find the pot (and pans) empty. Its as easy as that.

      My pinay GF told me over and over that she is constantly busy keeping order in the class room (as a teacher). No wonder PH pupils and students know little about academics. In my neck of the woods pupils are expelled from the class room (the empty pot and pan method). And maybe even expelled from school (also known as ‘dropouts’).

      To cut the story short: its the parents’ task and duty to do the raising (and that includes order and discipline). If parents are NOT fit to do that then they never should/must procreate.

      1. “If parents are NOT fit to do that then they never should/must procreate.”

        As a teacher, one becomes the parent to students. If he/she cannot discipline his/her classroom, he/she does not have what it takes to become a teacher, more so a parent. So, re your statement above, you should have told that to your Pinay GF. And to you, too. You should also have told her that she is (was) not qualified to become a mentor to her students because she is (was) one of the factors why “PH pupils and students know little about academics.” It takes one to know one.

        1. My relationship – as a pupil/student – with a teacher, any teacher was/is strictly professional and distant. I dont know where he/she lives; I dont know what her/his status (married, single, living together (unmarried)) is; I dont know who he/she bangs. And I dont care. What I do care is whether he/she (the teacher) is the best in his/her subject. Being a teacher is a job. You get paid for it. You are NOT my father; you are not my mother. So pls dont pretend you are. I dont even accept you as my mother/father bec you are not. So, do I regard a teacher as a role model? No of course not. Nobody in my country does. No teacher has to keep order in class bec once I disturb class, I will be expelled from the class room (problem solved) and be send to the head of the school. The head of the school will have a serious conversation with me and demand from me to get my act together or I will be expelled from school (and maybe even blacklisted). The head of the school will also notify my parents (my real parents, that is) of the incident and will also notify them of the possible consequences. In short, they (my parents) are warned to do a better job at home.

        2. Aphetsky Lasa,

          We have a teacher, teaching geography. We get geography for 1 hr per week. If that teacher needs 50% of her time (that is 30 minutes every week, week in week out) to discipline her class then we lose 50% of the curriculum of that day. What does that tell you? After 6 years of elementary school, I know only 50% of what I should have known. Do you think my – real – parents will be happy about that? No. That is why how we deal with pupils who disrupt and disturb classes. Expel them immediately.

          Ergo, discipline starts at home by the parents and you must teach your subject (geography) and not keep yourself busy with keeping order in the class. Do you want to be remembered as a good cop or as the best teacher?

    2. mrericx,

      We wanted government to be strict and authoritarian that way in China, not in North Korea which is more brutal than Chona and Singapore.

  3. Empiricism teaches that there is a real world of fixed things on the outside and that ideas of these outside things are stamped on the mind which is at the beginning of life a blank.

  4. If you are mired in a rut, not of your own making. you can do these things :(1) stay mired in the rut, and not complain about it; (2) get out of the rut, cleanse yourself , and move on. (3) Damn to your heart’s content on the people who were responsible for the rut.

    Governments are like tools. They can be changed, if they are not working well anymore, and no longer useful to you.

    The Cory Aquino 1986 Constitution, catered well to their Feudal Oligarchy interest. The elections, can be easily rigged; when you have a COMELEC Chairman, like Andres Bautista. He sold his office and his reputation, for a billion pesos.

    Let us try the Parliamentary form of government, like that of Germany. If Federalism, is the answer to some problems. Let us try Federalism.

    Otherwise, being afraid to try another chance, because you will fail, is self defeating. Try and try again, until you succeed !

  5. Mr. BenignO

    How can Filipinos be revolutionary and have a national character when we as a people do not even embrace some kind of an ideology?

    Common Filipinos generally look down upon almost anything and everything of its own endemic culture and identify themselves first as a citizens of the world (we really have a lot of jealous and envious filipino poseurs!).

    Marcos in one interview explains:

    “…the Philippines had somehow lost its original and indigenous culture. It became necessary for the Philippines, therefore, in order to reestablish its identity and for the Filipinos – especially the Filipino who was educated in Western ways – to retrace his roots, and retracing his roots, of course, he discovered that he was Asian. More than anything else, the alluvium of Western culture was there, and so the Philippines became some kind of a melting pot of many cultures and many races.”

    In school, we’re taught of Philippine history, after a brief introduction into the pre-colonial period, early filipinos almost started as being slaves or conquered people. Many modern filipinos now have this feeling of indifference about its own identity and the veneer of patriotism is only for show. We’re normally united in times of national tragedy and/or misfortunes (Yolanda, Marawi…). And we prefer to celebrate or commemorate deaths of our heroes…historical fall and defeat instead of victory and triumph. While ordinary folks finds sad dramas as entertainment.

    In the political front, patriotism in many hardcore adherents of partisan politics is nothing more than mere disguised “tard-ism”.

    In one of your old article you wrote:

    “One thing for certain, is that filipinos are woefully unhappy or discontent about things regarding themselves as filipinos. The only thing that seems common amongst filipinos is their disunity.

    “We have to formulate some deeper ideology shared by all filipinos that would inspire personal or moral conviction beyond mere emotionalism or sentimentalism. Patriotism could only be sustained if it’s rooted on more timeless principles and yet peculiar only to the filipino people.”

    Have you read Marcos’ book “An Ideology for Filipinos”? If so, what are your thoughts?

    1. @Enam: I haven’t read Marcos’s book but, yes, I agree it is a serious challenge when one realises just how fundamental certain things lacking in our collective psyche is. But when we do see it, it goes some way in explaining the mystery of why Filipinos, when together, seem to behave in a collectively dysfunctional manner yet, when living within a prosperous host society (like OFWs do), seem to be able to easily conform to standards of good behaviour and even assimilate to the point of being “invivible” guests in these societies.

      This resilience and flexibility — almost chameleon-like nature — is seen to be (and in a lot of cases actually is) a cultural asset. But, on the other hand, it can also be seen to be a symptom of that underlying cultural deficit you just decribed.

  6. mrericx,

    What if we wanted constitutional authoritarianism just like that in Singapore, Deng-Era China and modern federal Russia that way?

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.