After 100 days: Paradigm shifts in the Philippine presidency

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RIGOBERTO D. TIGLAO

RIGOBERTO D. TIGLAO

Whether you hate or love President Duterte after 100 days of his rule, for good or bad, he represents a paradigm shift in the Philippine presidency. And history tells us that shifts in the paradigms a society holds are crucial to its long-term growth, for it is these paradigms that determine how we think and act.

It was philosopher Thomas Kuhn, in his groundbreaking 1962 book about the history of science,  The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, who crystallized and popularized the notion of paradigm shift. Kuhn, however, used the term in a strict sense as referring to epochal changes in civilization’s world-views.

For example, there was the shift in the 18th century (two centuries after Copernicus proposed the theory in 1543) to the now universally-held view that the earth orbits the sun, replacing the old tenet that all celestial bodies revolved around the earth. (Many think that civilization is now undergoing one of its most important paradigm shifts in centuries, from a universal belief in a Divine, All-powerful Being to a secular, scientific worldview.)

We use the term paradigm shift, however, in its looser, common usage, which my dictionary defines as “a fundamental change in approach or underlying assumptions.” Going by this definition, Duterte is the first President to attempt a shift not just in one paradigm but in several.


Whoever thought that a President could wear a casual shirt, the “polo shirt” Filipinos love to wear (with the oversized Polo or Lacoste logos), at official functions, even in such solemn rituals as reviewing the troops?
Even the “man of the masses,” President Magsaysay, wore short-sleeved dress shirts, and not the checkered shirts and Polo or golf shirts that have now become Duterte’s OOTD (outfit of the day). I suspect they may even be cheap rip-offs. A barong over a maong pair of jeans at state dinners?

After all, the barong has been the elite’s preferred outfit since the Spanish colonial era, which for the wearer was a neon sign announcing to everyone his high social status. The masses’ common outfit during those times was the camisa chino, the modern version of which is the “Polo” shirt Duterte loves to wear. The barong tagalog is the common public outfit of the elite and the middle-class, not the working class. Much more, of course, in the case of the suit, tellingly referred to by Filipinos as “Amerikana,” which translates to “American-style,” the outfit of the American colonizers.

Duterte’s preferred daily outfit symbolizes a paradigm shift: The Philippine President must constantly represent the masses, one they could very easily identify with, even just by the clothes he wears daily.

Masa image

President Estrada tried to project a similar masa image, but his designer jackets (his preferred daily wear), his daily all-night feasts over bottles of $500 Petrus wine with his drinking buddies, his lavish gifts to mistresses (with one gifted with a mansion), and his imported Lucky Strike cigarettes – all quickly demolished that image.

There are three very important paradigm shifts Duterte appears to be trying to effect, which because of the overwhelming support for him (76 percent of Filipinos support him, the latest poll show) could change Filipinos’ worldview — if he survives his term as popular as he is now, that is.

First, while he has not fully articulated it, nor has he announced a program to address it, Duterte has expressed antagonism toward oligarchs, whose hold over the country, political scientists and keen observers have long claimed, has been the root of Philippine underdevelopment, and the consequent poverty it has generated.

“I will destroy oligarchs,” the President told a crowd of soldiers at the Camp Lapu Lapu in Cebu City in early August. While it isn’t clear how he defines oligarchs, vis-a-vis the entire economic elite, he correctly hinted, in referring to magnate Roberto Ongpin, that an oligarch is one who uses the state, or the incumbent President, to unfairly expand his business empire: “I’ll give you an example, publicly: Ongpin, Roberto. Malakas kay [Ferdinand] Marcos noon, trade minister, I think. Malakas sa succession: [During] Ramos he was a hanger on and, kay Gloria [Arroyo], PNoy. Now he owns online [gambling],” he said.

If he pursues his anti-oligarchic view, it would be an earth-shaking change in the worldview of Filipinos, who think their poverty is their God-given fate or, for the educated, that they are merely unlucky. Even the intelligentsia’s paradigm is neoliberalism, that poverty will be eradicated in the course of economic development, as the wealth generated by the rich trickles down to the masses.

