Wednesday July 18, 2018

Carvajal: Obstruction

TIME Magazine put President Duterte in the same category of strongman as Putin and Erdogan. A biased propaganda tool of the U. S., it rash-judged with the political opposition that seven thousand or more have been killed extrajudicially (or on Duterte’s “enabling” order) in the current drug war. But from what I know of the Russian and Turkish strongmen, Duterte is way out of their league.

Still, it might be worth noting that in Asian cultures strongmen who dared walk the tightrope separating democracy and authoritarianism were responsible for their peoples’ economic leap forward.

Taiwan did it with Chiang Kai Shek, Singapore with Lee Kuan Yew and Malaysia with Mahathir. Not that I go for it, but Vietnam and China in fact did it with veritable despots from the ruling Communist Party. Japan has always been united by more than a strongman, their emperor-god.

A many-headed monster is obstructing our path towards constant economic progress. A strongman might singlehandedly chop its heads off. But only a disciplined and united citizenry can help him ensure that those ugly heads never ever grow back.

One head is our bloated, corrupt and incompetent bureaucracy. The other head is patronage politics and they both mutually feed each other.

It is a fact that, eligible or not, a citizen needs the backing of a politician to land a job in government. As long as we elect individuals and not parties, our bureaucracy will be bloated with loyalist political appointees who are fire-proof, in spite of inefficiency and corruption, because they are backstopped by their powerful politician-patrons.

(At the LGU level have you ever heard of competent, efficient, and effective job-order employees?)

The third head is narco-politics which has since reared its ugly head. Why was vote-buying more massive and the price of votes steeper than ever (as much as P5000?) in the recent Barangay and SK elections? The stakes (including control of the drug trade?) must have gone up considerably. One, therefore, has also to wonder just how much of narco-politics is feeding patronage politics and the bureaucracy now.

The strongmen mentioned earlier took care to institutionalize for the long term their short term accomplishments. Whatever gains, therefore, a Philippine strongman (Duterte or somebody else) achieves over our three-headed monster of an economic obstruction will still have to be institutionalized so the heads don’t grow back up again.

Over the long haul, civil service needs to be fenced off (perhaps with appropriate provisions in the new constitution?) from patronage and narco politicians who care nothing about efficiency and progress but everything about their economic and political ambitions.