Forces of Change

Principalía of Leganes, Iloilo

Principalía of Leganes, Iloilo around 1880

2016 has started. The Philippines is going to make a major decision about its future soon. At this point it makes sense to look at the forces of change that have shaped the country.

Patrons and clients

From the time of datus and their followers, the prinicipalia which the Spaniards used to rule the country up to Filipino politics now, patron-client relationships determine the country’s economy and politics. Even Antonio de Morga wrote about how datus had their respective followers and shifting rivalries and alliances among each other, and usually exercised much local power. The state and the economy of the Philippines continue to be semi-feudal. Even the Marcos dictatorship, which tried to consolidate the state, continued to play by these old and unwritten rules of the game.

Of course the time after Marcos continued in this pattern, with more attempts to continue creating more formal and effective institutions as well as real economic opportunities. Old structures and the centuries-old way of doing things kept undermining things, each group accusing the other of favoritism, but every administration had some of it. I don’t want to get into who less, who more.

Rebellion and migration

The legend (not verified history) of Datu Puti shows a pattern typical for the Pacific: groups that lost in power struggles left for other places. Much of the Pacific was populated in this manner. Those who were less fortunate in the constant struggles for economic and political ascendancy often resorted to rebellion and migrated if that failed. In the 1920s many Filipino Christian lowlanders moved to Mindanao, possibly there was a connection to failed colorum and pulahan rebellions. In the 1950s peasants were relocated to Mindanao to weaken the Hukbalahap base.

Apart from the migration to the USA which got going during the 1920s and never really stopped, export of workers to other countries on a large scale started in the 1970s. POEA was founded then. This never really abated, there are millions of OFWs now. Migration to large cities especially Manila started after World War 2, resulting in slums which have grown, especially from the 1970s. This may have been connected to the NPA rebellion in the countryside, just like Davao’s progress and growth is also indirectly connected to the unrest in many other parts of Mindanao.

State and islands

AmCyc Philippine Islands

Philippine Islands: American Cyclopedia, 1879

The central state for all its formality and bureacracy never was particularly strong. The Spanish never really controlled large areas of the country. The Americans achieved control only in the 1920s. Local politicians have often played their own game. LGUs only recently have had to submit to LGPMS, after President Corazon Aquino’s Local Government Code gave them a lot of autonomy and guaranteed money from the national government. At least Cory continued the nationalization of the police started by President Marcos, merging PC and INP to form the Philippine National Police.

Good laws exist on paper, but their implementation up to the very last island is doubtful to say the least. Probably not only in areas where rebel groups hold sway, or the goons of provincial politicians. To what extent recent reforms and initiatives are actually felt by the common man will depend on a lot of things. How much is actually implemented on the ground and how much is just window-dressing reported to headguarters in a regional office or in Manila. How many people still prefer to trust – and serve – their local patron like before, and distrust the state.

Industry and outsourcing

Major industries never really managed to take root in the Philippines. Manufacturing zones for foreign companies started in the 1970s, while the first business process outsourcing companies were founded in the late 1990s and that industry really took off in the 2000s. True industrial development seems to be hampered by a lot of factors. Businesses like malls, utilities, telecoms and more are in the hands of a few groups, they have a captive consumer base. Electricity is expensive, Internet is expensive and slow. State initiatives either lack political will or are stifled by bureacracy.

Extensive form of Stay Firm or Give In

Stay Firm or Give In?

Of course there have recently been some technological advances coming from DOST and laws like the Philippine Competition Act and the Go Negosyo Act which may provide additional impulses. But the question is whether they will be implemented well in an environment where patronage and favoritism run deep in the culture. Do outsiders with energy and smarts really have a chance? There are innovative enterpreneurs like Dado Banatao who made it big in the United States, when will that be possible locally?

Zero-sum and Win-Win

Many of the problems of the Philippines seem to stem from a zero-sum-game mentality. The two major Internet players do not peer, even if it could increase overall speed and overall business. Zero-sum games are those where one side wins = 1 and the other loses = -1. Constant fear of the other side cheating is zero-sum mentality. Win-Win thinking is completely different – grow the cake for all instead of quarreling about it.

Central Government for the functions that need economies of scale, and LGUs for what is better done locally is also Win-Win Thinking. More of that is needed. But of course this is hard in a society where the winner take all mentality has always dominated, and where cooperation is the exception not the rule.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 2. January 2016

12 thoughts on “Forces of Change


    What an irony. What seems self-evident becomes elusive because of denial, if not blindness? How many times the writer himself experienced “looking with his mouth, not his eyes” – to the glee of the spouse!

