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The Obama doctrine

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:05 am | Saturday, May 10th, 2014


 “All politics is local.” This is a common saying among US politicians. Former Philippine president Jose P. Laurel said something like this when he wrote in his book, “Thinking for Ourselves,” that foreign policy should project national policy.


Filipinos glimpsed a demonstration of this aphorism during the press conference in Malacañang of President Aquino and his guest, US President Barack Obama, last April 28.


Obama began his remarks by expressing his condolences to the victims of the tornadoes that had just hit his homeland and caused scores of casualties and damaged many homes. It was obvious that he was talking to the American people back home.


On the other hand, Mr. Aquino thanked the US president for the “immediate outpourings of assistance from the government of the United States and the American people in the aftermath of Typhoon ‘Haiyan’ or ‘Yolanda’ and your nation’s clear expression of solidarity with the typhoon survivors.”


As the press conference progressed, it became clear that the American reporters were more concerned about politics back home, while Filipino reporters were more concerned about how the United States would respond to a flare-up of a war between the Philippines and China over conflicting territorial claims in the South China/West Philippine Sea.


Obama was asked by a Fox TV reporter about “unflattering criticisms” in the United States regarding the “weakness” of what he called the “Obama doctrine” in foreign affairs.  Obama appeared to be taken aback by the question and responded rather testily. The local press largely ignored this exchange.


“Typically,” Obama replied, choosing his words carefully, “criticism of our foreign policy has been directed at the failure to use military force. And the question I think I would have is, why is it that everybody is so eager to use military force after we’ve just gone through a decade of war at enormous costs to our troops and to our budget? And what is it exactly that these critics think would have been accomplished?


“My job as commander in chief is to deploy military force as a last resort, and to deploy it wisely. And, frankly, most of the foreign policy commentators that have questioned our policies would go headlong into a bunch of military adventures that the American people have no interest in participating in and would not advance our core security interests.”



‘Enormous costs’

In effect, Obama is not about to make the same mistakes as his predecessor, who rushed America into war in Iraq and Afghanistan “at enormous costs to our troops and to our budget.” He defended his decision not to go to war in Syria, pointing out that diplomacy had caused it to get rid of its chemical weapons. In Ukraine, the sanctions had isolated Russia, without war being declared.


He continued: “And if you look at the results of what we’ve done over the last five years, it is fair to say that our alliances are stronger, our partnerships are stronger, and in the Asia Pacific region, just to take one example, we are much better positioned to work with the peoples here on a whole range of issues of mutual interest… And that may not always be sexy.”  And he attributed this to his diplomacy, which he implied was not as “sexy” as fighting.


Obama disappointed local and US war hawks when he did not commit the US armed forces to the immediate aid of the Philippines in case of war over its territorial and maritime disputes with China. Instead, he urged caution, diplomacy and cooperation.

He noted that the United States has had territorial disagreements with Canada dating back to the 1800s but these did not deter them from having friendly and flourishing trade and economic relations. What is important, he stressed, is for all nations to strictly adhere to international law.


Obama came to US national attention when, as a junior senator from Illinois, he openly criticized Republican President George Bush’s decision to invade Iraq. He was elected to the presidency mainly because of the failure of Bush’s foreign interventionism, as well as by the economic recession near the end of Bush’s term. In 2009, Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”


With his popularity rating at 44 percent in April 21-27, according to the Gallup Poll, and facing a congressional election in November, Obama is understandably sensitive to criticism at home of both his foreign and domestic policies. His liberal supporters decry his role in the Nato bombing of Libya, leading to its regime change, and his continued use of drones to strike at “terrorists,” which kill innocent civilians in the process. His Republican critics fault him for being “weak” in responding to political crises abroad.


America’s role


A smart politician, Obama is probably aware of the growing disapproval by the US public of more foreign adventurism. A poll conducted by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and the National Broadcasting Corp. last month, in which Americans were asked for their opinion on “America’s role in the world,” showed that 47 percent wanted their country to be “less active,” and only 19 percent wanted it to be “more active.”

Similarly, the Pew Research Center last year found a record 53 percent saying that the United States “should mind its own business internationally” and let other countries get along as best they can, compared with 41 percent who said so in 1995 and 20 percent in 1964, the WSJ reported.


So it is not surprising that Obama was not as combative as local and US war hawks wanted him to be when he faced the Philippine public. He was apparently listening to the “folks back home,” and feeling that the tide of American public opinion was turning toward less “entanglement” (as George Washington termed it) in foreign affairs, and giving more attention to domestic problems of homelessness, joblessness and burgeoning national debt.


Just before boarding Air Force One on his way back to the United States, Obama assured a gathering of Philippine and US troops that the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty between the two countries was “ironclad.” But he did not say that it did not guarantee America’s automatic military support of the Philippines in case of outside attack, unlike in the case of the US security treaty with Japan. Besides, the RP-US treaty does not cover the territories in the South China/West Philippine Sea.


Even as a survey by the US Pew Research Center shows that Filipinos (85 percent) view Americans more favorably than do the Americans themselves (84 percent), the harsh reality is that Americans now are becoming less concerned with other nations’ affairs, including its former colony, the Philippines. Their politics is becoming more local.