No Philippine President has ever dared to express disdain against oligarchs, not even to claim their existence. One presidential candidate had even confidently announced that he planned to get Manuel Pangilinan — who was really merely an Indonesian oligarch’s manager — as his vice presidential running mate.

America’s brown brothers

Second, Duterte is changing the view of most Filipinos that we are America’s little brown brothers, that the US is not only a staunch ally, but that our prosperity depends on its patronage. Even the elite has embraced that myth that we have a special relationship with the US, which will always care about us since we share their American values, and that we were their only colony and protégé in the world.

The corollary of such a view is a deep antagonism toward communism, so much so that China and the Russian Federation — the two countries that are or were under communist rule are suspect, even feared, by most Filipinos. Yet these countries are or will be the world’s economic and military superpowers in this century, with which the country must have ties as strong as it has with the US.

To do this, Duterte even said in a speech, “Go to hell, Obama.” The last time a state leader spewed out such venom at a US president was in 2006, when in his address at the United Nations General Assembly, Venezuelan socialist President Hugo Chavez called President George W. Bush “the devil,” who talked “as if he owned the world.” Despite a coup, massive labor strikes and a recall referendum, Chavez had a third term, which he didn’t complete, dying of a heart attack in 2013.

Duterte declares he prefers developing closer ties with China and Russia, than with the US. With about 3 million Filipino immigrants to the US, about 500,000 having filed applications to become US citizens, with the elite having studied in the US and sending routinely their children to US colleges, that paradigm shift Duterte trying to effect is as radical as can be.

Third, Duterte is changing the view of most Filipinos that communist insurgents are godless anti-democracy people intending to capture political power, which they will just monopolize. Instead, Duterte’s paradigm is that communists are pro-poor patriots devoting their lives to uplift the people’s welfare.

Duterte has done what had been unimaginable. He appointed communists to head two government departments – that for social welfare and development, and agrarian reform, with another Marxist-Leninist as labor department undersecretary. It could even be three departments if reports are true that education secretary Leonor Magtolis-Briones and her husband Carlos were cadres of the pro-Soviet Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas, and had emerged from the underground after Marcos struck a peace deal with the Partido in 1976, and gave all its members amnesty.

Peace deal

Duterte has rushed to reach a peace-deal with the communists — which would even allow them to retain their arms — even bringing to Norway for the negotiations the Communist Party’s top imprisoned leaders, such as its chairman Benito Tiamzon, to make sure that any settlement is backed by the insurgents’ real leaders.

Duterte’s paradigm shift to an anti-oligarchy and anti-US view, and one sympathetic to the communists, obviously risks his hold on power. No President ever has had such a worldview, much less articulate it in public.
When he actually moves to implement these views, the oligarchs and the US obviously will fight back, and they have all the resources to do so.

It is Duterte’s fourth paradigm shift that has created fierce opposition against him, which oligarchs and the US will exploit to bring him down.

He is trying to shift Western civilization’s paradigm on human life — that each and every life is sacred, with no state having the right to take it—to one in which lives may, and even must be sacrificed, even with no judicial proceedings, for the good of the majority of society.

Under this view, the lives of illegal-drug criminals, those suspected to be such, and even those who make up the illegal-drug community, i.e., addicts, can be rightfully snuffed out so that the majority of Filipinos, their children and their children’s children, would be free of this scourge that has been one of the main factors for horrific crimes, such as the rape and murder of children.

I don’t embrace this worldview. Modern civilization’s morality evolved not out of religious dogmas but in the gradual embrace of the seemingly illogical belief that an individual’s life must be cherished, and cannot be sacrificed for the group, which had been a tenet of humanity’s past eras.*

I am, to be honest, in a quagmire whether or not Duterte’s different paradigm on an individual’s life, as the Yellow Cult has been arguing, requires a moral stance of opposing his rule, since I fully embrace the other three paradigm shifts he is trying to effect.

*See Michael Shermer’s The Moral Arc (2015),

tiglao.manilatimes@gmail.com

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24 Comments

  1. All of us must agree that when Duterte talks, everybody listens. He is not boring, he cracks jokes sometimes talks very passionately, sometimes sad almost in the point in tears and always has words that makes me scared before but I am always waiting to hear that put Ina mo. Without these words , I am really bored. I guessed I became a masochist when I started listening him say bad words.

