• The Philippines is an onion


    First of two parts

    Perhaps feeling the spirit of the season, Reader Hector, who should be familiar to readers by now, has sent me an incisive analysis of the Philippines today, that in my view screams to be published.

    He gave his email an intriguing and beguiling title, “The Philippines is an Onion.”

    He thought of the title because he says, “Understanding the Philippines is like peeling away the layers of an onion – it can make you want to cry in the process!”

    Hector’s ideas pour out in a torrent. They remind me of Thomas Paine writing on the eve of the American revolution – Tom Paine who became the voice of another people’s struggle for freedom, and gave the world such immortal lines as: “These are the times that try men’s souls,” and “We have it in our power to begin the world all over again.”

    Hector, as I disclosed earlier, is a management executive by training and has spent some time in top-level consultancy work I think he is an expatriate working and living in our midst. But he also shows such an intimacy with and keen interest in Philippine business and economic affairs, that it is easy to imagine him a Filipino (with no need to prove that he is natural-born).

    Strategic review of the Philippines
    Hector’s long note outlines a prospective strategic review of the Philippines in the light of Asean integration and globalization, suggesting that a book by him may be in the works.

    He opens his brief with a quote from Justice Louis Brandeis of the US Supreme Court:

    “A country can have democracy, or it can have wealth concentrated in the hands of the few, but it cannot have both.”

    “Corruption at the top means poverty at the bottom, and the only thing which trickles down is deceit, and hypocrisy.

    “When the head is sick, then the rest of the body becomes impotent and helpless.

    “The Philippines is now losing up to 2 Trillion pesos a year (equal to nearly 100% of annual budget, and circa 20% of GDP) to corruption by politicians and tax avoidance/evasion by the oligarchs & multinationals.

    “Furthermore, the illegal smuggling/gambling/mining of the growing shadow economy, which according to Bloomberg, is now the 25th biggest in the world, and which equates to $150 Billion a year – 50% of official GDP – results in an additional 2 Trillion pesos per annum in lost government revenue!….

    “The Philippines has now truly become a full-blown kleptocracy, with all the attendant symptoms, and the metrics show that it has become fully entrenched under PNoy Aquino.

    “What has become of the country? Is there no politician of integrity?

    “The country needs a new breed of conviction politicians, and the current crop of politicians should be convicted. But the chances of either happening are remote.

    “Such unbridled theft from the national coffers is the primary reason why, over the past 5 years, there has been no reduction in poverty levels, an increase in income inequality, a lack of strategic investment, and long-term structural unemployment.

    “It really is as simple as that.

    “And it is certainly not average Juan who is stealing billions, it is those with access to funds, with the opportunity, and with the impunity. It does not take a Sherlock Holmes to ‘follow the money’ and see where it ends up.”

    Five measures to steer PH in right direction
    He continues:
    “The solution to the malaise is also not very complex – in theory. The twin barriers of lack of political will, and the intertwined vested interests of the oligarchs and dynasties provide a more imposing challenge, and needs an Alexander to unravel the Gordian knot, and liberate the Philippines.

    “Transformational change is driven by an initial small number of fundamental high level policies/decisions which act as the natural catalyst to related downstream actions and further positive activity.

    “Five key measures are needed to steer The Philippines in the right direction, bring it into the 21st century, and, belatedly, begin to develop its potential:

    “1. Change the 60/40 economic provision within the constitution

    “2. Implement a meaningful Anti-Dynasty law.

    “3. Enact a strong Freedom of Information bill (FOI).

    “4. Education, education, education! (open the market, increase % of GDP spent on education, use modern teaching methods & quality textbooks, train the best teachers and pay them accordingly).

    “5. Adopt an integrated approach to entrepreneurship, and a balanced portfolio of added value in agriculture, investment in manufacturing, innovation in services, and R&D.

    “It is imperative to focus upon these priorities which represent maximum return long-term…

    “Without the right foundation any effort in building is wasted, prone to high maintenance, damage, and ultimately destruction.

    “Illusion and delusion are the hallmarks of a politician, and clearly the approach of PNoy Aquino.

    “Some people cannot see the big picture and prefer to hide when decisions are needed, or courage is called for….

    “Politicians have crossed the line with their greed, incompetence, and sense of entitlement. The pendulum has swung too far and needs resetting. The natives are getting restless.

    “To date, very few have matched political talk with concrete action, particularly PNoy Aquino who has reneged on all his campaign promises.

    “A leader who abuses his country is like a father who abuses his children.

    “Enough is enough.

    “Enough corruption, enough incompetence, enough human trafficking, enough human misery, enough discrimination, enough elitism, enough feudalism, enough cronyism, and enough propaganda/outright lies.”

    PH lags behind Vietnam and Asean
    Hector concludes his strategic outline with a downer that bluntly contradicts BS Aquino’s claim that he has spread optimism in the country and among the people:

    “The Philippines has clearly lost its way and become a very divided nation.