This should push Filipinos to think more domestically as well, as suggested by Jose P. Laurel, a Filipino statesman, patriot and nationalist.


Manuel F. Almario ( is a veteran journalist, retired editor and spokesman of the Movement for Truth in History, Rizal’s MOTH.


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May 21, 2014 · 4:09 am

Napoles not ‘most guilty’

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:02 am | Wednesday, April 30th, 2014


It is disputable that Janet Lim-Napoles is the “most guilty” in the stupendous P10-billion pork barrel scam.  She is an ordinary citizen, without any official governmental power.  On the other hand, the legislators and other public officials who are her co-accused are cloaked with public authority. They were the custodians of public money. They had the sworn duty to preserve and spend public money for the public good. Instead, they allegedly plundered it.


Every public official is required by law to take an oath to “well and faithfully discharge to the best of his ability the duties of the office or position upon which he is about to enter; and (to declare) that he voluntarily assumes the obligation imposed by his oath of office, without mental reservation  or purpose of evasion” (Sec. 40, 1987 Administrative Code of the Philippines).


Napoles had taken no such oath, not having occupied a government position. But the public officials did.  Their oaths usually end with the phrase, “So help me God.” Therefore their crime, if proven, would be a “betrayal of the public trust,” for failing to “well and faithfully discharge” the duties of their office.  It would also be sacrilege for falsely invoking the name of God.


In his March 26, 2012, column (“Betrayal of public trust”), Fr. Joaquin J. Bernas,  former dean of the Ateneo Law School, quoted Constitutional Commissioner Ricardo Romulo as saying that “betrayal of the public trust,” one of the causes for impeachment of public officials, could “cover any violation of the oath of office.”


Commissioner Rustico de los Reyes, author of the amendment, added that “the term … includes betrayal of public interest, inexcusable negligence of duty  (italics supplied), tyrannical abuse of power, breach of official duty by malfeasance or misfeasance, cronyism, favoritism, etc. to the prejudice of public interest and which tend to bring the office into disrepute.”


Further, the crime of plunder, under Republic Act No. 7080, is primarily directed against “public officers” who acquire ill-gotten wealth or misappropriate public funds amounting to more than P50 million.  A private person who participates in the crime is also punished for the same offense, but he or she is not the principal accused.


Even if Napoles is the mastermind, which is unlikely, considering her being an outsider, Napoles cannot be the “most guilty” since she could not have committed the crime without the assent and participation of the public officials who have custody of and power to dispose of the funds.  These officials had the duty to “turn her in” or charge her for simply making an indecent or illegal proposition.


It is to the public interest that Napoles be made a state’s witness, if her testimony is assuredly necessary to convict the public officials concerned, in order to forewarn all incumbent and future officials to be faithful to their oath of office, under pain of punishment under the law.  An additional requirement of course would be for her to return to the state all the proceeds she may have enjoyed from the scam.




Movement for Truth in History,

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April 30, 2014 · 3:20 am


US’ unequal treaties

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:22 am | Saturday, April 26th, 2014


The battle of Bataan offset the timetable of the Japanese Empire in the Pacific War. It enabled the United States to rise quickly from initial setbacks, muster strength, and eventually vanquish the aggressor in shorter time and with fewer casualties than if the Filipinos had submitted more readily to the Japanese onslaught.


The three-month struggle against overwhelming odds also displayed the courage of the Filipino soldiers as well as their total devotion to the American flag under which they fought. No other colonized people at that time proved as loyal to a colonial power.


Yet it took more than six decades for the US Congress to acknowledge the equal value of the blood and flesh of the American and Filipino soldiers, as noted by the Inquirer editorial last April 9. This exemplary loyalty was displayed not just in Bataan by our soldiers but also by Filipino guerrillas and civilians throughout the archipelago in the three-and-a-half years of brutal Japanese occupation.


But after World War II ended, it seems that the United States gave more favor to the security and welfare of its former enemy than to its constant friend, ally and devoted follower in international affairs. This is most evident in the difference between the defense treaties undertaken by the United States with Japan and the Philippines.


These two treaties have become critically relevant as both the Philippines and Japan are currently involved in separate territorial disputes with China, which could break out in a shooting war and, at worst, end in a nuclear holocaust.

The tension over these disputes simmered in the verbal confrontation between US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan at the National Defense University of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in Beijing last April 8. According to a news report, Chang told Hagel, before a gathering of PLA officers, that “while China stands ready to resolve the disputes diplomatically, China is always ready to respond militarily to threats.”


Hagel was quoted as replying: “We have mutual self-defense treaties with each of these two countries (the Philippines and Japan), and we are fully committed to these treaty obligations.” So the lines have been drawn. Should a war develop between China and either Japan or the Philippines, or both, the United States would get involved. However, Hagel failed to explain that there is a significant difference between the two treaties.


Article I of the Security Treaty between the United States and Japan, signed on Sept. 8, 1951, in San Francisco, declares that “Japan grants, and the United States of America accepts, the right … to dispose United States land, air and sea forces in and about Japan.  Such forces may be utilized to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security in the Far East and to the security of Japan against armed attack from without.”


Hence, under the treaty with Japan, the United States is committed unconditionally to “utilize” its forces for the security of Japan against “armed attack from without.”


