PH needs a revolution | Inquirer Opinion
Like It Is

PH needs a revolution

/ 05:06 AM October 03, 2019

This country needs a revolution. The primary definition of revolution is “The act or condition of revolving.” But it’s also defined as “A complete change, e.g. in outlook, social habits or circumstances,” or “a radical change in government.”

There’s a revolution trying to occur in the world today: Macron in France, Erdogan in Turkey, Narendra Modi in India. Most recently, Brazil joined the exodus from “trapo”  (traditional politician) government with a populist leader, Jair Bolsonaro, who promised the drastic social change Brazilians wanted. And in Ukraine just a few weeks ago, an actor, Volodymyr Zelensky, who portrayed the country’s president in a fictional series, became president for real. Then there’s that horrifying disaster in the United States, Donald Trump. They all say the same thing — people are clamoring for change away from the trapo that failed to give them what they want. They want change.


Sadly, they’re not getting it. That desired change doesn’t seem to be working. None of these choices are proving to give the people what they wanted, although the latest ones have yet to prove themselves one way or the other. But it shows how desperate people are for a different style of governance. So traditional politicians shouldn’t gloat at the seeming failures, because the mood is there — if you don’t change your style of governance, it will be forced upon you one way or the other.  And these leaders may yet prove effective in bringing their public into a decent standard of living, which is what should be the ultimate goal of any leader.

The Philippines is attempting that revolution, too. President Duterte was a revolutionary choice, a rejection of the trapo system. Will he be the one who succeeds?


It’s trite, but it’s now or never. The Philippine economy is now fundamentally strong enough to be assured of comfortable GDP growth of around 6 percent, with the 7-percent range possible. But it can’t get to the 8 percent to 12 percent (yes, 12 percent, look at China’s “revolution”) a complete upheaval of the freewheeling current system could achieve. Importantly, the 6-7 percent leaves the poor only slowly integrated. The 8-12 percent raises them into the middle class.

In 1960, the Philippines had twice the GDP — $6.68 billion — of Thailand’s $2.76 billion. Now, Thailand’s GDP is at $504.9 billion versus the Philippines’ $330.9 billion. In 1960, the Philippines’ population was 26.2 million while Thailand’s was 27.4 million. Now, the Philippines has 105 million people versus Thailand’s 69 million, or 36 million more Filipinos to be looked after. As a result, the Philippines’ GDP per capita is less than half that of Thailand: $3,150 versus $7,320. You can’t even compare the Philippines to South Korea, Taiwan or Singapore, yet all were behind the Philippines 70 years ago.

It’s abundantly clear that the Philippines has gone wrong somewhere. I can’t go into all the reasons in one column for the Philippines’ failure to be at the top. What I wish to do is to get you, the reader, to start to think what those might be, and demand change. But let me give you some headlines to think about: unmitigated population growth, inadequate education system, parochial mentality (barangay before nation), lack of a long-term vision that is sustained from one administration to the next, a labor system that encourages mediocrity (security of tenure), a laissez-faire attitude, striving for status instead of performance, a culture that doesn’t demand excellence because “good enough” (puwede na) will do.

The comfortable established systems in the Philippines have to be changed. What is needed is a change of attitude within the people. That must start with the educational system and, given its dominance in Philippine society, the Catholic Church. People must feel driven to excel, to perform. On top of that, a total reformation of the administrative system of government is needed, and that should include a change in attitude of those providing the services. Congress must change the way it works, and the courts must reform, too.

The current system hasn’t worked. Rodrigo Duterte was elected President of the Republic of the Philippines with the promise of a revolution in government to make it work.

Can he effect it?

Email: [email protected]

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TAGS: change, Like It Is, Peter Wallace, revolution, Rodrigo Duterte
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