  2. One removes cancer cells to save the body. In the same way, criminals have to be removed from society to protect the latter. They don’t have to be terminated; that’s why jails are built. And that’s what 600000+ have done (according to police records, and which get so often overlooked ).

    As for oftentimes cited 3000+ murdered, how many really did resist arrest and fought back? According to the hearings, somewhere around a third of this number? Would it really be a a big stretch to think that a majority of the remaining deaths were internal rubouts? Is it really so far fetched to think the ones on top of the drug trade want no loose ends that can connect them to the illegal activities?

  3. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

    “Absolute power corrupts absolutely” – Lord Acton

    Every moral thinking person whether in the Philippines or in other lands or countries should have grave qualms if not abhorrence to what Duterte is unleashing – unwitting dogs of barbarism.

    Whether democratically elected, or arisen to power through brute force a la Mao Tse Tung or Deng Xiaoping – no leader or individual has the right to take a single life without due process. The US and other legitimate moral democracies also have numerous human rights violations but this in no shape or form give cover or excuse in any way to Duterte’s policy of inciting or sanctioning violence without due process against suspected criminals and drug dealers who are not engaged in illegal activity during apprehension.

    Duterte’s above the law, vigilantism and exectutions damage everything else he is trying to accomplish. The ends do not justify the means – especially when there are other non-barbaric options that could be applied – even given the state of the sorry kleptocratic slow turning dysfunctional judicial system.

    Duterte, had time to usher in a 6 month or 1 year period of cease and desist/surrender before carrying out his war on drugs and criminals. The Philippines was not such a basketcase of criminality and drugs on June 30th 2016. Much the same can be said of America’s invasion of Iraq. The United States had the time and resources to truly confirm or properly assess if Iraq posed a grave threat to it’s neighbors with weapons of mass destruction – and deal with either truth in a more effective short and long term manner. The problem is that the leaders at the top were hell bent on taking out Saddam Hussein in the worst way. A hasty GW Bush and his neocon team made horrific and terrible waste. The US has and is paying dearly for its unwise aggression in lives, money, opportunity costs, and of course the further destabilization of the Arab world and splintering and rise of jihadist terror groups and the humanitarian crises resulting from the warne and related aggression.

    What will Duterte’s war unleash? Definitely not something on the scale of death and destruction as in Iraq, but the negative consequences of executions without justice cannot be quantified or fully known. Filipinos, especially high profile respected individuals in positions of power or with megaphones must protest his unjust war that incites violence against unsubstantiated suspects, innocent bystanders and drug users. If anyone can be labeled a drug user or dealer/criminal no one is safe – everyone is at risk of death from summary execution at the hands of their enemies, rivals and neighbors for petty or non-criminal related reasons and not just by Duterte and the police.

    Regarding China and Russia, both of the governments of these countries may not exist in the same form a couple of decades from now. Russia is essentially an oil republic run by thugs that will deteriorate with oils collapse, and China’s communists may well crumble under the massive population challenges and resource/health issues it faces. Their governments could morph into something better or more legitimate (non-aggressive) but why align yourself more closely with these defunct governments/systems that will probably collapse in the first half of this century(the people of China and Russia are not their governments).

    Take a stand against immoral killings being instigated by Duterte, Mr. Tiglao.
    The president may only listen to the Filipino people, the military and no one else. The killings must stop.

    • Hello Chet A,

      Please don’t be offended, with all respect please, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely” are the words of Plato in his speeches about the Republic, which is a beautiful book to read for both philosophy and political science students. This book entitled the Republic is so rich of ideas and concepts on governance that had influenced the work of Aristotle on his philosophical treatises particularly on political life on how to make it somehow perfectly judged and executed by a check and balance. Plato was so idealist; whereas Aristotle was a realist, I would say, because Aristotle entertained the virtue of check and balance on his concept of governance, a democracy form of government. I saw this “Absolute power corrupts absolutely” with the name of Lord Acton in the municipal court of my hometown when I went there to see my cousin and I told him, primo the origin of those words is Plato, who lived many years ago before Christ. I don’t know why those words became Lord acton’s words. And I asked my cousin, primo, is that made in China? He just laughed.
      Chet A, I like your piece of work. There are many ideas to think of, many ideas to reflect on, many ideas that can be a tool to make a plan of action. If I were the person in charge of leadership in a place or a consultant, I would always read all your comments and as well as commentaries of our Web-fellows gentlemen and women in the WEB. I learned a month ago that the Spider is the most intelligent creature because Spider is always on the WEB. So, I try now to be on the WEB.

