AsiaGlobal Voices

Trending Opinions From Across the Region

AsiaGlobal Voices is a curated feed of summaries of opinion articles, columns and editorials published in local languages in media from across Asia.

The publication of AsiaGlobal Voices summaries does not indicate any endorsement by the Asia Global Institute or AsiaGlobal Online of the opinions expressed in them.
Manila Can Be Part of the Solution in Myanmar
Thursday, April 8, 2021
Manila Can Be Part of the Solution in Myanmar

Walden Bello, academic, social worker and member of the House of Representatives of the Philippines from 2007 to 2015, in Philippine Daily Inquirer (April 8, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: King Rodriguez/Presidential Communications Operations Office)

Manila Can Be Part of the Solution in Myanmar

Every day since the February 1 military coup, ‍the people have been taking to the streets in protest in all parts of Myanmar. Over 400 people have been killed by police and soldiers firing indiscriminately on crowds of protestors, or murdered randomly in dragnets carried out by day or under cover of darkness.

The Myanmar coup has placed the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on the spot. In a region where the lives of 650 million people are indissolubly linked politically and economically, the old principle of “non-intervention in the internal affairs” of other member countries that has long governed inter-state relations is anachronistic. The governments of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore have recognized this in their historic call for a regional summit on recent developments in Myanmar.

Manila has not yet joined this call, which is really disappointing and ironic given that the democratic political system we have owes its existence to a people’s uprising in 1986.

Apparently, the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte is still hesitant to fully break with its previous policy of refraining from any criticism of the Myanmar government, even of the latter’s inhuman policy of genocide toward the Rohingya people.

Myanmar is at a crossroads. The coup was not a show of strength. It was an act of desperation. A decade of liberalization had given the people a taste of what full freedom would be after decades of stifling military rule, and they will not give up their dream. The Philippine government likewise is at a crossroads in its diplomacy toward Myanmar. It can either be part of the problem or part of the solution. Let it be the latter.

The Tragedy in Myanmar: Where Is It Heading?
Wednesday, March 31, 2021
The Tragedy in Myanmar: Where Is It Heading?

Roberto R Romulo, Chairman, Philippine Foundation for Global Concerns, and Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines (1992-1995), in his column Filipino Worldview in The Philippine Star (March 12, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Prachatai)

The Tragedy in Myanmar: Where Is It Heading?

The desired end game of the Myanmar military coup would be a sham election where the junta’s party wins and strongman Min Aung Hlaing is made president. What the general did not expect was the determined opposition of the brave Burmese people. The junta has increasingly been violent and brutal in suppressing protests.

The US and other countries have imposed sanctions aimed at denying junta members access to their personal fortune deposited overseas and to prohibit doing business with the military-owned companies. Although China has stayed neutral and is watching developments before it commits itself, it has said that it is not happy with what has transpired.

All ASEAN came out with is a bland statement urging “all parties” to refrain from instigating violence and to seek a peaceful solution. Aside from falling on deaf ears in the junta, this was also not well received by the protesters.

The key is the heroism of the Burmese people opposing the junta. They want no less than a regime change. That can only happen two ways: either the world, including ASEAN and with China playing a key role, acts more purposefully to force the junta to back down, or senior government and military officials arise and side with the people.

We must keep supporting the Burmese people to stand fast and we must get our government to act and rouse ASEAN to action, which to date has reinforced the belief that it has been inutile when it comes to human rights and oppression. Taking the unprecedented, but legal expulsion of Burma from ASEAN would give a dramatic message to the junta and to the people, and swing the balance in favor of the latter. They could, of course, always be readmitted subsequently.

No To Misogynists: What We Women Can Do
Wednesday, March 10, 2021
No To Misogynists: What We Women Can Do

Solita Collas-Monsod, broadcaster, economist, writer and minister of economic planning of the Philippines (1986-1989), in her Get Real column in Philippine Daily Inquirer (March 6, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: AlanMotus/UN Women)

No To Misogynists: What We Women Can Do

Let us look at how President Rodrigo Duterte affected the pace of advancement of women. Let us look at his speeches and actions toward women. In this age of information and communication technology, where every little word or action is recorded, you have a damning picture of a man who thinks of women as lower class, or that deserve less equal treatment than men, or just objectifies them.