    “In competitive terms the country is already at a distinct disadvantage. The GDP per capita of Vietnam is now double that of The Philippines. At a time when it should be planning and getting ready for the big game — Asean integration and globalization — it is squabbling in the locker room.

    “Everyone knows about income inequality, but few realize its full extent, the direct link to poverty, understand the underlying reasons, or consider the long-term implications.

    “The Philippines has an illusory headline GDP growth of 6%, but a real growth of possibly only 2%, and, most critical, no inclusive growth at all.

    “Economists agree that even a 2% growth rate in a developing country with a trickle down strategy, and a high GINI co-efficient (inequality index – The Philippines has the worst in Asean, and more alarming, it has worsened in the last 5 years), will have zero impact on poverty levels.

    “The Philippines is reluctant to embrace modern economic thinking, best practice, or even proven solutions. Instead it clings to protecting the status quo, at a very real cost to the majority of the people.”

    (As I read hector’s analysis, I noticed that the onion had caused my eyes to well up. Where is Aquino’s vaunted Asia’s new darling? Where is Cesar Purisima’s “Good governance is good economics?” Part II will supply an answer? )



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    1. “A leader who abuses his country is like a father who abuses his children”. True – but unfortunately this ‘father’ is but a child himself, and does not think or feel as a grown-up man so his equally immature and inept circle of advisers takes advantage of him at the expense of the ordinary Filipinos.


      First of all, I know everyone is entitled to their opinion. But how can this person get away with spreading false facts?!?!?! I’m with him there’s plenty of things needs to be done in order to make the country more competitive! But to claim that Vietnam’s GDP is double than ours is FALSE and IRRESPONSIBLE CLAIMS! The Vietnamese is economy has grown to magnificent rate. But their GDP is lower than the Philippines. Mr. Henry says it is double than PHL.. If that was the case then Vietnam is also ahead of Indonesia! HAHA! Cmon now…… Vietnam’s GDP per capital currently stands at 1,910 and Philippines is at 2,765… Indonesia is currently at 3,475!!!

      I’m sorry to hear say but the media has an obsession with smearing our country’s image. I’m not saying sugar coat things, but please inform your readers and those around the world with facts. Let’s not overlook what the country has achieved compared to when WE HAD ERAP sitting in office, LOL!

    3. How about giving the government to the people first? Then we can concentrate on food security, health, education, peace and order and job creation. But to repeat, we have to give the government to the people first.

    4. Stop voting this Liberal Party and PDP party which have the same colors, controlled by oligarch businessman who deprived the lives of filipinio people. These people were traitor to our nation…
      please pass and share..TO HELL WITH THEM.

    5. “The Philippines is an onion” – I wonder if Mr. Hector means to convey something more in this title than just a painful process. After all the tears, when you finally get to the core, there is …. nothing.

    6. Unfortunately, Hector’s panacea are textbook solutions that any pencil pusher can think of. With the kind of justice system that we have, how many years will it still take to put to justice a killer of 58 individuals in Maguindanao? Even if you charge, say Joseph Emilio or Proceso, with their billions, do you think a trial can even be finished in ten years? The practical solution is a quick and immediate surgical operation on individuals that have plundered the nation for six years and an immediate creation of a civic-religious-military junta that shall set a constitutional convention in 30 days and a clean, fair and transparent election within 60 days. Hence, I suggest that the people thru this column can start a working list of all individuals whose appointment with Satan has to be expedited in one single day and start a working draft of a proposed constitution where the people can start making the proposal. The final draft will be the one to be submitted by the civil-religious-military junta for final debate and deliberation by 40 selected guys and gals with wisdom, legal acumen and experience, patriotism, honesty and probity. Maybe,we can also start proposing a list of these 40 guys and gals in your column beginning today.

    7. Sir,
      Wow! at least there are critical thinking patriots in the midst of our degenerates society who are really not loosing faith in our fellow citizens despite of the “sampalan presidency” to date.

    8. Daan Matuwid is a myth. It’s a a web of tales, a cover up to protect the oligarch, e.g. : FOI, promised by Mr Aquino on his campaign trail and now we are on the last quarter of his governance, FOI is still a myth.

    9. victor m. hernandez on

      Hector’s prescription to transform Philippine economy and society is worth trying, and doing with our most darnest best? Vietnam’s surpassing PH per capita GDP by more than double is remarkable. They were in shambles, and have to worked double time after a prolonged and brutal civil war.They have to rebuild and fast. Their leaders were determined, and discipline. Though socialist in politics, they have learned to do business with the world, and opened up their economy to foreign investors. Unfortunately for the Philippines, the citizenry have long been tamed and disempowered due to a series of colonization by force, indoctrination, evangelization, and de-culturation. Transformative actions, short of revolution or revolutions if need be, can do the trick for a new Philippines. The few who control business and politics will vehemently resist, and will always throw crumbs to appease the citizenry. Change will happen but the few who now rule will always dominate the many. Indeed, a new set of leaders, new “Katipuneros” is what the times call for. The present crop of aspiring candidates for the Presidency do not inspire such hopeful transformation.