  4. I do not want him to be ousted. He is my president too but there is a possibility . That is what paradym is. A change from the normal scheme of things to an abnormal change. I do not wish bad things to happen. The whole country might be in chaos. I pray this possibity will not happen.

  5. HitlerDU30, It’s my impression at his age of 71++y/o, no amount of paradigm shift will change his behavior because it (character/attitude) is the sum total of his MISPLACED & DISTORTED VALUES acquired since his early childhood days from his parents, family, friends, religion, school, classmates, organizations & other influential environment factors. He is sick & continues to be sick w/ “Psychopathy” & suffering from “Disorder of the Nervous System”. To be successful & workable, ‘paradigm shift’ involves logical / well-thought process, vision & mission statements. Given his frequent propensity to use gutter language (outrageous/disgusting rhetoric), his alleged paradigm shift is a USELESS proposition. His “behavior, more often than not, does not lie.”

  6. The Paradigm shift was the vocabulary word I did use yesterday to my personal opinion to Mr. DU30’s commentary written by Sir Kit Tatad. I never thought that paradigm shift was used first by Thomas Kuhn according to Mr. Tiglao. Thank you so much Mr. Tiglao for your research! How would I know Thomas Kuhn since I had never seen his work ever! However, knowing this paradigm shift, its concept, and application in the real world, I did use that yesterday to Mr. Kit Tatad brotherly piece of advice and critique for our beloved President DU30. I also wrote my own ideas and opinion on some issues that If I were President DU30, I would try to be the good statesman to my fellow Filipinos at all level of life and works and to fellow leaders of other countries. I would speak with authority to my fellow Filipinos to let them know that we have the common duties, destiny, and hope to work together based on the law of our land. I would not speak profanity, obscenity, and vulgarity that could hurt people. I would invite my fellow Filipinos to walk with me as their servant leader for change on my newly installed paradigm shifts of public service to my fellow Filipinos. What paradigm shifts have we gone through already under President DU30 administration? The end of contractualization of workers might be a good one, for workers are makers of capital and not vice-versa. The issue over the oligarchs raised by Mr. President DU30 to stop their influence on the nation political and economic activities to enrich themselves more would be one thing I would always be skeptical, for reason that they are also politicians and businessmen and women in politics. Indeed, the paradigm shift takes a time to take effect in the system of government: there must be a paradigm shift first from within the way of thinking and behaving of all leaders and the common people. How could you change the vote-buying by politicians every election time that has begun during Ferdinand Marcos time? For a paradigm shift to take effect effectively, we need to create a NEW CULTURE to all leaders and people to make them responsible leaders and citizens of the Land.

    • Once he starts to sound “Disente” watch his rabid support dwindle quickly. Duterte did not start the paradigm shift to be anti-oligarch.
      Middle-class will always be middle-class for good reason. They lead very stable and very routined lives. When our leaders failed to make basic services work sacrificing the peace of the middle class, the middle class decided to condemn the oligarch. Whether you like it or not, the middle class has its sights on everything yellow.

  7. What is the right path? it will be mostly trial and error. But at least the present admin is working towards a more important and worthy goal; rather than stay, sit and make personal gain in comfort, doing the usual game of fooling the people in trying to protect the interests of existing powers.

    As a people, the pilipino is so handicapped in so many aspects, that in order to progress, a semblance of discipline, a sense of participation and efficiency in governance and nation building has to be instilled in us, the majority. We must work hard, sacrifice and may not accept failure to weed out the diseases and lowlifes that are draining the country’s resources.

    Human life and the rest of sentient beings are always important, but the principles that uphold this “value” may have its limits of application, perhaps to promote life; These may not be used or mis-applied as a tool to suppress change that only tries and aims to remove oppression in all its forms; or as a way to create and segregate servant states and leader states; or as a means of appropriating the resources of the world in an unbalanced, unfair or any other manners, contrary to civilization and humanity.

