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The Philippines levels up with strong leadership

July 14, 2019

Leadership is about providing greater good to greater number and providing safety nets for the displaced sectors. In assessing an administration, we should use multiple scorecards, and not focus on rhetoric, or specific-per event assessments. It’s a matter of netting the achievements with the costs.

Strong leaders. Most nations moved forward under “strong leaders.” Germany under Bismarck, England under Queen Elizabeth, Singapore under Lee Kuan Yew, South Korea under Park Chung Hee, Malaysia under Mahathir Mohamad, etc … US under Trump? Statistically progressing under a “strong leader” would be the normal case, given that leaders selected because of average temperament and catering to all interests rather than prioritizing, or not pushing against the larger traditions where they are obstacles to progress, will not give an outstanding performance.

“Human rights” has been a constant issue with critics and Western countries. All the above strong leaders were invariably accused of human rights violations (obviously we are discounting the extreme examples who also exist) … for all nations that progressed. (Note that Nikki Haley, the US envoy to the UN, said the United Nations Human Rights Council was a “hypocritical” body that “makes a mockery of human rights” and the International Criminal Court was disallowed from investigating any US national, and investigators were threatened with arrest.) Human costs should be concerns to be addressed. The leader still needs to be one with a sense of the collective good, and some criticism is part of the democratic process to keep everyone within acceptable range, but not to become the obstacles to overall good.

Strong leader still under a democracy. After all the attacks by opposition and Western media, even they admit that the elections, where supportive candidates to the administration won in a clean sweep and surveys show unprecedented popularity of 80 percent for President Duterte, show there is overwhelming popular support for the President’s programs and direction. As political analyst Ramon Casiple confirms: “President Duterte’s continued high rating only shows that our democracy is working [and] that people appreciates what happened in the past three years. In fact the opposition is also alive and kicking… they continue to protest and rally.”

Economic achievements are foundational, supported by his finance and economic team led by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez 3rd. Economic growth is expected to continue at 6.5 percent despite international and local challenges. This has led to record investments and financing from more countries and institutions than ever. Companies are in record expansion and investment mode despite what critics and Western media tried to portray. Much faster processing of business documents, including automation, expansion of capacities, free Wi-Fi in ports, etc., will continue the positive trajectory. The gains on the ground are further validated by the upgrades of the country’s credit ratings by international rating agencies.

As pointed out by the Department of Finance, for the first time the Philippines is raising funds not primarily for covering interest or loan payments but for infrastructure and human resource investments like funding free college tuition, universal healthcare, etc.… these alone already constitute long term, fundamental benefits over generations to come.

Infrastructure development spending grew from 3 percent to 5.1 percent of GDP (to grow to 7 percent by 2022). Much needed roads, rail, seaports and airports are being completed in the thousands of kilometers. The Philippines no longer boasts of the world’s worst airport and has greatly expanded capacity leading to a tourism boom and fast-tracked countryside development, among others.

Some critics ask why the public projects are delayed when the same critics and their allies are the instigators of delaying processes or fail to mention the problems are structural and experienced by other governments.

Employment. Lowest unemployment ever, lowest poverty self-rating. OFW welfare protection in states no one dared to touch all have led to improving sense of national dignity.

Environment. Unexpected and despite the distress, cleanups of Boracay island, Manila Bay and now Pasig River and other areas across the country, are unprecedented.

Corruption. Duterte has in fact removed many officials on allegations of corruption, within a week, even lifelong friends, including from the Departments of Justice, Tourism and Health, and Bureau of Customs — unlike the other administrations supported by the critics.

Oligarchies and practicality. This administration collected hundreds of millions of dollars from several big time business people, whom previous administrations had never been able to even touch,

Peace and order. More than any other president, Duterte has tried time and again to arrange peace with the Muslim and communist groups. He is sometimes attacked for returning to the table after attacks, but has achieved the Bangsamoro Organic Law, and the quickest resolution of an ISIS terrorist cell attack (Marawi) in recent world history.

Drug war. We are not grade school kids debating against an obvious hyperbole, that it should take only “six months to clean up.” Clearly, while drugs is a growing worldwide problem, the majority of Filipinos (surveys already show this) and foreigners now feel safe going out late at night even in slum areas, and international business people in general no longer have to just stay in a few enclaves.

Views of leaders. (Hardly in the news) South Korea, China, Japan, the United States and other Asian leaders have publicly or privately commended President Duterte’s leadership from promoting economic progress and social stability to managing security challenges. SK President Moon: “Duterte leadership has led to Econ devl and social stability”… Putin, Abe, Trump, Xi also indicated they want to be personal friends with Duterte.

It would do well for the country to remember that relationships and progress don’t move in a straight line up, and there is no such thing as perfection. We should appreciate a leader like Duterte who has been able to do good that has previously been considered impossible, while also expressing our opinions and criticisms of what can be improved.

Moreover, the government can only do much, the individual Filipino has to carry his share. We are always a community.

IDSI is the Integrated Development Studies Institute. IDSI Corner aims to present frameworks based on a balance of economic theory, historical realities, ground success in real business and communities, and attempt for common good, culture and spirituality. We welcome logical feedback and possibly working together with compatible frameworks (idsicenter@gmail.com).

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