Will the Philippines ever have a Lee Kuan Yew?

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THE Foreign Affairs department’s statement on “the Passing of Singapore’s Founding Prime Minister” yesterday is terse but truthful.

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“The Philippines joins the Singaporean people in mourning the passing of their first Prime Minister and Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew. Mr. Lee was a visionary statesman who built Singapore into an economic powerhouse and modern society that has been a positive force not only in the region but also in the world. His fortitude, political will and wisdom will continue to be an inspiration in the years to come.”

We in The Times are admirers of Lee Kuan Yew.

Many Filipinos like him because the effective but authoritarian Singapore government that he built was and by and large continues to be a temple of good governance manned by men and women of probity.

He served as prime minister of Singapore from June 3, 1959 to November 28, 1990 (more than 30 years), and then as senior minister of Singapore from November 28, 1990 to August 12, 2004 (almost four years) and finally as Minister Mentor of Singapore from August 12, 2004 to May 21, 2011 (almost six years). In his case, the phrase “serve as” does not mean “occupied the position of” as it does in the case of most Filipino public officials. It means working hard and effectively to achieve goals. And being a person of integrity.

He was friend of the Filipinos. He felt bad that we Filipino citizens and our political leaders could not make our country a better one than the mess we have been making it. Those who have been Singapore-watching since its creation as an independent state, by Lee Kuan Yew mainly, have seen how Lee and his fellow leaders wished the Philippines would rise to become a worthy partner of Singapore in together giving leadership to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the whole of Asia and grow as First World Nations.

When the Marcos regime fell, Lee Kuan Yew tried to counsel his friends–among the new leaders of the Philippines enjoying the return of democratic freedoms–that they should take the opportunity to pay less attention to democracy and attend more seriously to effective governance and development. The usual human rights activists, among our political leaders of the time and most of the leading lights of the Philippine press, attacked Singapore’s PM Lee for his sensible advice.

In the ’70s, Singapore was proving that it could surmount its difficulties of surviving as an independent country after being forced to leave the Malaysian Federation by the United Malays National Organization, whose leaders have ruled Malaysia since its formation. Lee resisted separation from Malaysia–and he cried when he gave the speech announcing the event– but he and Singapore were told to leave the Malaysian Federation because the Malay majority was uncomfortable with Singapore and its largely Chinese population upsetting the racial and power structure.

A number of British intellectuals and political savants, worried about the decline of their country under ineffective political leaders in the mid-70s, wrote of the need for the UK to have London School of Economics and Cambridge University educated Lee Kuan Yew to come to the rescue.

Lee’s People’s Action Party began as a member of Socialist International and gradually turned into a European-style welfare-state parliamentary republic.

It has definitely become a First World country not only in its infrastructure, domestic and international economic success and social development. Unfortunately–and this made Lee Kuan Yew tearful once more when he spoke about it–Singapore, like all the First World countries, suffers from an aging population. Its population is threatened with extinction because of the success of the government’s population-control policy. This policy was reversed about 10 years ago. But paying women to marry and get pregnant, and giving generous support to couples so they would not be afraid of having many children, have not been very effective.

That is why, among others from the poor countries of Asean, our OFWs are a major part of Singapore’s socio-economy.

Some Filipinos who admire Lee Kuan Yew and his successors dream of one day seeing someone like Modern Singapore’s founder in our politics.

In the present Philippines under de facto President BS Aquino and the Smartmatic-PCOS machines that dream is not likely to come true.

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16 Comments

  1. In a nutshell, the answer is both yes and no.

    Yes, if future generation of Filipinos become intelligent and politically matured, that they will vote according to qualification and proven track record of a political aspirant, who is willing to serve with integrity in government.

    No, if the same electorates do not learn from their mistakes, of being starstruck or possess the same fan-idol mentality, and would next vote for Pacquiao as president of the republic, who had publicly expressed his interest to run for president.

    The fault lies or depends upon the electorates, who cannot distinguish between popularity and public service or lawmaking duties of elected candidates. Filipinos have a weird sense of reasoning, which borders on senseless logic and persist to practice it at will.