    Beyond denial or blindness is the need to safeguard self-esteem. “In claiming the status of victim and by assigning all blame to others, a person can achieve moral superiority while simultaneously disowning any responsibility for one’s behavior and its outcome. The victims ‘merely’ seek justice and fairness . . . The victim stance is a powerful one. The victim is always morally right, neither responsible nor accountable, and forever entitled to sympathy.” [Ofer Zur, PhD, The psychology of victimhood,]

  2. The blasting of power grid towers and telecom facilities by npas and other rebels do not help in the electricity rates and telecom woes.This is economic sabotage.

  3. – how much truth is in this?

    I think there is a lot of satirical exaggeration, but I find the breakdown interesting, wonder how the year-end reporting for this usually looks like in terms of transparency.

    Are You BAD-yet in 2016

    3.002 Trillion Pesos approved for the 2016 Philippines budget!

    For BAD-yet 101 lecture, Let us dissect the appropriations for the usual Kleptos.

    1. Congress of the Philippines – P 13.542 Billion aka Crocodile feeds

    2. Office of the President – P2.759 Billion aka PS-4, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii an Wii-U, and other videogames budget; dating and presents for Miss Universe and other Bomba Stars!

    3. Office of the Vice President -P 500 Million aka Binay’s World Class Pocket Money courtesy of Tanda Enrile

    4. Dept.of Agrarian Reform – P9.6 Billion aka Hush money for the leftist

    5. Dept. Of Agriculture – P48.577 Billion aka Fertilizer and Bulate projects 2.0 by Alcala aka Paborito ng mga PDAF and DAP allocators

    6. Dept. Of Budget and Management – P1.385 Billion aka Pordaboys of DMB Staff but the big money is in the automatic 10% release fee approx. P250 Billion!

    7. Dept. Of Education – P411.896 Billion aka Expensive outdated and error ridden textbooks and pittance salaries of overburdened teachers

    8. State Universities and Colleges – P37.635 Billion aka Subsidies for the rich and financially capable students who are the majority of population of the State Universities

    9. Dept. Of Energy – P775.856 Billion aka Annual gift to the Power Cartel and other Ramos cronies

    10. Dept. Of Environment and Natural Resources – P20.086 Billion aka Security and Patrol expenses to protect the Illegal loggers and miners and to keep away protesters and journalists from prying into denudation of our mountains and polluting our rivers and watersheds

    11. Dept. Of Finance – P19.265 Billion aka Purr-rrisima’s kitty! Greasing the money machine that favors the rich

    12. Dept. Of Foreign Affairs – P 20.703 Billion aka Rental cost for posh mansions of the Consuls and junket and vacation budget for esteemed Ambassadors and their families and cronies while promoting ‘Its more fun inda Pilipins!’

    13. Dept. Of Health – P124.767 Billion aka Placebo drugs and medicine budget for the legit drug cartels.

    14. Dept. Of Interior and Local Government – P124.266 Billion aka Basic Campaign Fund of ruling political party aka Ro-Ro Campaign Fund

    15. Dept.of Justice – P12.972 Billion aka Demolition Fund and Selective Justice Fund aka formerly known as Shawl and Screw Driver Funds

    16. Dept. Of Labor and Employment – P18.04 Billion aka Labor Union Officials’ anti-strike money

    17. Dept. Of National Defense – P126.641 Billion aka Anti-Coup d’etat Tong money

    18. Dept. Of Public Works and Highways – P382.419 aka Pot not-the-weed kind but the holes-kind Money for our ampao roads and highways and as additional Campaign Funds at the LGU level

    19. Dept. Of Science and Technology – P19.151 Billion aka Sayang-tiis and Tech-No-Logic Delitante Money

    20. Dept. Of Social Welfare and Development – P107.22 Billion aka Gatasan gamit ang mga mahihirap approx take of P35 Billion aka P3 Billion hairstyle budget for Dinky Kong alone!

    21. Dept.of Tourism – P3.629 Billion aka Fund for overpriced plagiarized Promotions and Advertisements

    22. Dept. Of Trade and Industry – P4.692 Billion aka Favored well connected Businesses lobby fund

    23. Dept. Of Transportation and Communications – P42.682 Billion aka Ballsy Aquino and Abaya slush funds for cornering MRT contracts ad Telecon contracts unfavorable to our government

    24. NEDA – P61.99 Billion aka Oligarchy fund to tailor the country’s economic plan to their advantage

    25. Presidential Communications Operations Office – P1.201 Billion aka Propaganda and Spin Meisters’ Fund aka Joseph Goebbels’ school of Communications fund

    26. Other Executive Office and Office of the President – P14.268 Billion aka Paquito Ochoa’s wines and spirits fund and Binay’s Protection Fund , note that the real money is within the control ofthe gates of influence which is more than the budget of this office thru influence peddling.

