OF course the Yellow ideologues, and those brainwashed in US neoliberal ideology will be aghast. But I dare propose the thesis that because of the massive popular support for President Duterte, his control of the Congress could be our version of Japan, Singapore and Malaysia’s decades-old single-party rule.
And such single-party dominance, with democratic mechanisms such as elections and government accountability, has been the political structure of countries which have been among East Asia’s miracle economies.
They were called “miracle economies” — or the East Asian “tigers” — in that they grew, as the title of Lee Kuan Yew’s book that narrated the case of Singapore put it, “From Third World to First” in just three decades, leap-frogging at least the century it took Western nations to become industrialized.
Since 1986, our thinking had been, because of the Yellow’s propaganda machines, that the choice is solely between one-man rule supported by the military, or “democracy.”
That is a false dichotomy. Japan, Singapore and Malaysia weren’t military dictatorships. They had regular elections for parliaments and local governments. But for decades their central governments were ruled by one party. Economic historians all agree that this was a crucial factor that enabled them to develop rapidly from Third to First World economies. Check these out:
– Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party has been near continuously in power since its founding in 1955, with the exception of a period between 1993 and 1994, and again from 2009 to 2012. In the 2012 election, it regained control of government.
Japan’s feat was astonishing as it was devastated by World War 2, its resources depleted for the war machine, its industrial backbone destroyed by US forces, and 2 million of its most able-bodied men killed in the fighting. Would it have developed in a span of three decades to become one of the world’s biggest economies if its organ of political leadership had been always wracked by legislators the likes of Antonio Trillanes 4th and the Yellows in the Senate raising all sorts of issues to distract it from its work?
– Since the 1959 general elections, Singapore’s People’s Action Party, founded by Lee Kuan Yew, has dominated its politics. Such continuity and Lee’s iron hand have been credited with being central to the city state’s rapid development.
– Malaysia’s politics is a bit more complicated, with the ruling party being really coalitions of parties. Suffice it though for our purposes to point out that Mahathir Mohamad led the country for 22 years, from 1981 to 2003, and returned to power in 2018.
In the wake of their massive defeat in the elections last Monday, the Yellows have been striving to create in Filipinos’ minds the narrative that with none of their candidates winning, the Senate will become a “rubber stamp.” Even a UP academic tried to sound profound by claiming that the republican system of “checks and balances” is going to the dogs as a result of the recent elections.
Call the parliaments in the 1970s to the 1990s, of Japan, Singapore and Malaysia rubber stamps. But I would call these the unified, iron-willed political leadership that led these countries to become developed, and consequently pulling out of the misery of poverty tens of millions of their populations. What is wrong with that?
Our glorified system of “checks and balances” led to the recent preposterous phenomenon where just one senator — Panfilo Lacson — managed to delay the passage of the budget for three months, which had the consequence of shaving 1 percentage point from the GDP growth in this year’s first quarter. How many of our poor remained in poverty because of that? I’d choose a rubber stamp over such dictatorship of an institution over our economy.
The dogma most deeply imbedded in the minds of our academics — not surprising because they were educated in the West — is that electoral democracy results in the most happiness for citizens of a nation. This dogma has been shattered in the past few decades.
Based on World Bank figures, more than 500 million people were lifted out of extreme poverty because of the policies of the government of China — a one-party state. The dictatorships in South Korea and Taiwan as well as the military juntas of Thailand led their countries to economic growth much faster than ours. Many economic analysts think that war-ravaged Vietnam — because of the discipline imposed by ruling Communist Party of Vietnam — could overtake the Philippines in the next few years, especially if we can’t put our act together.
Indeed, as the 2018 book The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities by renowned international-relations scholar John Mearsheimer narrated, the US’ efforts to impose its version of democracy in the world in the post-war era has made it a “highly militarized state fighting wars that undermine peace, harm human rights, and threaten liberal values at home.” The gory details of that are the millions killed in the American invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and in the ensuring internecine chaos.
But we already tried authoritarian rule — under Marcos — and it was a catastrophe, the Yellows would claim. That is a myth that falls flat in the face of solid facts.
The economy surged from 1972 to 1980 at an average annual growth rate of 6 percent. The growth rate for 1973, the first full year of martial law, as well as for 1976, was 9 percent, an astounding
pace never beaten to this day.
As I have explained in detail in my book Debunked*, the Marcos era was a complex one, which cannot be explained by the simplistic, biased good-vs-evil narrative of the Yellow Cult. What has been bandied about as the economic catastrophe created by Martial Law actually refers only to the 1984 and 1985 period, when the GDP contracted by an unprecedented 7 percent for each of those years. As much to blame as Marcos for this though were the policies undertaken by his neoliberal economic managers, the global oil and debt crises, and the US banks’ relentless push in the previous years to get the Philippines to borrow as much of their petrodollars as they could.
However, in this day and age, there would be so much opposition to a one-man military-supported dictatorship. Unlike Thailand, we don’t have a monarchy to convince the populace to acquiesce to such rule.
But with an extremely popular leader like Duterte, we could have a version of Japan and Singapore’s decades-old single-party rule.
The Monday elections demonstrated that that is possible.
*Debunked: Uncovering Hard Truths about EDSA, Martial Law, Marcos, Aquino, with a Special Section on the Duterte Presidency, available in book-stores, online, and amazon.com.