Aquino’s legacy: Regressing from Third World to banana republic


A woman reader, who sends comments on my columns when the spirit moves her, has written to say that, given the current spiral of problems to traumatic proportions, it may be time for us to seriously examine/debate whether the Philippines under President Benigno BS Aquino 3rd has regressed to the status of a banana republic.

She directed my attention to Lee Kuan Yew’s proud boast and legacy before he rode off to the sunset. He laid claim to leading the transformation of Singapore from a third-world country into first-world status. And he had the gumption to write it all down in valedictory volume: From Third World to First.

She then suggests that as President Aquino winds down his presidency in June next year, he could be leaving us this bizarre legacy: the regression of the Philippines from Third-World to banana republic.

Overmatched in APEC summit

I promised to examine her intriguing proposition, in all seriousness, because as President Aquino prepares to host this November 21 Asia-Pacific heads of state for their annual APEC leaders summit, it looks like he and his government are in over their heads. It is going to be a nightmare; and we are simply not prepared, and we cannot afford its financial, psychological, and political costs. And it appears that it is we, the residents of Metro Manila, who must endure considerable inconvenience and deprivation during the four-day summit.

I told my friend that she sounds too much like Cassandra. Cassandra, in Greek mythology, was the daughter of Priam and Hecuba, who was endowed with the gift of prophecy but fated never to be believed.

But here’s the alarming thing. Many of my colleagues in the press (notably Kit Tatad in this paper and Boo Chanco in the Star) have written to say that our government‘s fantasy that the summit will be its coming-out party is a delusion. This thing will cost us more than we can bear. The returns for hosting are illusory. It’s like the Olympics, which bankrupted Greece and is plunging Brazil into crisis this year.

What Third World means

I will desist for now from undertaking a full discussion of what Third Worldism or being a Third World country means; the literature and definitions are quite profuse.
For the purpose of this column, I will only highlight the key features and conditions on which there is some consensus.

The term Third World arose during the Cold War to define countries that remained non-aligned with either NATO, or the Communist Bloc. The United States, Western European nations and their allies represented the First World, while the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, and their allies represented the Second World.

This terminology provided a way of broadly categorizing the nations of the Earth into three groups based on social, political, cultural and economic divisions. The Third World was normally seen to include many countries with colonial pasts in Africa, Latin America, Oceania and Asia.

In the so-called dependency theory of some thinkers, the Third World has also been connected to the world economic division between “periphery” countries in the world system and “core” countries. Third-world countries are on the periphery.

Because many Third World countries were extremely poor, and non-industrialized, it became a stereotype to refer to poor countries as “third world countries,” yet the “Third World” term is also often taken to include newly industrialized countries like Brazil, China and India.

Over the last few decades since the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, the term Third World has been used interchangeably with “the least developed countries” and “developing countries” to describe poorer countries that have struggled to attain steady economic development.

Lee Kuan Yew’s use of “Third World” to describe the starting point of Singapore as a free nation appears to fit this early definition of a Third World country.

The same would apply to the Philippines at the recovery of national independence in 1946.
Many will definitely reject the idea that President Aquino was bequeathed a Third World country when he came to power in June 2010. Former presidents like Fidel V. Ramos and Gloria Arroyo will contend that the country acquired newly-industrializing status, or “tiger cub,” status during their watch.

Features of a banana republic

There is ample discussion of the term “banana republic” in Wikipedia that succinctly summarizes the origins and broad definition of the term.

But it is too unsophisticated and simple to encompass the full implications of my friend’s warning and analysis.

More useful is the writer Christopher Hitchens’s engaging discussion of the main features of “bananaism” in his collection of essays, Arguably.
He wrote:

“The chief principle of bananism is that of keptocracy, whereby those in positions of influence use their time in office to maximize their own gains, always ensuring that any shortfall is made up by those unfortunates whose daily life involves earning money rather than making it.

“At all costs therefore, the one princple that must not operate is the principle of accountability.”

This describes the situation under Aquino during the last five years.

Another aspect of banana republicdom, says Hitchens, is: “In a banana republic, the members of the national legislature will be (a) largely for sale and (b) consulted only for ceremonial and rubber-stamp purposes sometime after all the truly important decisions have already been made elsewhere.”

The two congresses during Aquino’s rule, the 15th and 16th Congresses, fit this criterion to a T.

