The rise of new, non-violent dictatorships. Are we in one?


VOX EU, a platform for scholars from multiple fields, had a very interesting article on the rise of modern authoritarianism. These are not, the article made it very clear, the usual Stalin/Hitler/Pinochet/Pol Pot type that employed mass violence and mass murder to subjugate their citizens. The modern ones rule with the pretenses and trappings of a democracy.

As laid out by the Vox EU article, the new dictatorships have adopted to the modern world of “ open borders, knowledge-based economics and global media.” They employ very little violence and they simulate the ways of legitimate democracies, including the holding of regular elections. So what do they do instead of putting dissidents in gulags and mass murdering them?

They work at controlling and manipulating the information. To lulling (and fooling) the public that they are in thriving democracy run by a competent leader.

How do they achieve this purpose? First, by cultivating a subservient media. Second, by co-opting the economic and political elite to make them willing participants in the con game of supposedly democratic governance.

As somebody baffled by the often strident tone of Mr. Aquino — plus his supreme belief in himself acting as if he were God’s gift to the nation — I am curious enough to ask this question. Does his government qualify as a modern dictatorship, as many of our leading bishops have asserted? The accusation that Mr. Aquino has been ruling as a dictator has yet to gain traction as our concept of despots and dictators is often the Marcos/Pinochet/Suharto type, the killing and looting type. Meaning, you kill dissidents and bury them in mass graves without remorse while you stash wealth overseas. But with this study, showing that modern dictators can exist without employing violence and simulating the ways and processes of democracy, the bishops’ assertion is now worth a second look.

Are we in one and blissfully unaware of it? Are Mr. Aquino’s critics from the clergy right?

Since most Filipino public intellectuals are more interested in being made up for TV gigs instead of doing serious work and research (and, as part of the elite, mostly enamored of Mr. Aquino), it is upon us, the peons, to take a non-partisan, non-biased assessment of his governance to provide whatever answer we can provide to that question. What do we see with our naked eye? Let us look at some of the characteristics mentioned in that article to see if they apply in the Philippine context.

Is the elite co-opted? Sure, 101 percent sure. The Makati Business Club and the Davos types, just adore Mr. Aquino and his policies. The admiration is mutual. Just make a compilation of 99 per cent of the photo-ops of Mr. Aquino published by the major newspapers. If you want glee in Mr. Aquino’s face, try his photos with the oligarchs.

Mr. Aquino is a growth-at-all-cost president. As such, issues that stand in the way of attracting capital and investments such as the provision of living wages and empowering the trade unions for more effective bargaining, are non-issues to him. Mr. Aquino’s infrastructure modernization program takes the PPP route and are tailored to the financial muscle of the Top 1 percent in the country and their foreign partners. Those qualified to bid for the PPP projects are the Aquino-friendly conglomerates.

While the recent IBON data on poverty and hunger are alarming, the global list of dollar billionaires now cannot be complete without the names of Filipinos on that list. We have close to 10 billion children of school age being wasted by malnutrition. And we have at least ten Filipinos rich enough to buy small countries. Mr. Aquino’s major legacy to the country is padding the Forbes list with Filipino dollar billionaires.

The Top 1 percent sucks up, vacuums up, most of the income gains under the Aquino government’s regime of sustained growth. Nothing trickle-down below. And as Pope Francis said, trickle-down is a discredited economic doctrine.

Is the mainstream media an abettor of Mr. Aquino’s government?

Sure. Except for the Manila Times and a few others, the MSM has a till-16-we-don’t-part pact with Mr. Aquino.

Just scan the headlines and you will see that every bad thing in this country is the fault of politicians except Mr. Aquino. Mr. Aquino occasionally gets a slap on the wrist from MSM, but on small and insignificant transgressions that would not ignite the public ire. If the evil is not a city mayor, a congressman or a senator, then it is the vice president.

The MSM take pains to portray the P60 billion plus cash transfer program for the poor as bloated and insufferable. That is only 2 percent plus of the current P2.6 trillion budget. The constant play of a “ bloated “ CCT hides the sad fact that there has been an underwhelming response to the most malignant social cancer – mass poverty. The captive public intellectuals do not do a Piketty or a Saez and carry out painstaking researches on Gilded Age, Philippine version.

The elite and the MSM are ring leaders of the efforts to portray Mr. Aquino as a crusading reformer, the nemesis of corruption, the harbinger of sustained growth. Nowhere do we see that sad truth that the vulnerable, which should get priority state attention, are invisible to the Aquino government. and that Mr. Aquino’s type of growth has not resulted in broadly-shared prosperity.

Mr. Aquino, with cheers from the MSM, had caused the impeachment of a chief justice of the Supreme Court and has sent to jail three incumbent senators, including a former senate president. With a COA audit, he has muzzled dissent from legislators. He has practically eviscerated the leverage of the two co-equal branches of government. He has caused the detention of the president he replaced.

What was the grand design? Why did he weaken the co-equal branches of government early in his term.

My take? To be the Supreme Ruler, the Dear Leader, whatever.

What is your view?


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  1. victor m. hernandez on

    It is not at all non-violent when you consider decades of empoverishment and increasing number of hungry people, while a percent that comprise the moneyed and powerful control how the economy is run, and how much they profit. Policy making to address this situation is futile as the legislators and LGUs are co-opted by the moneyed class. The violence persists, not necessarily the gory type, but the persistent hunger and disempowerment of the masses. But the Philippines is blest with OFWs that remit about US$ 20 Billion yearly, that the local economy cannot provide. Those are blood, sweat and tears of OFWs. This situation does violence to families. The citizens are decent and sacrificing enough unlike its “elected’ leaders.

