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?