Let us talk about his remarks in the past four or five years. The worst in my opinion is when he talked to the graduating class of the Philippine Military Academy and made what his spokesperson called “mischievous” remarks about rape. A joke? About rape? To the military? In a commencement address?

As if that were not bad enough, his remarks about women not belonging in the political arena strongly call to mind what the dictator Ferdinand Marcos said, referring to Cory Aquino, that women belonged in the bedroom. The man is in a time warp. He is an anachronism.

The worst of all, though, is his ability to make up any story that he wants about the women he fears or hates the most. Look at the untruths he has spread about Vice President Leni Robredo, Senator Leila de Lima, former chief justice Meilou Sereno, and journalist Maria Ressa – untruths that his underlings took as gospel and fight to present as gospel.

Women have complained bitterly about this treatment. We have talked the talk. Now we have an opportunity to walk the walk. Will we take it? Or are we Filipino women content to accept those who lie, cheat, are misogynists and anachronisms, and cheapen their office and their country with their bad manners and worse conduct as leaders? No? Then start working on next year’s elections.

President Duterte’s Drug War is a Failure
Friday, March 5, 2021
President Duterte’s Drug War is a Failure

Ramon T Tulfo, TV host, radio broadcaster and columnist, in The Manila Times (March 4, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: VOCAL-NY)

President Duterte’s Drug War is a Failure

President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs is an utter failure. The president made wrong choices of officials. The appointments give credence to the truism that close relatives or friends make lousy subordinates or business partners. Had they carried Mr Duterte’s marching orders to rid the country of the drug menace by catching or eliminating the big fish, there would have been no need to eliminate the small fry or pushers in the streets. The big fish have not been caught and are laughing all the way to the bank.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra seems to go against the Duterte administration’s mindset when he told the United Nations Human Rights Council that more than half of thousands of anti-drug operations under the present administration failed to comply with rules of engagement and protocol. That statement was shocking but true.

Had Guevarra been appointed justice secretary earlier, he could have guided the President in the war on drugs. The Philippines would not have become a pariah in the free world had he appointed Guevarra in the early part of his administration.

Duterte was too preoccupied with his job as president to notice the vulgar ways of the police in exterminating heinous criminals. The president should have realized that what was once good and accepted in Davao City where he was mayor can no longer be applied in the whole country.

But all is not lost. The president can still appoint people in key positions who were not his friends when he was mayor of Davao.

Everything Must Be Done To Facilitate the Vaccine Rollout
Tuesday, February 16, 2021
Everything Must Be Done To Facilitate the Vaccine Rollout

Alex Magno, political scientist, in his First Person column in The Philippine Star (February 16, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Minette Rimando/ILO)

Everything Must Be Done To Facilitate the Vaccine Rollout

The first doses the country is receiving from the COVAX facility are due to arrive. A small rollout of our vaccination program has been rehearsed and is ready to execute.

However, according to a government survey, only three in ten residents of the National Capital Region are ready and willing to accept inoculation. Vaccine hesitancy may be the largest hurdle confronting our effort to achieve herd immunity in some form.

There are many reasons for the high degree of vaccine hesitancy. One major reason is anxiety about the economic costs of dealing with possible side effects. Recall that when we began testing in scale, some infected persons sought to avoid testing because if they were found positive, they could lose work days. A few even escaped from isolation facilities and needed to be tracked down by law enforcement agencies.

The national government, local governments and private enterprises have agreed to procure the vaccines and make them available for free. If we charged real costs for buying and deploying the vaccines, too many will seek to avoid inoculation. On top of providing the vaccines for free, it now appears some coverage for contingent costs needs to assured. Everything must be done to ensure a soft landing for the vaccination program.

The fewer hurdles, physical and financial, to accessing the vaccines, the better. Those in charge of the vaccine rollout should not want in creativity to assure access to the vaccines will be as painless as possible. The vaccination program can be trickier than it seems at first glance. We are working with a limited cold chain and we have never before had to inoculate so many people in so short a time. Expect some mishaps here and there. What is important is that we perfect the system as we go along.