On the other hand, there is no such guarantee of automatic defense by the United States in case of an armed attack on the Philippines from without. Article IV of the Mutual Defense Treaty between the Philippines and the United States, signed on Aug. 30, 1951, in Washington, DC, merely states:

“Each Party recognizes that an armed attack in the Pacific area on either of the Parties would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common dangers in accordance with its constitutional processes.


“Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall be immediately reported to the Security Council of the United Nations. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken measures to restore and maintain international peace and security.”

There is no declaration that the US armed forces would be “utilized to contribute to the security” of the Philippines, except to bind both parties to “meet the common dangers” in accordance with their “constitutional processes.” The “constitutional processes” probably mean that the congresses of the two parties would have to consent to any action to be taken.


And what if their decision is merely to inform the UN Security Council? One can never be sure. In the recent case of Syria, US President Barack Obama explicitly announced that Syria would be deemed to “cross the red line” if it used chemical weapons against the opposition in the raging civil war there. But when the rebels accused Syria of using such weapons, Obama tossed the question to the US Congress, which said no to suggestions that the United States strike militarily at Syria for “violating” international law.


Further, even as the war rhetoric in the Pacific escalates, the American public, according to repeated polls, are becoming more war-weary because of the debacles of the US “wars for democracy” in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan. Besides, America’s domestic problems arising from high unemployment, low economic growth and over $17 billion in foreign debts, most of it owed to China, are of more urgent concern to America’s “99 percent.”


Yet, the Philippines’ entanglement with the United States is tightening. According to reports, the Philippine government is set to sign a new agreement with the United States for its use of Philippine military bases by “enhanced” visiting US military forces. This coincides with the announced US “pivot” to the Pacific, which China claims is intended to “contain” it, but which America claims is merely to defend its legitimate maritime interests.


Thus, if a war breaks out just between Japan and China over their territorial dispute, the Philippines would still be drawn in because America is automatically committed to Japan’s defense. This is because the Philippines is militarily linked to America, which has boots, ships and planes over the length and width of our archipelago.


Facing such a dire prospect, our people must ask: Why does the United States, for which we have sacrificed so much, favor more our former common enemy, Japan, in the critical matter of national security?

In a 1951 speech titled “Our Mendicant Foreign Policy,” the late great nationalist senator Claro M. Recto said:


“For it is now evident that the grand design of American strategy is to make Japan the leader of the anti-communist forces in Asia because her people are said to be the only people in this region with the military traditions, the technical skills, the numbers, the discipline, and the industrial resources necessary for the huge and exacting enterprise of modern war.”


Should World War III break out, would the Philippines again be the sacrificial goat of the great powers?


Manuel F. Almario ( is a veteran journalist and spokesperson of the Movement of Truth in History (Rizal’s MOTH).

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April 26, 2014 · 9:29 am


Why not nationalism?

By Manuel Almario
Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:20 am | Saturday, March 15th, 2014


In his column, “The future of democracy” (3/1/14), Randy David examines the role of democracy in paring down poverty. “[W]hy expect democracy to end poverty?” he asks. “Rapid economic development and the distribution of assets have been more associated with authoritarian regimes than with democracies.”


Indeed, democracy is a process and not a solution. It is a means for translating the sentiments of the people into action through government. What is important, however, is the sentiment, principle, program, policy, or solutions that the people want to be implemented through the democratic process.


In a multiparty system, the democratic society expresses the policies which it wishes implemented through contending political parties and candidates in regular elections. Ideally, the society makes its choices through its citizens voting freely, so what comes out of the ballot box is their collective will.


Disturbed by recent events in Ukraine, where an elected government was overthrown by violent demonstrations, The Economist, an influential conservative magazine published in London, recently took a gloomy look at democracy in a long cover essay. It said, in part:


“Democracy is going through a difficult time. Where autocrats have been driven out of office, their opponents have mostly failed to create viable democratic regimes. Even in established democracies, flaws in the system have become worryingly visible and disillusion with politics is rife. Yet just a few years ago democracy looked as though it would dominate the world.


“The two main reasons are the financial crisis of 2007-2008 and the rise of China. The damage the crisis did was psychological as well as financial. It revealed fundamental weaknesses in the West’s political system…. Meanwhile, the Chinese Communist Party has broken the democratic world’s monopoly on economic progress. Larry Summers, of Harvard University, observes that when America was growing fastest, it doubled living standards roughly every 30 years.  China has been doubling living standards roughly every decade for the past 30 years.”


The Economist did not mention the Philippines as one of those countries in which democracy has failed to meet public expectations. But it mentioned Iraq and Egypt where attempts to emplace democracy have failed. And even as we celebrated last Feb. 25 the “Edsa Revolution” that “restored” democracy after more than 20 years of dictatorship, a great many Filipinos moaned, “What did it all bring us, except more poverty and misery?”


The Economist admits that elections alone do not make up a democracy, especially when the voters and their elected representatives are swayed by the power of money wielded by corporations and oligarchs. As a remedy, the magazine proposes the further limitation of governmental power. This is what US President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher did through deregulation and privatization, but those did not stop the Great Recession of 2007-2008 from happening.