    27. Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao – P28.492 Billion aka Favored Muslim Mindanao Cronies Funds and MILF appeasement fund

    28. Joint Legislative-Executive Council -P2.883 Million The Lapdogs Training and Obedience Fund note the budget is pittance but the influnce peddling is lucrative

    29. The Judiciary – P26.024 Billion aka The Hoodlums in Robes insufficient operating budget that is why they sell TROs to augment their loot

    30. Special Purpose Funds – P410.073 aka Not for Special Kids but the President’s enormous pay-off funds to furhter his interest for his special interests aka Aquino’s War Chest or Carrots and Sticks Fund

    31. Allocations for LGUs – P57.291 Billion aka Warlord allocations

    32. Contingent Fund – P3 Billion aka Extra Pocket Money

    33. Misc. Personnel Benefits Fund – P96.261 Billion aka Govt. workers rice and noodles money

    34. National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund – P38.895 Billion aka May Malaking Pera sa Bagyo at Baha at sa kamalasan ng mga mamamayan Fund

    35. Pension and Gratuity Fund – P109.973 aka kahit patay na pero buhay pa sa records eh kubra pa rin ang mga pension aka Guiness Book of World Records for longest living pensioners

    BAD-der than before,



    Happy New Year!

    My wines and spirits Christmas Presents for my unreliable sources are really appreciated for they shared with me more interesting stuffs!


    • Thanks. Like I wrote already they might be restricted by the lesson plan and the textbooks normally available. I had and have access to a lot of sources usually ignored by textbooks, then I try to put together my own view. Like somebody driving past big cities on the train or the Autobahn, and giving a view of what he has seen. I do have to thank some authors like Nassim Taleb (Antifragile), Malcolm Gladwell (David and Goliath) and Charles Mann (1493) who are NOT historians but have shown the world and me new ways of looking at stuff already known. Historians who dare put together a new view are rare, one has to be very daring among Philippine historians, expect discussions similar to those about Grace Poe’s citizenship and residency at Raissa’s blog, but more vicious and personal, after all it involves political groups and how they are to be seen. It took decades for Aguinaldo to finally be seen as he is seen now, even if many aspects of what he did were already known, they were hidden in specialized books for history majors. Heneral Luna I read about as a child, but it took the movie for many to know his role, or even that he existed and was important. Finally two evolutionary biologists strongly shaped my view of the world: Jared Diamond and Steven Jay Gould. Both had there specific take on history and evolution.

      Of course there is always the danger of oversimplification or sweeping generalizations, the mistake that Francis Fukuyama made in his “End Of History” in 1992. What I have come to appreciate so far is how complex and multifaceted the Philippine situation really is. 7000+ islands, numerous languages, different expectations and levels of development, and a complex government apparatus that is rusty in many places. Anyone who just goes forward and says it is easy to fix things is lying or crazy IMHO. Not even Filipino media give a clear and complete picture of the situation. Either they are self-serving or lack big picture thinking. Lot of research still to be done.

  4. You know, I appreciate your way of teaching history. It is broken into small chunks that those of us of wayward mind can grasp. The statement that it took the US 20 years to actually incorporate the provinces in government speaks so loudly about the gap between Manila and the outlying lands, especially the “exotic” or “wild lands” of Mindanao.

    Your last section, on the zero sum game, is priceless. It speaks to the entire culture of how me competing for me defeats us working to build us.

    • Thanks. I guess having grown up with this stuff helps, and also applying my professional experience in summarizing complex IT stuff for key users, end users and managers.

      @Pelang: I guess most history teachers are made to follow DepEd Guidelines, and I wonder if history textbooks have ever been upgraded since Agoncillo we learned from.

      @Karl: yes, things stay the same the more they change. Most of my past articles are about finding out the “Big Bang” Joe postulated that created the present Philippines.

      @all: – May 1920 was the turnover of the Moro Region to the Interior Department.

      In 1921, President Woodrow Wilson happily confirmed that the Philippines was on its way to becoming ready for independence. He was right, but later things backtracked.

      Probably because of the zero sum game being played in so many places. The worst variation of it being what is known as “beggar thy neighbor” played in cities nationwide.

  5. On Rebellion and Migration.

    I have finally completed the epicserye Amaya. It was like Game ofThrones.There were lots of Rebellion and migration that went on.One o Amaya’s sisters married a datu from Manila to gather forces to rebell against their mother.Amaya her self migrated and became the leader of the lumads in Mindanao.
    From the various teleseryes and telenovelas I watched.
    Before it was conquering territorries that changed to accumulation of properties, you have the landed elite, the hacienderos,who also has political influence and has many people in the palm of their hands.
    Today only a few control the banks,the real estate and other sectors.
    The more things change the more they stay the same.

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