  2. victor m. hernandez on

    You betcha, with power and money, and with money comes power, you rule to make more money and more power, and just give the masses the crumbs, kernels or leavings.
    The process is clear as you pointed out:
    “How do they achieve this purpose? First, by cultivating a subservient media. Second, by co-opting the economic and political elite to make them willing participants in the con game of supposedly democratic governance”.
    It becomes their ideology, a plutocratic, oligarchic, red-blooded capitalistic system, that results in non-inclusive growth.

  3. Nothing new.i think the form of government you are referring is the dictatorship of the oligarchs. Marcos tried to dismantle the old but helped install a new ones. Although that is the prevailing system we can gear towards autocratic form carefully choosnig one who is benevolent. Marcos failed to conquer the ruling oligarch and so is Estrada. Actually it is the big businesses and big landowners who led in the downfall of Estrada. Estradas reform plans if not cut early on would have negative effects to big businesses and most especially to hacienderos.His sins against the people pales in comparison to Pnoy’s and yet he is still around.

  4. Venerando Desales on

    Plausible. He has taken Enrile for a ride who lowered his defenses, and when the right time and opportunity came, sweet revenge! The dumbfounded Enrile was in prison! Dictators do not last. They soar high, then fall hard. God wanted them to repent, if not, they are crushed fully. Meanwhile, we have to be patient and keep on hoping.

  5. Heto pa Mr. Ronquillo, gagamitin pa ang Makati Business Club, di ba alam ng mga business owners na ang bumubuhay sa kanila ay ang mga middle class Filipino overseas workers( hindi ang gobyerno) who send billions in remittances to their families , which was ( still is) the contributing factor of rising economy above other countries during the global economic meltdown , And that was GMA’s economic accomplishment Aquino inherited.

  6. Fortunately it is “only” 10 million children in poverty, not 10 billion as stated above! Anyway, an excellent article showing why a President with such poor performance for the poor still commands their support.

  7. Amnata Pundit on

    If as you said, the modern dictators now rule with the pretenses and trappings of a democracy, well that is something we have had since EDSA 1, when Cory restored the old society rule of the oligarchs. Allow me to take issue with you that Marcos’ rule was the killing and looting type. Wasn’t the killing perpetrated by the enemies of the state, namely the communists established by Ninoy Aquino, Kumander Dante and Joma Sison and the MNLF in Mindanao that was sparked by Ninoy’s treacherous act of exposing Marcos’ Oplan Merdeka? The single proof that Marcos was the aggressor instead of the aggrieved who as president was merely defending the state is the so called 10,000 human rights victims of that infamous civil case in Hawaii ( up to now aren’t you wondering why only the NPA affiliated left were human rights victims and none were MNLF?). If there were really that many victims, where is the list? As far as I know, only a list of 3,000 victims were given to the enterprising American lawyer Robert Swift, but this was not a validated list. 95% of those names could have been lifted from the telephone directory for all we know. As for the looting, remember that the New York trial against Imelda and FM produced a not guilty verdict. All that evidence that the Cory government gave to the hot shot American prosecutor Rudy Giuliani miserably failed to prove that even a single crime was committed at all. The only thing they have against Marcos is the summary judgement of our Supreme Court over his supposed ill gotten wealth, which is a civil case of forfeiture and is summary because the Supreme Court refused to accept his reply! Nowhere in that decision does it show even a single centavo that came illegally from the Philippine government. Their argument merely centered on the fact that his salary as president could not have been enough to explain all those Swiss deposits, disregarding the possibility that Marcos could have had a perfectly satisfactory explanation if only they had allowed him to give his side. They obviously knew that already based on the New York trial, so they decided to make their judgement summary instead of fair as it should have been in a real democracy.

  8. Lintek na ronquillo na to.Ikaw lang ang nakakaalam kung bakit o panu ka nakarating sa pagtatanggol mo sa ABNOY na yan.Alam mo naman na mula sa pagkongresista hanggang ngayon ay walang malinaw na matinong ginawa kundi pagsisisnungaling,katamaran,manisi ng manisi.magjhiganti at mga kapalpakan ang tanging pinaggagawa ng ABNOY na idolo mo.Kalinaw ng palpak na DAP,pagsasakripisyo sa SAF44.Luneta hostage,etc.Sana hindi ka nalangisan ng bilyong pork ni ABNOY tulad ng mga yellow solons,kaya pinagtatakpan mo ang mga kapalpakan ni ABNOY.

  9. Kalkuladong plano!sa umpisa pa lamang!inilagay niya ang mga babaeng sobra ang pagka-ambisyosa na handang gawin ang lahat marating lang ang ambisyong maging mga senadora at pinakamataas na posisyon sa sangay ng gobyerno!
    Ang DAP na lumasing sa lahat ng makahawak nito at naging sunudsunuran sa kanya!
    Kung hindi nasalot ang leyte at ang massacre sa SAF 44 !malamang naipasa din ang cha-cha at malamang naging prime minister si Aquino ng walang tututol sa pagkat siya ang pinakamalakas manuhol sa mga buhaya!
    BBL ang unang magiging federal government na hahawakan niya!