A Populist Revolt in the Stock Market
Tuesday, February 2, 2021
A Populist Revolt in the Stock Market

Randy David, sociologist and journalist, in his Public Lives column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (January 31, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Stephan Mosel)

A Populist Revolt in the Stock Market

It has been a crazy week in Wall Street, where the entire financial services industry of the United States, including the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, is located. The place has become the epicenter of a populist revolt being waged by small “amateur” retail investors against those they perceive to be the grand manipulators of the financial markets – hedge fund managers, brokerage firms, gigantic investment houses, and their enablers in the mainstream media.

These insurrectionists of the stock market are mobilizing an army that is driven not mainly by profit but by a passionate resentment against the rapacious few that make money at the expense of everyone else. Their most hated targets are the so-called “short-sellers” – professional investors that make their money from driving down the value of certain stocks by dumping them and then buying them back at a lower price.

Mostly young people who have basically known no other reality but that of the digital world, the stock markets’ new warriors are leveraging their mastery of the internet to challenge the power of the entrenched financial oligarchy. It is easy to mock this development as nothing but the fanciful protest of a digital generation that is out to remake the global order using the virtual weapons at their disposal. 

I am not so sure. If one can imagine a global anarchist movement rising up against entrenched hierarchies – brought together and empowered by an online communication system, and able to operate synchronously across time zones, geographic boundaries, and functional domains – it’s not difficult to see in this stock market revolt a portent of something more encompassing and radical than the “reset” of the capitalist system that the Davos thinkers have in mind.

The US Capitol Siege: Lessons From An Embattled Democracy
Tuesday, January 19, 2021
The US Capitol Siege: Lessons From An Embattled Democracy

Leila de Lima, lawyer, human-rights activist and Senator in police detention since 2017, in Rappler (January 18, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Blink O’fanaye)

The US Capitol Siege: Lessons From An Embattled Democracy

For those who idealized the United States, including Americans themselves who truly believed that America is the greatest nation in the world, the events of January 6 were shockingly unimaginable.

For those who see through the facade of “America the Great” and see the brewing discontent underneath that has gone unaddressed for decades and even centuries, this is but the culmination of the hypocrisy behind American domestic and foreign policies. But this is more than a case of a nation getting its comeuppance. The truth is that every nation – no matter how prosperous or destitute it is – would be built upon the different experiences of different peoples. In the case of the United States, for every millionaire, there are a million who do not have the same economic and social security.

I, for one, am rooting for the United States as always. It may not be as united or as great as it projects itself to be, but it is nonetheless closer to greatness than authoritarian regimes for one simple reason: it has created a space for people to be able to live with dignity. That it is not yet perfect, or not as inclusive as it could be at the moment, is no reason to throw away the ideals it fights and stands for: Democracy, Rule of Law, and Human Rights. In fact, it is more reason to keep striving for improvement and inclusiveness.

I will not make the mistake of counting the United States out. If there is a democratic country that has the capacity to restore balance and become truly great in the truest sense of the word, in the face of so many challenges both within and without, it would be the United States. And the free world would be in a better place for it.

Trumpism: A second American Civil War?
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
Trumpism: A second American Civil War?

Richard Heydarian, political scientist, in his Horizons column in Philippine Daily Inquirer (January 12, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Trumpism: A second American Civil War?

“America, the rock against which fascism crashed in the last century, may have begun to slide,” former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright cautioned a few years back. But despite its political troubles, America’s formal democratic institutions have remained largely intact. This is not a Weimar Republic.

Yet, one cannot fully discount the prospect of a “second civil war” in a country with a long history of civil strife; not to mention, notorious levels of gun violence and heavily armed far-right militia groups, who recently descended on Washington, DC. And when combined with toxic partisanship, where up to 40 percent of the electorate sees the other side as downright “evil”, you get a particularly precarious situation.

For the past four years, outgoing President Donald Trump has been largely described as a “populist”. His liberal critics, however, have gone so far as to portray him as a fascist. The circumstances of Trump’s rise to power are telling. For years, he skillfully established a cult of personality combined with his unique brand of “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) nationalism. But the element of para-military violence was largely missing. Nor did Trump employ the kind of state-sponsored violence seen in post-Weimar Germany or its Italian counterpart. Courts and the opposition-controlled Congress also remained functional.