Damaged culture


In 1987, with the flush of the peaceful Edsa Revolution still infusing the world, the American magazine Atlantic Monthly ran an article by James Fallows on the Philippines, titled “A Damaged Culture.” Its subhead read: “Our Asia correspondent offers a dark view of a nation not only without nationalism, but also without much national pride.”


In his article, which he wrote after two months of traveling across the archipelago—during which he felt “angry at myself when I brushed off the latest platoon of child beggars, angry at the beggars when I did give in, angry at the rich Filipinos for living behind high walls and guardhouses in the fortified Makati compounds euphemistically called villages … angry at a society that had degenerated into a war of every man against every man”—


Fallows concluded:

“If the problem in the Philippines does not lie in the people themselves, or, it would seem, in their choice between capitalism and socialism, what is the problem? I think it is cultural and that it should be thought of as a failure of nationalism.”

According to the Concise Encylopedia, “Nationalism is loyalty and devotion to one’s nation or country, especially as above loyalty to other groups or to individual interests.” Thus, a nationalist identifies fully with his country, placing its interests above that of his class, community, region, clan, family and self.  He is personally humiliated when his country is humiliated.


A nationalist would want his country to be strong and prosperous, rather than weak and poor. The Encyclopedia adds: “In the 20th Century, Nationalist movements often arose in opposition to colonialism.” Jose Rizal was a nationalist because, although born in a family more fortunate materially than most of his countrymen, he abandoned his birthright to fight for their independence and freedom to strive for progress.


No nation has become prosperous without going through a phase of nationalism. The United States grew to be a wealthy and strong nation only after undergoing a nationalist revolution against England. Its founding fathers, from George Washington to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, were all ardent nationalists.




According to a US college textbook, World Civilizations, the rise of nations in Europe in the 19th century arose from a “complex combination of the forces of liberalism, nationalism and nation-building.” Nationalism is a necessary component of nation-building. A common characteristic of the economically successful nation states in Asia was the nationalism of their leaders and peoples, regardless of ideology.


Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Sukarno of Indonesia, Mahathir of Malaysia, Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore, Park Chung Hee of South Korea, Mao Zedong and Deng Xiao Ping of China were all instilled with nationalism and driven by the desire to build a strong nation, subservient to none and equal to all.


We still have to find a leader who would place the nation above class, family and personal interests. We still have to find a leader who would protect and advance the national interest, even if it conflicts with those of other countries, and who would not divide their loyalty between our own country and other nations, despite shared historical and cultural relationships.

History shows that no nation has been built without its people imbibing the spirit of nationalism.


Manuel F. Almario ( is a veteran, semiretired journalist and spokesperson of the Movement for Truth in His


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March 16, 2014 · 5:09 am


What went wrong?

By Manuel Almario
Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:53 am | Saturday, February 22nd, 2014

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Last week the Inquirer headlined its main story as follows: “P-Noy: What went wrong?” The headline depicted the President’s exasperation and puzzlement, if not shock, over a survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations showing that the unemployment rate among Filipino adults soared to 27.5 percent in 2013.


The figure is much higher than the 16-percent unemployment rate found by SWS when it started the survey in 1993, and definitely much higher than the official 7.1 percent unemployment figure claimed by the National Statistical and Coordination Board.


The bafflement over the unemployment rate is understandable considering that only days earlier, the National Economic and Development Authority announced that the Philippines had achieved an unprecedented 7.2 percent GDP growth, second only to China’s 7.7 percent. If the Philippines’ employment rate had declined steeply, where then did its economic growth come from?


According to Robert Solow, who won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1987, the three main drivers of economic growth are capital, labor and technology. If one of them, like labor, is wanting, then the potential for high economic growth is inadequate.


During the Great Depression in the United States, unemployment went as high as 25 percent of the labor force, and when it attained its highest prosperity after World War II, there was full employment. There was full employment in our country in the 1950s when it was considered “next to Japan” due to our government’s industrialization policies.  Unemployment in China, which has consistently enjoyed near double digit GDP growth for the past 30 years, is just 4 percent despite its population of 1.3 billion.


What then went wrong? A clue to what went wrong is to be found in the statistics of average economic growth in the Philippines in the past 50 years—not just two years—which were supplied by the economist Solita Monsod in her column titled “Read and weep” (Opinion, 2/1/14). Monsod wrote:


“For the period 1960-2009 [50 years], the Philippines’ per capita GDP (measured in 2005 PPP) grew by an average of 1.58 percent annually, which means that its 2009 per capita GDP was 2.18 times what it was in 1960.


“How did Indonesia fare? Its per capita income GDP growth rate was 3.69 percent, which means that by 2009, its per capita GDP was 5.88 times what it was in 1960. The statistics for Malaysia were 4.25 percent and 7.68 times. For Thailand it was 4.36 percent and 8.11 times. For South

Korea it was 5.54 percent and 14.05 times. And for China it was 6.185 percent and 18.94 times.


“Studies show that it is government policy and institutions that exert the most influence in explaining the difference in growth rates between countries.”