  2. Bert O. Romero on

    In his book, From Third World to First, Lee Kuan Yew narrated that at the height of the Philippine economic crisis in 1983 – triggered by the assassination of opposition senator Benigno Aquino – President Marcos sent then Minister of Trade and Industry Roberto V. Ongpin to ask for a loan of US$300-500 million . PM Lee looked Minister Ongpin straight in the eye and said , ” We will never see that money back .” The loan was not granted with PM Lee believing that what the Philippines needed was a strong, healthy leader and not more loans. This incident was also narrated by Gerardo Sicat in his book, Cesar Virata, Life and Times. It is worth noting that in Lee’s book, the episode on Contemplacion which generated such fever – pitch hysteria in the Philippines resulting to the forced resignations of Foreign Secretary Romulo and Labor Secretary Confessor and the severance of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Singapore never merited a single word. It was never mentioned which perhaps was reflective of the unemotional and non-sentimental approach of Singaporeans to national problems.
    Lee admitted that Filipino professionals are as good as their Singaporean counterparts. In fact, he conceded that Filipino architects, artists and musicians who had been recruited to work in Singapore were more artistic and creative than Singaporeans. Talking of musicians, have you heard of a Singaporean Freddie Aguilar or Nora Aunor? It is said that when karaoke singing became a popular ice-breaker in ASEAN diplomatic settings, it became de rigueur for Singaporean diplomats to undergo required training on ballroom dancing and singing before being posted to ASEAN countries. Look at this professional approach to enhancing diplomatic skills of Singaporean diplomats!
    Pm Lee found two essential faults in the Filipino which explained why he is poor, namely: democracy and Filipino culture. Lee did not believe democracy leads to development. He believed the Philippines needed to develop discipline more than democracy. As to form of government, he strongly batted for a parliamentary government which, to him, worked better because the majority party in the legislature also controlled the government. As to Philippine culture, he found it a soft and forgiving culture citing the case of Imelda Marcos and her children Bong Bong and Imee who were allowed to return and engage in politics with BongBong now being mentioned as a potential presidential contender in 2016. And what would he have said of the leading 2016 presidential contender who, despite charges of plunder and graft, continues to lead the pack ? Only in the Philippines.

  3. “When the Marcos regime fell, Lee Kuan Yew tried to counsel his friends–among the new leaders of the Philippines enjoying the return of democratic freedoms–that they should take the opportunity to pay less attention to democracy and attend more seriously to effective governance and development.”

    open your eyes Filipinos from your illusions oligarch-ruled democracy.

  4. Not unless we shift to parliamentary form of government. There are many Filipinos who have great qualifications other than not being corrupt but are unable to run for presidency because of the enormous cost of campaigning. In the parliamentary form of government, such great leaders will have to run only for a parliamentary seat only and from there have a chance to be chosen as Prime Minister. Look at our more prosperous Asian neighbors Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and others which have this type of government.

  5. We do not need a Lee Kwan Yew. What we need though is a Statesman of his caliber and intellect.

    What we need is real Filipino who will work for his own people.

  6. I understood then why the late Premier’s advise to the US-installed yellow regime was ignored. I had the chance to have 2 schoolmates whose parents worked closely with both Lee Kuan Yew and Park Chung Hee of South Korea. These 2 former leaders admired Marcos way back then, the Korean even told me that Mr. Park always seek the advise of the late strongman.

  7. apolonio reyes on

    Sad to say, we could never have a LEE KUAN YEW due to our ” UTANG NA LOOB AND MABUHAY ANG KAMAG ANAK NATIN ” ATTITUDE.
    I was at Singapore in the early 70′ and one thing I could not forget what a foreigner whom I met for business told me about Lee Kuan Yew. He said he was a resident of Singapore when Lee Kuan Yew became Prime Minister and one thing he admire, that when he took over the reign of government, he told his cabinet that they will be given a salary that they and family will live comfortably but not lavishly. He asked them and family to sacrifice for their country and not to engage in corruption.
    After some years, a Japanese construction firm complained that his housing minister was asking for bribe. He called the minister and told him ” DO IT OR I WILL DO IT FOR YOU “. The next day news was this minister hang himself. I don’t know if this is a myth but here no PRESIDENT, CABINBET MEMBER OR GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS CHARGED WITH GRAFT AND CORRUPTION RESIGN OR WILL HANG HIMSLEF OR COMMIT SUICIDE EXCEPT ONE GENERAL WHO I ADMIRED.