However, the violent assault on the Capitol, the ultimate symbol of American democracy, has raised serious questions as to whether Trump is just another “populist”. Perhaps a better way to understand what is happening is to refer to a much older concept: demagoguery. Demagogues like Trump do not go gently into the night. They fight back, often at the expense of the whole nation.

America is a flagship democracy; the world has a direct stake in hoping that ultimately the better angels of America’s nature prevail.

The President as Whistleblower: How will the Vaccine Probe End?
Wednesday, January 6, 2021
The President as Whistleblower: How will the Vaccine Probe End?

Satur C Ocampo, activist and politician, in his At Ground Level column in The Philippine Star (January 2, 2021)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Simeon Celi/Presidential Communications Operations Office)

The President as Whistleblower: How will the Vaccine Probe End?

Did President Rodrigo Duterte blow the whistle? He disclosed that many soldiers had already been inoculated with a Covid-19 vaccine. Immediately, there was widespread uproar:

At least two Cabinet members, three military officers and the presidential spokesman tried to do damage control, confirming what Duterte had said but giving varying justifications. We learned from their uncoordinated responses that the vaccine had come from China’s state-owned pharmaceutical firm Sinopharm, and that they had been administered to the president’s close-in security personnel without registration or authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as required by law.

A judge ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate. The FDA and the Bureau of Customs said they would do their own probes. Sounding like a whistle-blower, the president was quoted as saying in a meeting with the FDA and other health officials: “I have to be frank. I have to tell the truth. I will not foist a lie. Many [soldiers] have been vaccinated.” Then he hastened to add that the vaccination was “just for the select few, not all soldiers, because it is not yet policy”.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon did not find the statements of Duterte’s men credible. “They have twisted themselves into knots trying to find excuses,” he said. “They are lying through their teeth in a bid to protect those who are principally involved in the illegal shipment of the unauthorized vaccines to the country. They cannot hide the truth.” Those who caused the illegal importation and use of the unauthorized vaccine must be held responsible, he stressed, concluding that “otherwise the environment of impunity is enhanced”.

Let us wait and see what will happen in the promised investigations, impelled by Duterte’s perhaps inadvertent whistleblowing. Remember what happened to other whistle-blowers in the past: They get ignored.

The Saddest Christmas Ever
Tuesday, December 22, 2020
The Saddest Christmas Ever

Sara Soliven De Guzman, Chief Operating Officer, Operation Brotherhood Montessori Center, in her As a Matter of Fact column in The Philippine Star (December 21, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Rudy and Peter Skitterjans/Pixabay)

The Saddest Christmas Ever

To many, this will be the saddest Christmas. Covid-19 has disrupted our lives. It has created such a crisis, destroying homes, work and the human spirit. Christmas will not be the same this year. Our homes will be silent, our tables half empty, but we must not let the darkness take over the light that should continue to shine in our hearts. We need to feel that hope and to fight the feeling we have in our hearts. We need to do this not only for ourselves but also for our children.

On the brighter side, we have family to support each other. The simple celebration around the table with prayer and reflection will cleanse our spirits and hopefully make us better. It is during a crisis when our “will” or “might” can be tested. The life that we have now should bring us closer to God. 

This will be the first Christmas for millions of families around the world to spend without their loved ones who were taken by the virus. Let us light a candle or two for all those who have gone this year.

The sad part is that some people do not even feel the hardship of the times. They continue to go out and party like there is no tomorrow. These past days have shown us how many of our countrymen continue to ignore social distancing. They have forgotten about Covid-19. Surely after the holidays our Covid-19 cases will spike again. Do not forget we have not even gotten the vaccines yet.

So this is Christmas. Love is the strongest weapon we have in order to survive this pandemic. 