Indeed, it is true that it is government policy that determines economic development. And it is not only for a few years, but for decades. What were the policies that our government followed during these past five decades? What happened in 1960 that took us on the wrong path? There was an election and Diosdado Macapagal was elected president. In his inaugural address on Dec. 30, 1961, he proclaimed:



“I strongly believe in placing the burden of economic development in the hands of private enterprise with the least government interference while making the government assume the full responsibility for implementing the social and public welfare program.”


Forthwith, Macapagal scrapped the economic controls imposed by the government in the 1950s. These government interventions, composed primarily of exchange and import controls to promote industrialization, had pushed us second to Japan in economic growth. These also encouraged full employment and higher wages.

Ferdinand Marcos and succeeding presidents followed the principal policy adopted by Macapagal, encouraged and supported by foreign institutions like the US Agency for International Development, International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Asian Development Bank. Controls were scrapped, tariffs that protected local industries were zero-downgraded, agricultural subsidies were eliminated, and economic activity made more dependent on foreign investments.


We have seen, through the statistics supplied by Ms Monsod, that as a result of these policies, the Philippines has been left far behind by its neighbors. According to a wise saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.” Our policymakers must do something different then if they are to be considered sane.


So what did the other countries—that were once poor—do that resulted differently from that which was experienced by the Philippines in the past half-century? A new book by noted author Joe Studwell, titled “How Asia Works, Success and Failure in the World’s Most Dynamic Region,” provides an answer.


The book relates how Japan, South Korea and Taiwan have been more successful than other countries in their economic development. It “argues that the answer comes down to three sets of policy choices: land tenure policies that support smallholder farmers, manufacturing policies that subsidize domestic industries yet demand internationally competitive results, and financial policies that support the above by resisting deregulation until it can be done safely” (from a review by Brendan Driscoll). Deregulating our economy after the 1950s was thus harmfully premature.



In implementing the budgetary Disbursement Acceleration Program in October 2011, President Aquino intervened to stimulate economic growth. It consisted simply of accelerating public spending on government projects already approved by Congress and the executive branch.


This modest intervention most probably was responsible for the unprecedented GDP growth of 7.1 percent in 2012 and 7.2 percent in 2013, surpassing those of our Asian neighbors. If such a small stimulus in such a short period could produce unprecedented positive results, what could a bigger and longer term intervention do?


This is not to argue that the role of “private enterprise” in economic development is of slight significance. Even China, whose economy is mainly state-driven, has acknowledged the important role that the “market” and private enterprises play in economic growth.


But to ignore the decisive role that the state plays in economic development is equally disastrous, as shown by our GDP experience for the past 50 years. At least after half a century of failed policies, Mr. Aquino’s administration is seeing the light glimmer for a new path, and not just a straight path.


Manuel F. Almario ( is a semi-retired veteran journalist and spokesperson of the Movement for Truth in History, Rizal’s MOTH.


Whenever I think about why we have not prospered as a nation and as a people, I could hear my high school social studies teacher’s voice. Having asked the question herself rhetorically in our class, she answered it herself: “A farmer who does not own his land does not have the incentive to be as productive as he could.” And continuing: “To create wealth we need to produce a surplus so we can invest this surplus for more productive endeavors.” To segue her answer, she asked: “How can we produce a surplus when we have a population explosion?”

I can now attest that my social studies teacher is indeed better than our US-educated economists who shaped our policies that you eloquently explained in a historical perspective on “What went wrong?” Their belief in a “free market” economy, which is a myth even in the US, lead us astray as a developing country.

What is more interesting to me is that Joe Studwell, in his latest book, confirmed unequivocally that my teacher was correct: The first of his three sets of policy choices – land tenure policies that support smallholder farmers – was what my teacher was alluding to when she admonished “A farmer who does not own his land does not have the incentive to be as productive as he could.” That true land reform is the first government intervention that must be done in order to maximize agricultural output. (By the way, in his book “How Asia Works, Success and Failure in the World’s Most Dynamic Region”, Studwell criticized the Philippine land reform program as a farce, which is quite obvious to any sane person.)

On my teacher’s comment : “To create wealth we need to produce a surplus so we can invest this surplus for more productive endeavors. How can we produce a surplus when we have a population explosion?” alludes to Studwell’s second and third prescribed interventions. That is, “to direct investment and entrepreneurs toward manufacturing” is similar to my teacher’s “more productive endeavors”. And on his 3rd prescription on focusing capital, she mentioned surplus as a means to produce capital.

Well, at least some of our best and brightest are studying economics or political economy in Europe and the UK so I hope we would not be tied too much to the misguided concept of a “free market” economy.

Thank you for your profound article on what truly went wrong. Now that we know better, we can start rectifying decades of mistakes or at least walk on the correct path to our prosperity. The prosperity we need to alleviate the abject poverty of a large number of our countrymen.

I would further suggest that Joe Studwell’s latest book should be required reading for our students and leaders or those aspiring to be.


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February 22, 2014 · 8:15 am


Why PH lags behind

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:09 pm | Friday, January 31st, 2014


As the Philippines is increasingly being viewed as a failed state—world center of online child pornography, human and drug trafficking, international criminal syndicates, testing ground for unlicensed medicines and genetic engineering, international refuge for fugitives from justice, major source of labor migrants, and host to two festering insurgencies—it is imperative that concerned citizens and responsible leaders reexamine why we have come to this sorry pass.


