October 2017
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Congratulations, Iloilo City

Iloilo River towards the Iloilo Strait– not only have you defended your Mayor and your reputation (link), you got a real drug lord (link). You did have to kill him, which is unavoidable at times, but the entire story of month-long leads and tips from Ilonggos sounds more plausible to me than all the off-the-cuff declarations of Duterte. That includes the malicious hints that Mayor Jed Mabilog of Iloilo was a drug lord protector or more, that Iloilo was alleged “most shabulized” (not borne out by PDEA numbers) and the planned but retracted assignment to Iloilo of someone already involved in the killing of two mayors (link).

Iloilo also happens to have one of the cleanest rivers of all larger Philippine cities. This alone tells me that they know how to take care of themselves, just like a clean bathroom is a sign of a good household. A clean kitchen may be for show only, the dirty kitchen at the back, but the bathroom? How about Davao, the famous showcase of Duterte? Safe it probably was and is in a relative sense. Maybe more like the Thunderdome was the safest place in the Mad Max movie. On a violent island, Davao was/is a place where a Burgherr (Lord of the Castle) ruled and imposed his personal order.

Cities like Iloilo and Naga, on the other hand, seem to represent a nascent urban middle class model of governance from all I have gathered – as opposed to the old, warlord-dominated cities of the fringes or the upper-class dominated cities of the center the Philippines used to be known for. Classic political dynasties in the Philippines have ruled by a mixture of money and intimidation – more intimidation in less developed areas, more money in more developed areas. Middle-class political structures characteristic of more developed Asian countries therefore remained elusive.

Even the middle-class uprising of 1986 had a patron in Cory Aquino. The new middle classes whose money comes from working abroad or in call centers have President Duterte as their patron. Citizens gathering to protect their mayor like in Iloilo (and not looking down upon him for being just a human being like everybody else) is new at least to me. But cultures develop. Consensus replaces intimidation. More complex  and advanced economies flourish better under free conditions. Sweatshops can work well under repressive conditions, but don’t expect Silicon Valley.

Korean companies are already moving to Vietnam nowadays from the Philippines. Did anyone seriously think that they would have forgotten what happened to their countryman who was killed? There are nationalities that say little, yet act after a while – like Germans, Japanese and Koreans. The Filipino street/thug/warlord subculture does not think that far, mistaking bluster for strength and silence for weakness. Little strategic sense or long-term planning. Flourishing cities like Iloilo or Naga may be gone completely if that subculture comes to dominate the future Philippines. Pity.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 3. Sept. 2017

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