In Times of Crisis, the Youth are Left Behind
Friday, December 4, 2020
In Times of Crisis, the Youth are Left Behind

Fatemeh Halabisaz, entrepreneur and researcher, and Vincent Jerald Ramos, postgraduate student in public policy at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, Germany, in Rappler (November 30, 2020) 

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: International Labour Organization)

In Times of Crisis, the Youth are Left Behind

In calamities such as the pandemic, the youth are left behind, adversely affected in terms of employment opportunities, education and training, and mental health and wellbeing. Public policies ought to be targeted to help them. 

The youth unemployment rate has increased from 12.9 percent in April 2019 to a record-breaking high of 31.6 percent in April 2020. Aside from the immediate disruptions to learning caused by Covid-19, there is also learning inequality. Students from more disadvantaged households find it difficult to continue their education since most of the financial burden from online distance learning falls on the student. An internet subscription is too high a cost for many Filipino households. Add to this the fact that the average internet speed in the Philippines is among the slowest in the region.

Another impact of the pandemic on the youth is a more challenging school-to-work transition. Economic crises tend to cause mass unemployment and create an unhealthy job market, especially for new graduates. Many youths are having to cope with stress and anxiety, which is exacerbated by the pandemic. There are many other confounding effects on the wellbeing of youth such as loneliness, isolation, loss of motivation, and unfortunately for some, possibly even violence and abuse at home. 

The government has both the mandate and the ability to pay closer attention to the youth in its post-crisis economic recovery plans, keeping in mind that they are disproportionately affected during recessions. A combination of passive and active labor market interventions may provide immediate relief to the most vulnerable youth and give them the means to enter the job market. An unemployment insurance program could also be an appropriate long-term labor-market policy response.

How Will the President Provide the People with a Vaccine?
Thursday, November 19, 2020
How Will the President Provide the People with a Vaccine?

Antonio T Carpio, retired associate justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines, in his Crosscurrents column in Philippine Daily Inquirer (November 19, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Jeon Han/Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Republic of Korea)

How Will the President Provide the People with a Vaccine?

President Rodrigo Duterte has criticized pharmaceutical companies in Western countries for asking advance payment for their Covid-19 vaccines. The president complained: “There is still no vaccine, there is nothing with finality, and you want us to make a reservation by depositing money; you must be crazy.” The president also stated that “the procurement law of the Philippines does not allow you to buy something which is non-existent or to-be-produced as yet.”

The president vowed to prioritize buying Covid-19 vaccines from China and Russia because of their “generosity” in not demanding advance payment. “If the vaccines of Russia and China are equally good and effective just like any other vaccine invented by any country, I will buy first,” he declared.

The president is sadly mistaken in his pronouncements. First, Philippine law expressly authorizes the president to approve advance payment in any amount for the purchase of goods, particularly in case of calamities like a pandemic. Second, China and Russia will prioritize their own citizens since their state-owned companies are developing their vaccines.

The US and EU member states will have priority in the distribution of any successful vaccine since they have invested in the research, development, and manufacture of the vaccine. The US and the EU have calculated that gaining six to 12 months’ head start in deploying any successful vaccine will be worth the risk considering the damage the lockdowns and work suspensions have inflicted on their economies.

The president now realizes that the West, China, and Russia will prioritize their own citizens in the distribution of vaccines and that Filipinos may be among the last in the long queue. So how will President Duterte provide the Filipino people with a vaccine?

What Did We Do To Baby River and Her Mother?
Wednesday, October 21, 2020
What Did We Do To Baby River and Her Mother?

Solita Collas-Monsod, broadcaster, economist, writer and minister of economic planning of the Philippines (1986-1989), in her Get Real column in Philippine Daily Inquirer (October 17, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: KAPATID on Twitter)

What Did We Do To Baby River and Her Mother?

The case of social activist Reina Nasino and her baby River (who, separated from her jailed mother, died three months after she was born) has placed the Philippine justice system, nay, Philippine society, under trial by public opinion. And the verdict, it seems, is that both have failed.

Reina and her two companions say that the firearms and explosives, the possession of which led police to arrest them for a non-bailable offense, must have been planted. Police say otherwise. The police, based on “evidence” that they could have planted, put Reina in jail – an overcrowded one.