Finally, Hitchens says, there is one more feature of a banana republic that should not be overlooked:

“A president who is a figurehead one day and a despot the next, and who goes all wide-eyed and calls on witch-doctors when the portents don’t seem altogether reassuring.”
Wide-eyed? This looks like our BS president.

The final feature of a banana republic that is definitive is the rampant inequality among its people. Some banana republics are nothing but plutocracies, where the richest 1 percent of the population gobbles up 20 percent of the national pie, while some 80 percent of the people live on so little.

This is our country today.

It is no accident that the Philippines has over ten Filipinos who are dollar billionaires. Some 150 families according to Reader Hector own or control most of the national wealth, and get the lion’s share of the corruption.

Inequality has risen exponentially during the term of president Aquino.

A banana republic with high credit ratings

To be fair to Aquino, even Americans have lately worried that their country was becoming a banana republic.

Paul Krugman, the Nobel economics laureate, wrote in The New York Times, that the Unites States was now reduced to the status of “a banana republic with nuclear weapons.”
In reply, I suggest to President Aquino and Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima that they tell foreign officials and journalists visiting the country for the summit that “the Philippines is a banana republic with high credit ratings.”


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  1. Jose Antonia Diaz on

    No, the correct statement should be from 1st class world (Marcos Regime) down to Banana Republic so to call it. We cannot deny the fact that Pres.Ferdinand E. Marcos is one pioneered APEC summit. Let us just be honest to ourselves.

  2. Yung mga billionaires sa atin mga me ari ng malls at mga oligarchs..siya pang nakikinabang sa contractualization ng mga mahihirap nilang empleyado. At walang ginagawa ang Pnoy administration sa kapakanan ng mga mahihirap. Yan ang tunay na kalagayan ng Pilipinas. Ilan lang mayayaman na kaibigan ng mga Dilawan ang naghahari sa Pilipinas ang nakikinabang sa ekonomiya ng bayan.

  3. Yen…again with due respect, it is unfair to say that our president’s legacy is making our country regressed from Third World to Banana republic. First of all you are insulting the million of Filipinos who are working in government!! They are part of the government and for sure they just don’t follow stupid instructions.
    Most economic indicators show that the country’s economy is improving. Like Dubai and any progressive country like China sees many cars in the street. I have witnessed the recession in Dubai in 2008 and observed that the traffic became light. There were many cars left at the parking spaces at the airport. Workers who have debts left their cars in the airport parking lot. There are thousands. However, today it will take two hours to travel 50 kms due to traffic. The other indicator is the number of cranes operated and the number of offices and buildings being constructed. So there is no truth that the Philippines is going banana republic. In fact, it is going to surpass other countries economies except Japan, Hongkong and Singapore in terms of GDP in the next 5 to 10 years. This will materialize even if there are10 Yens trying to throw mud at the government.

  4. What we have now become is a lawless country, where on those with money are able to rule the land with impunity, not a day goes by that Filipinos are faced with indignities, and the whole lot is resigned to their fate as the oppressed and the dispirited.

    Always longing and looking for heroes to distract themselves of the harsh realities they faced daily, yet these are the very same Filipinos who do not want to participate in effecting real change in governance of our country, led by their false pride and skewed view of public service, they keep choosing those who knows nothing about the law, except only to speak of it like will come to bear some significance of social order.

    Philippines has spiralled down to be a banana republic, only because majority of us do not care to be conscious of our national responsibilities, most of us claims pride in almost any of the most inconsequential matters in today’s events or making some kind of a world record, but it really does not matter at all because the reality is no one outside of Philippines care of it.

  5. Rodan Guerrero on

    He created unequalled shame to this country.The airport which used to be very good when it was still called MIA turned to be the worst and most dangerous airport now that it was named after his father, whom he inherited his treasoneous traits. Under his watch, he destroyed almost every good accomplishments by his predecessors, but he did not succeed in doing it to the legacies the late President FM did. I dont understand until now why this families, Aquino/Cojuangco hate Marcos so much, the man who tolerated the illegal activities of Ninoy, who even freed him by providing exit to the US to avoid his sentence of musketry, Marcos gave them everything to live comfortably in Boston yet Ninoy continued to defamate him. This stupid continued what his mother started to blame Marcos as the culprit of Ninoy`s assasination but until now they cant justify it. I would presume that the death of Ninoy is a costly payment of KARMA. Under this regime, We have the worst airport, worst traffic, worst beaureucracy, worst armed forces, worst tax scheme, few to mention, yet definitely we have the worst president ever elected into office.