Scott Ryan Charney, who holds a master’s degree in US foreign policy from American University, has written an essay in Asia Times in the Internet (Jan. 20) titled “Why Taiwan has Outpaced the Philippines.”  While the article focuses on a single example, it opens a window for understanding the cause or causes of our lingering malaise.

Both Taiwan and the Philippines are allies of the United States, and both obtained their independence within years of each other, the Philippines in 1946 and Taiwan in 1949. The island was occupied and renamed the Republic of China by President Chiang Kai-Shek after he was ousted from mainland China by his nemesis, Mao Zedong, following a lethal civil war.


After about a decade of receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in rehabilitation aid from the United States, and war reparations from Japan, the Philippines was clearly ahead of its Asian neighbors in economic development—including China and Taiwan—in the early post-World War II period.  But beginning in the 1960s, after abandoning the government protectionist strategy followed by the Magsaysay-Garcia administrations, the Philippines rapidly fell behind to become the fabled “sick man” of Asia.


Different story

“What a different story in nearby Taiwan!” Charney writes. “…Taiwan is far wealthier and fairly economically egalitarian, with most of its infrastructure much more capable of withstanding and responding to typhoons and other natural disasters.”

From the moment “Chiang and his successors guided Taiwan’s path to prosperity, conspicuously beginning with a highly successful land reform program, Taiwan’s government gradually evolved into a developmental state that played an active role in marshaling the island’s natural and human resources towards a more prosperous future. This same chain of events played out successfully in all of the ‘Asian Tigers,’” Charney declares.


Nigel Harris, a professor at University College London, writes about one of these Asian tigers, notably Singapore, in his 1986 book, “The End of the Third World, Newly Industrializing Countries and the Decline of an Ideology,” as follows:

“The [Singapore] government is active in all the same activities as other [Tiger] governments, as well as owning strategic sectors of all the main industries—trading, airlines, shipping, shipbuilding, radio and television, electronics and engineering, munitions and aircraft, steel and petrochemicals. Through its holdings, it has guided the economy through successive transformations.”


Asks Charney: “How did Taiwan et al. [including Singapore]… avoid the miserable fate” of the Philippines?



“[T]his path to prosperity was only possible because nobody forcibly stopped it from happening. In other words, land reform, resource-financed social spending, and other deviations from neoliberal orthodoxy (or even the potential thereof) usually elicited an aggressive response, covertly or overtly, from the United States, European countries, and their local satraps (like those who ruled the Philippines),” says this US foreign policy expert.


In effect, according to Charney, the United States stopped the Philippines from following the same path taken by Taiwan—that of an active state development role—all in the name of anticommunism. Because of their having fiercely fought Mao Zedong’s communists, Chiang and his cohorts could not be suspected of being “soft” on communism and therefore were allowed to deviate from the path of neoliberalism or the “Washington consensus” preached by the West for former colonies and developing countries under its control and influence.


Charney compares Chiang to then US President Richard Nixon who was able to travel to China at the height of the Cold War to forge formal diplomatic relations with the communist behemoth because of his unquestioned anticommunist credentials. “Similarly, it was impossible to credibly Red-bait anti-Communist warriors like Chiang and the leaders of the other Tigers-to-be, even when they did things that, when they happened in other countries, set off alarms in Washington.”


He adds: “The Cold Warriors of yesteryear might have argued that the interventions that plagued the Philippines and so much of the developing world—but from which Taiwan was mercifully spared—were justified as a means to check the Soviet Union. But that raises the question for Cold War hawks—and advocates of the Obama administration today—which country makes a better ally? The prosperous, well-armed Taiwan … or the militarily weak Philippines, beset by poverty and insurgencies fueled by the country’s perennial inequality?”


Learning from experience

After being ousted from mainland China because of incompetence and corruption, Chiang and his officials learned quickly from experience, and reversed and reformed the neocolonial policies they once imposed in China. Their legacy in Taiwan is now a prosperous, dynamic and technologically savvy society that can stand up independently to China, now the world’s second biggest economy.


We must apply the dictum of our national hero, Jose Rizal, who in his novel “El Filibusterismo” advised through its principal character, the revolutionary Simoun, that to prosper a poor country must study what the successful nations have done, and follow them.


The doctrine of “Salus populi suprema lex esto” (the welfare of the people shall be the supreme law) has been the fundamental objective of democratic government since it was founded by the Greek states. The neoconservative theory that government should stay out of business and economics goes against the letter and spirit of this underlying democratic precept.


The public-private-partnership economic strategy is perhaps an ideal program. But it is still struggling to make a significant impact on the Philippine economy. Despite several years of the program, a recent poll shows that 55 percent of our people feel that their lives deteriorated in the past year.


Certainly, the program should not relieve our government of primary responsibility for the economic and social wellbeing of the people as a whole. This is a responsibility shouldered by the Asian tigers. We can learn from them.


Manuel F. Almario ( is a veteran, semiretired journalist. He is also spokesperson of the Movement for Truth in History, Rizal’s Moth.