Reina finds out she is pregnant, and throughout that pregnancy, she is seen only once by a doctor, and is given no pregnancy supplements. But when she asks to be released on compassionate grounds, she is turned down again and again. She asks that her baby be allowed in her care. The judge turns down her request, because the jailers say they do not have the resources or facilities to accommodate them. The jail authorities cannot afford to keep her but they will not let her go. Why not release her in the first place? What threat to society could this 23-year-old pregnant woman and new mother possibly have represented?

The collective decision was to keep her in jail – probably on trumped-up charges. Never mind the consequences to her health, and to her baby’s life. To top it all was that scene at River’s wake, where there were more guards than mourners. That is how we treat our children. That is how we treat our prisoners. Shame.

The Very Important Persons: Our Beautiful Women
Wednesday, October 7, 2020
The Very Important Persons: Our Beautiful Women

F Sionil José, writer, in his Hindsight column in The Philippine Star (October 5, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Rey Baniquet/Presidential Communications Operations Office)

The Very Important Persons: Our Beautiful Women

With so many town fiestas and beauty pageants, it is perhaps not surprising that we have produced several beauties that have had global appeal. Indeed, our country is known for its beautiful women. But it is not just physical allure that makes them stand out. From way, way back our women were also leaders, strong and far ahead of most women in other countries. Our women were never fragile lilies. In our struggle against colonialism, they were revolutionaries, guerrillas. Now, they permeate all the professions.

In politics, we were never short of women who have served with commitment and virtue in government. Among them, in the postwar period, were first female senator Geronima Pecson; educator, writer and politician Leticia Ramos-Shahani; and academic, lawyer and political figure Miriam Defensor Santiago. Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Loren Legarda and retired associate justice of the Supreme Court Conchita Carpio-Morales are my candidates in the next election.

To this list I will single out Vice President Leni Robredo, whose magnificent sangfroid blunted all the slings and arrows of outrageous criticism. It has been a custom in the past for vice presidents – the so-called spare tire – to be given high positions in government. But belonging to a different party from the president’s, Leni was not granted that kind of distinction. A lawyer and former member of Congress, she would have been ideal as secretary of the Department of Social Welfare. Like her husband Jesse, who was a virtuous public official, she could have brought transparency to a government that is fogged with corruption.

We have so many women making all the difference, performing interesting jobs that contribute to the development of this nation.  

Marcos Revisited: He Didn’t Have Strong Policies
Wednesday, September 23, 2020
Marcos Revisited: He Didn’t Have Strong Policies

Richard Heydarian, Research Fellow at National Chengchi University in Taiwan, in his column Horizons in Philippine Daily Inquirer (September 22, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Bro Jeffrey Pioquinto, SJ)

Marcos Revisited: He Didn’t Have Strong Policies

“Only in the Philippines could a leader like Ferdinand Marcos, who pillaged his country for over 20 years, be considered for a national burial,” lamented the late Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. “[Marcos] might have started off as a hero but ended up as a crook.”

What made Lee a legendary leader was his uncompromising work ethic, deep grasp of global geopolitics, ability to maintain optimal ties with both the West and the East, and zero tolerance for corruption and incompetence. Under his watch, Singapore developed one of the world’s centers of bureaucratic excellence. But even more impressive were his counterparts in neighboring Taiwan, South Korea and, later, post-Mao China. Unlike Marcos, or even Lee, the leaders of these countries oversaw the establishment of global brands and industries, from Hyundai (South Korea) to HTC (Taiwan) to Huawei (China).

So, what was the secret of their success? The first thing one notices is that it’s not about form of government or even type of regime. China remains a single-party communist regime, while Taiwan and South Korea, with their own unique presidential systems, have become even more dynamic since their transition to democracy in the 1980s.

Whether authoritarian or democratic, they have had remarkable economic performance. Clearly, it is not also about “race” or “culture” per se, since all of these countries were extremely poor just a few generations ago.

What is common in the success stories of these NICs (newly industrialized countries) is their well-organized, autonomous and competent bureaucracies, which have maintained national dynamism through proactive trade and industrial policies. The Philippines’ main problem is that it never had a “strong” state with a combination of “policy autonomy” and “functional capacity” to discipline the oligarchs and promote national interest.