      • Not so fast Victor….. While this article did suggest plenty of helpful things the country should do to improve its current state. Henry also provided you and I and the rest of readers false facts! It is admirable as to what the Vietnamese economy has gone through, but their GDP is not double than The Philippines. If so, that would make VN ahead of Indonesia as well. I’m sure Indonesians would be pissed if they see or read Henry imply such false facts! LOL

        Vietnam’s GDP per capital currently stands at 1,910 and Philippines is at 2,765… Indonesia is currently at 3,475!!!

        It amazes me how many Filipinos are so quick to feed on articles like these to pull our country’s image down. lol When I visited Thailand my Thai friends talked about how horrible traffic was in Bangkok and that they would spend 6 hrs average per day in traffic. three hours in the AM and three hours in the PM! Of course you would not hear Thai discourage people from visiting Bangkok regardless. And you will rarely find Thai media talk about this! Sadly it’s opposite in the PHL. People and the media are so quick to talk about the country in a negative light…. and we wonder why we don’t attract more tourists?!?!? lol

    10. These ideas are perfect in a perfect world . The population is immature , illiterate and majority very poor. Filipinos living in the streets, children malnourished, widespread poverty, prostitution. The ideas presented are great but can these be implemented. 100 percent no, no ,no. A resounding no. To implement these reforms, one has to change the whole population which is impossible. This is what I call MISSION IMPOSSIBLE.

    11. Well done, Yen. Hector is, most probably – like me – an American who has decided to make the Philippines his home, and – like me – is pained to see what has become of the place over the years.

      It is obvious that many of your fellow MT columnists are staunch and curmudgeonly Anti-US, the bases for which are rooted in grade school history lessons that were never properly written by folks who were more interested in pushing pointed agendas of their own. Your “daring” (if I may say) to break ranks and invoke the hard-yet-necessary envoy of a “Kano” says quite a lot about your integrity as a Journalist.

      Speaking the truth in and/or about this country is, as we all know, very much fraught with real danger. There can be no real solutions, however, without it.

      I very much enjoyed your calling upon the spirit of Thomas Paine. Perhaps an apropos follow-up for the tens of millions of downtrodden Filipinos who suffer under the heals of the Ilustrados, Oligarchs, Human Traffickers and Jueteng Lords would be that of Patrick Henry’s most famous outburst….

      Now, THAT would be the sort of “Matuwid Na Daan” that could usher in real change.

      Keep up the good work.

    12. This article hits the nail on the head. Now the hard part, how to begin to fix it? Even with the right leader, It will take generations to unwind the cultural damage .

      • a small change to fix the problem even it may take years will have a positive result. better than nothing at all.

    13. Hector’s words are as shallow as truth without strict implementation of laws already in the books. Telling politician is one thing but people, my goodness people, they can not even follow a very basic and simple traffic law like STOP or YIELD.

    14. i exactly agree to the onion story pero he forgot to mention that discipline is the number 1 requirement.

    15. Yes, I agree to that no. 1 the OLIGARCHS which were dIsmantled during President Marcos are now back with vengeance they will be dollar trillionaires by 2020, actually they been back from the time of the EVIL DICTATOR CORY slowly people are led to believe EVIL DICTATOR CORY was the Saint or the Joan of Arch of Franch.

      This EVIL DICTATOR CORY her unparalled regime although short was unsarpassed by the Constitutional Authoritarianism of President Marcos from 1972 to 1983 with best governance 1983 to 1986 who I can vouched for TBE for the Philippines by having fundamentals for industrialization is being laid down NO NEED FOR TELLING IT ONE BY ONE JUST TO GIVE ONE WE HAVE A FULL PLEDGE CAR BODY MANUFACTURING PLANT but it was destroyed by EVIL DICTATOR CORY, want one BATAAN NUCLEAR POWER PLANT which is efficient, safe, clean, and in terms of monthly billing for JUAN’S AND JUANA’S budget is downright low that started the enslaving of the people, up to this time the OLIGARCHS CONTINUE TO GROW they projected almost 1 trillion for unefficient coal fired power plants to be set up till 2020. Everywhere they are there, they continue to enslave the people into the quagmire of poverty.

      Actually this oligarchs started the mass contractualization of employees every 5 months your out. That is why they are nothing. OLIGARCHS are first then the CPP/NPA/NDF who are in the late 1970s attributed to the mass killing of their own people and blame it to Marcos, we called it PURGING, now the PDP-LABAN and LP both are with the same colors are into purging their ranks. DIGONG promised 3 cabinet positions for the CPP/NPA/NDF and LP filing cases against their own people dismissing one after the other if they will not support Mar while PDP-LABAN is the party of the EVIL DICTATOR CORY remember it right.

      Now who will you support on May 9, 2016, DIGONG OR MAR OR GRACE, me will go for the TBE FOR MERIAM OR THE LEAST BINAY

    16. Pathetic, pathetic, pathetic because all the people got are politicians’ promises, promises, promises and all end up nothing but, corrupt practices..