SQUEEZING A SQUARE peg in a round container is what’s democracy that has been rammed down the Pilipinos’ by the pakintod-kintod na mga kano. PH is not yet meant for a governance like the one in USA. It has idiosyncrasies that need to be addressed first before introducing something new that works in another country with different settings and environment.


We never had responsible leaders as far as I can remember. Those so-called leaders just went with the flow and never changed anything and just made matters worst. They existed just for themselves and their ilk, nothing more. Look how some of them are so obsessed with phallic’ symbols. The Filipino people, whom they were supposed to serve existed to give them positions or status symbols. The people are just a license to bleed this country dry.

It’s no wonder we are very much lagging behind in all aspects. It’s no wonder we are the laughingstock not just of Asia but of the whole world. It’s no wonder we may never get out of this hole we dug ourselves into.



• 13 hours ago

My teacher, a UN expert, on production management when I was just starting my career in 1971 related this story comparing the behavior of different Asian nations he had visited: When you criticize a Japanese because of unacceptable work or product, he will just bow and come back to you with a better work or product. But when you tell a Filipino about his unacceptable work, he will immediately leave and come back with a knife.

Although there is some exaggeration in it, for emphasis I think, but the impression my teacher had about us is not too farfetched. That basically we do not want to accept criticisms, even how well meaning they are. And with this attitude, we do not want to acknowledge our deficiencies, hence we are not able to improve ourselves. And more than 40 years, two generations ago, since he related that story, have we changed our attitudes – for the better?

If we compare ourselves to the so-called Asian tigers, we invariably understand why we are lagging behind: The Asian tigers have higher and increasing literacy, better access to higher education, lower – much lower – population growth rate, more job creation, better governance, solid and established institutions, less and decreasing graft and corruption, and the ability and process to improve themselves. And with us, just the opposite.

The Martial Law years was a big set back for us. All our institutions and our moral fiber as a nation and people were damaged. Instead of uniting the country, the dictator played on our regional biases and antagonism. There was an exodus of highly educated and skilled people out of the country. The intelligentsia and those opposed or critical of the dictator languished in prisons. The economy was governed by the dictator’s cronies and relatives. Even after the Martial Law years, the abuses of the military, the culture of corruption and impunity, and our longing for an authoritarian, rather than democratic, rule still persist.

At least we don’t have a corrupt President now – and that means a lot. And if we just care about our future as a nation and people, we will have the sense, attitude and work ethic to do what is right. But it will take time.


Boy_Adolf • 

lack of some pinoys…vhong navaro & denise et al.stupidity story are more important than progress..


Efren Supanga 

After the WWII, we can no longer blame our impoverishment and our being the continuing “very sick man of Asia” due to outside forces, be it from the U. S. A. or any European countries. We only have our own selves to blame. We were unwise in the use of the rehabilitation aids and the war reparations poured in by both the U. S. and Japan governments. Having suffered and learned very well from all the ways of Damaso and his idolatrous church and corrupt government for more than 400 years, elected and/or appointed people in our government were just so happy to copy them and took the advantage at first opportunity to lord it over their people, in church or state. Thus, continued the tradition of lording it over our people right to the present days and it is being perfected as others follow in the train.


aldren85  Efren Supanga 

Efren, we were not “unwise in the use of rehab and war reparations…”. Those in charge of the Reparations Commissions diverted the money somewhere, but definitely not for the original purpose. The commission was headed by a certain Balao.




Just like a Filipino blaming everyone but self. I have not heard or read where American politician has stole from Philippines since 1946. It was the corrupt elite politicians who sold out the people to fast tract independence so they could rape the country knowing that a lot of money will be flowing in for rebuilding and if not under control of US will not have to account for use.



Sorry Sir – We did not copy the Democracy American Style. Had we copied it Corrupt Govt officials together with their oligarch/monopolist patrons will go to jail within a year as being done in the US. Taxes goes back to the people thru working public transport system, feeding programs, health care, increasing pensions even without asking, generally responsible citizen and a very strong Police and Armed Forces that are not corrupt. Bottom line was that Taiwan and China were administered by the very leaders who fought the deadly civil war like Mao and Chiang. In the Phil those who became steward of our republic were the ilustrado collaborators and compradors abetted by US govt officials and Damasos of that era hence the continuing perdition. All real heroes except for the transactional Aguinaldo were killed or imprisoned.


aldren85  eirons1043 

They were known as the carpetbaggers.


From your opening paragraph, it shows that our sad state of affairs is primarily due to the failure of POLICE and JUSTICE system. Why? It is corruption that muddle.

Failure in policy matters is due to our politically oriented system in any aspect of government. Why? Corruption and greed play a lot.

Our country has no united vision. We must acknowledge that American-style democracy and system of government did not work in our case. Self interest in the political arena is the common dictum.

In my humble idea our justice system must be given the priority for reform from slow and corrupt-ridden to sharp, prompt, forceful and effective in the real since of justice. Whatever policy matter we made if our justice system does not work we would only be sunken again and again to failure and ineffectiveness/



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February 3, 2014 · 1:50 am

PH Bangsamoro Peace Pact


A win-win solution

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:40 pm | Friday, January 10th, 2014

 0 15 13


Should President Aquino succeed in forging a practicable and just peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in his “last two minutes” as chief administrator, he would have done a historic service to our people, both Muslims and Christians.