  8. No never. This country & its people are to backward. There are just so many who are easily swayed to corruption. I have noticed since i got here 99.9999 % of people are so easily corrupted. They care for themselves & not others. Its ok if i get my share but thats it, i dont care about the rest of you. Thats their attitude. You all think they are doing so why shouldnt i do it. When you should be thinking no i want this to change for the betterment of the philippines. But you dont, its a me me me society here & you cannot dress that up.
    Every single one of you when in a position to receive corrupt money will take it. You can fool yourself when you say i wouldnt, but you cant fool me as i know 99.99999% of you would.

    • So I guess part of the “99.9999%” who are easily corrupted are your Filipino wife and her Filipino son, huh?

      By the way, if your wife belongs to such a backward and easily corrupted race, why are you still married to her?

  9. Lee Kwan Yew ay may disiplina at moral ascendancy para ipatupad at sundin ang kanyang mandato ng mga Singaporeans. Si Lee Kwan Yew ay walang asawang ambisiosa at maluho sa paglustay ng fundo sa kaban ng bayan. Ang Singapore ay walang CPP/NPA at ARMM at mga TRAPOs na puro mga buwaya. Kaya sa aking pananaw — gustuhin ko mang maging positivo–ay tila hindi pa ipnanganganak ang manganganak dito sa ‘Pinas ang magiging tulad ni Lee Kwan Yew.

  10. Pia Pilar Francisco on

    Will PH ever have a Lee Kuan Yew?

    Nah, not in a million years.If LKY were to run for president in the Philippines, he never would have won. LKY is ugly and his pockmarked face would never appeal to Filipino voters who tend to favor tisoys or showbiz personalities or people with name recall like Aquino-Cojuangco. LKY is not eloquent, and would have been no match for the oratorical skills of our forever speechifying Ninoy Aquino or Chiz Escudero. LKY is just too straightforward, sometimes too mataray and abrasive, which will rub Filipinos the wrong way. His expressions are just too unvarnished, which will hurt our Filipino pusong mamon. LKY does not fit the Filipino concept of mabait, an attribute which Filipino bobotantes are looking for. If anything, LKY looks like Ponga, the intsik caricature ridiculed and reviled in Pinoy pop-culture (of decades past). Most importantly, LKY also cheated in order to win the national election in 1963. A few months before the election, LKY launched the British-aided “Operation Cold Store” to put all his political opponents away. That’s how LKY won the 1963 election handily.

    Given that LKY is a big believer in the concept of the end justifies the means, would that sit well with the judeo-christian morality of the Filipino people? Nah, I didn’t think so.

    • well, see where this pock-marked face man has lead us? Whether he cheated or not, is immaterial….he has given singaporeans a far better and safer life than you pinoys ever had!

  11. To answer the articles headline – with the current tradpols, political butterflies, political family dynasties and current leaders, NOPE. If the Philippines have that candidate, he/she is still unborn.

  12. E. G. Festin on

    A wonderful tribute to the great Lee Kuan Yew that could only come from sharp-witted, patriotic Filipinos, longing for deliverance from the reign of social and economic injustice in our country controlled by shameless dynasties averse to meritocracy and virtuous living.

  13. We have someone approximating the likes of Lee Kuan Yew. When I say this, I have in mind Sen. Miriam Defensor who bristles at corruption and wherever it rears its ugly head and is known for her integrity, honesty, tenacity, intellect, and most importantly, decisive leadership.
    I only have reservation as to her state of health and whether she can endure the vicissitudes of steering the ship of state, not to say the multitudinous problems and challenges concomitant to successful governance.

  14. the philippines have had a lot of Lew Kuan Yew, only they have ended up either being murdered or forced to leave the philippines in fear for their lives by the ruling oligarchs who only see reform as a threat to their long standing hold on power and the economy.