    We may be clumsy and make mistakes in our search for change, but these should not stop us from trying. We must go on, learn from our mistakes, show the world that we only want real progress for our country, and the real majority of pilipinos.

    At least for now there is one who is not lazy and not afraid, (hardworking, forthright and courageous) trying to do what the people wants and hopes for. Where in congress, senate, judiciary, banking, business, education, or mass comms can you find such human? – what we will find in those institutions if we really look are lots of skeletons and cans of worms. We can forgive and forget, but what we can not accept is interference, obstruction and sabotage – maintaining the status quo, because we can no longer afford it, and we have suffered so much. What needs to be done shall be done, to the extent possible.

    We have practical things to do in our nation building. Unity and rejecting the evils can help.

    • Yes if all Filipinos have a like minded mentality then all our problems will be solved and this country is a beautiful place to live in … no neighbors will tell you on what to do and we will enjoy the respect of them towards us … Like getting the moon to our doorstep but it’s possible …

  8. Intelligently well researched thoughts, that`s what I called a real commentary. Ambassador Tiglao must have light his night candle (even thought I suppose he lives in a push villages in MM)

    Not being paid by some self righteous cabals (political enemy or Drug criminals) who hate Pres. Duterte just to write a piece.

    My friends and I here abroad always looking forward of Amb Tiglao and Sec. Salud when their commentaries are out…

  9. i support the president but i’m not a blind follower who just says amen to everything he says or applauds at his every action. i, too, have my reservations to what comes out of his potty mouth but be that as it may, these paradigm shifts he’s undertaking will surely benefit us all in the long run. yes, i know, we all have apprehensions with “breaking up” with the US, but then the US hasn’t really been as great a friend to us as they were with japan. considering that they’re very vocal that they’d defend and go to war with japan in defending their territories against china, they’ve been pretty coy when it comes to us, their so-called little brown brothers.

    when it comes to his stand against the oligarchs, we must take note that under the influence of these oligarchs, the country has not really progressed despite the many advances of the economy since arroyo. so duterte attacking these oligarchs sounds just right to me. they could jail them and sequester their assets for all i care.

    for his cursing though, i hope the president just shuts up. it’s not really ear-friendly. but then again, who are we to tell him to change his ways? we didn’t elect him to so we could change him and his ways but for him to change us and change our ways for the betterment of the country. just my 2 cents.

  10. At the moment, the military is assuring Duterte that they are going to stay neutral but for how long. Once the people
    starts to show disgust against DU30 then the military will easily move to stop the President and slowly kick him out
    My hope is he wakes up soon and get his head straight so he does not get kicked out by another EDSA

    • And, this will be another making of the US State Department/CIA, I hope so the PH in this era will not be like Syria and Libya. And, you think the island of Luzon will be left out of the PH and separately Mindanao and Visayas, because the federalism and the peace process out of the picture. There will be no peace for the sake and serve again of the american interests.

  11. Leodegardo Pruna on

    Paradigm shift involves change in processes which impacts on the mind and heart of individuals and peoples. What matters is that the change has to be inclusive, participatory and fair. God bless the Philippines.

  12. This writer believes that the other subtle paradigm that the President is trying to promote will be the active political involvement of the military in times of emergency, political tumult and lawlessness like Thailand and and Myanmar. It can be likened to a controlled democracy wherein after political stability and law and order is restored, the reign of power will be returned to civilian authority.

  13. Duterte could effect these paradigm shifts less brashly as has been successfully executed by other countries, eg, Singapore, although one can argue that he needs to do this loudly and unrestrained to be effective.

    Other countries faced with lesser challenges only pay lip service to the rights of individuals, ie, USA. Whereas others are proud of their beliefs that the lives of the individuals could and should be sacrificed for the good of the majority, ie, China & Singapore. Given the challenges facing the country, I can understand and even support the fourth paradigm shift that he is trying to effect. Perhaps, later, once the cleanup has been made, can we question this.

    If he fails, get killed, or die, the country may likely be in deeper s..t that it is now. Who among the so-called leaders have the political will that he does?

    • “Who among the so-called leaders have the political will that he does?” – Nobody but nobody but him alone.