Along with the Reproductive Health Law, which he succeeded in pushing through despite strong resistance from the dominant Catholic Church, the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro will remove one of two huge roadblocks to our unity and progress.


The Muslim “resistance” or “rebellion” started in the Spanish conquest in the mid-16th century, raged through to the US colonization at the turn of the 20th century, and rampaged on to the post-independence era from 1946 and the start of the 21st century.  It has lasted for half a millennium, causing rivers of fraternal blood to flow and countless treasures to be destroyed.


The Christian conversion of the inhabitants of the Visayas and Luzon while the Muslim inhabitants of Mindanao and Palawan tightly embraced their traditional faith has led to suspicion and hostility between our peoples of the North and South. Yet we are of the same Malay race and also a part of a continental race, the Asians. Most Malaysians and Indonesians are Muslims. But the tortuous course of history put the Malaysians under British colonial rule and the Indonesians under Dutch rule.


Both Protestant powers, the English and the Dutch were more interested in getting rich through trade, extraction of gold and minerals, and using native labor to tend the plantations that export their crops to the home country, than in propagating spreading their faith.


But the Catholic majesties of Spain, in addition to seeking economic gains, were also on a mission to save souls. It was Pope Alexander VI who, in the famous papal bull of 1493, gave Spain and Portugal the right to “own” territories that they “discover” in their overseas explorations. The condition was that they spread the Catholic faith everywhere so that “the health of souls will be procured … and barbarous nations overthrown and brought to the faith itself.”


But Islam was already here when the Spaniards came, though concentrated in Sulu and southern Mindanao, brought there by Arab traders. There were also Muslim settlements in the Visayas, and also in Manila, which was a citadel ruled by Muslim datus.


The arrival of a foreign faith, backed by the might of a European power, led to a “clash of cultures” that continues to disturb us with endless bloodletting and inestimable losses in urban and communal fortunes. That clash is illustrated dramatically by the “Moro-Moro” plays still shown in the festivals of Christian communities in which Muslim warriors are portrayed as pirates who raid Christian villages for plunder and rape.


But these “piratical raids” can also be interpreted as a retaliation for similar raids conducted by Spanish soldiers on Muslim communities, aided by their Christian converts, in order to complete their conquest of the archipelago—a task which they never accomplished despite 350 years of intermittent fighting.


A basic policy of colonialism is “divide and rule.” Countless generations of Filipinos have been bred in this sociopolitical-religious culture of mutual mistrust, suspicion and hostility. It will be difficult to blot out this attitude unless we experience a national awakening.



The nationalist historian Teodoro Agoncillo, in his book “History of the Filipino People,” wrote that the Moro-Moro play was one of the attractions, along with the “Flores de Mayo” and “Santacruzan,” staged by the Spanish friars to lure the native population to reside in the towns so they will shun outlawry and rebellion and be taught by the authorities to become pious Christians and law-abiding subjects.


In fact, the Moro-Moro was imported direct from Spain where it was popular festival fare, recalling the Spanish struggle against the Moors who had occupied that country from the 8th to the 15th centuries.

Aside from resisting Spanish colonialism to the end, the Moros were the last Filipinos to fight against US domination.  While in Luzon and the Visayas, the anti-American resistance was declared officially ended in 1901 with the surrender of Emilio Aguinaldo, the fighting in Mindanao did not stop until 1913 when US troops slaughtered from 6,000 to 10,000 Moro fighters in the Battle of Bud Bagsak in Sulu.


The fierce Moro resistance famously led to the invention of the Colt .45 automatic pistol as ordinary revolvers used in the US Civil War could not stop the suicide charges of the Moro warriors, pejoratively branded as “juramentados” (the crazed ones). US Gen. John J. Pershing earned his stars from the Moro wars, meriting him to lead the US forces in Europe in World War I.


Thus, the Moros have earned with their blood their right to live in their own culture and under their own autonomous and democratic rule. Separatism is another matter, for it would leave our country dismembered, and perpetually weak. Abraham Lincoln’s greatness arose from his successful effort to keep the United States undivided, assuring its global preeminence in the future.


The leaders of the white apartheid regime avoided a bloody denouement of their minority rule in South Africa when they finally realized that the majority black South Africans under the leadership of Nelson Mandela would accept no less than equality for ending their violent opposition.


The signing of the responsibility-sharing annex by the government and the MILF is a positive step toward national reconciliation. While the Philippine government retains responsibility for foreign policy, defense, monetary policy and global trade, the Bangsamoro government will be responsible for agriculture, employment, urban development, public works and the environment. It will also be responsible for raising its own revenues for local development.


Financially, the national government will immensely benefit. It will be freed from its obligation of giving a huge annual budgetary subsidy to the Bangsamoro. It will also stop the hemorrhage of government funds for military suppression of the centuries-old rebellion. The Christian communities will also gain, because they will enjoy lasting peace with their Bangsamoro compatriots, and together they can focus on realizing the “promise” of Mindanao as a land of peace and plenty.


It’s a win-win solution.



Manuel F. Almario ( is a veteran journalist. He is also spokesman of the Movement for Truth in History, Rizal’s MOTH.

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