  6. Aquino’s legacy: Regressing from third world to banana republic and after hukos pcos election, no more republic!

  7. I am just thinking , why do we blame Pinoy for every misfortunes that we have? Should we not blame ourselves for not progressing for years and years. Look at the garbage problem’ is Pinoy that throw these garbage on the streets. Look at the drive by riding in tandem crime. Is Pinoy doing the crime. It is my belief that our culture is the problem. We are a dirty people. We are also very lazy people. That is the reason millions of Pilipinos decided to reside abroad.

  8. From the Third World to the Turd World, thanks to this retardate. Kleptoligarchy is more like it.

  9. If you look back by end 2016, what infrastructure that yo would immediately think of when you mention Pnoy. NADA

  10. Leodegardo Pruna on

    Whether we accept it or not, the Philippines under P-Noy has degenerated into a banana republic. God bless the Philippines.

  11. The striking aspect of political life in the philippines is that it operates like an extended family with a country club atmosphere. Incestuous and amoral but cloaked in a veneer of faux respectability. New money trying to act and look sophisticated, but failing to understand, or display, the ‘noblesse oblige’ they envy so much, and can never achieve. You can’t buy class.

    Everybody are ‘friends’. It is an endless season of social mingling at birthdays, weddings, and events.
    Shared godparents, education, golf club, reinforce the social ties, and the lack of networking/contact with people outside the ‘club’ reinforce a narrow world view to the point that it is set in concrete, and unbreakable.

    Politics is a game played with its own rules, and nothing personal. But the main rule is to abide by the code of silence and protect the ‘club’. A mix of freemasons and klu klux klan. No interlopers allowed, or the inner workings could be exposed and the power base threatened.
    Someone like Jesse Robredo never stood a chance. Too good and therefore too dangerous.

    And without the breeding or values of more advanced countries the inbred sons, daughters and relatives turned the country into a comic opera and their own little playground full of intrigue, petty politics, and tribal warfare.
    It was fuelled by US multinationals whose only agenda was to take profit, but gave wealth to their lieutenants/lapdogs which was a pact of mitual benefit.
    It contrasted with the british approach, which placed great emphasis upon first establishing the rule of law, and then taking profit!
    When independence came british colonies had the rule of law to build upon.
    American colonies only really achieved independence in theory, and US government/multi-nationals still pulled the strings when they needed/wanted to.

    The poet pablo naruda told of the damaging impact of the US multinationals who went to south america and took all the resources/fruits, but did nothing for the country.
    The poem was written in 1904 but could still apply today. US hegemony still rules!

    “……The Fruit Company, Inc.
    Reserved for itself the most succulent,
    The central coast of my own land,
    The delicate waist of the Americas.
    It rechristened its territories
    As the “Banana Republics”,
    And over the sleeping dead,
    Over the restless heroes
    Who brought about the greatness,
    The liberty and the flags,
    It established a comic opera. . . .

    Excert from poem by pablo naruda – 1904

    • this comment is real that majority of our countrymen doesn’t know and didn’t bother at all. the great thomasites inflicted wisdom to our minds that we were not able to recover until now. woo to our great patriots, kudos to the irreversible pyramid of our economic life. suffer yourself my friends. life after death is the only one, our hope.

    • Matthew Parkes on

      Well said, Hector.

      The British not only left behind the rule of law but well-structured institutions plus parliamentary democracy. By contrast, the Americans – after murdering about 10% of the population – left behind a defective, populist presidency which doesn’t even work in their own country (and the USA is a failed state).

  12. There is a saying – ‘the philippines is a rich country pretending to be poor’

    The reality is that it is a country where a few corrupt politicians/families have become rich at the expense of the poor.

    The sadness is that it is a country which is rich in natural resources, and skills, but greed and powerlust by the few have made it poor for the many.

    A democracy is rule by many and the rule of law. The philippines is the exact opposite, and every effort is made to ensure ‘non-members’ are excluded from power, wealth, or opportunity, thus perpetuating the oligarchs/dynasties desired ‘natural order’ of rich and poor.

    “The essence of oligarchical rule is not father-to-son inheritance,
    but the persistence of a certain world-view and a certain way of
    life … A ruling group is a ruling group so long as it can nominate
    its successors … Who wields power is not important, provided
    that the hierarchical structure remains always the same”
    George Orwell

    • Matthew Parkes on

      How apt that the colour of the corrupt and incompetent Liberal Party is yellow, the same colour as the banana.