Impediments to Progressive Change in the Philippines

March 2006

*Obviously, these are just the opinions of Chris Pforr*

The Aristocracy (a mix of pure-blood Spanish and meztizos descended from land-owning elites of the Spanish and American colonial periods; and Chinese-Filipinos who immigrated from China) have, tacitly and collectively, decided to maintain a quasi-feudal relationship with the desperately poor, miseducated, superstitious and powerless masa.

Nominally democratic government run by a padrino system of patronage, whose primary function is to serve as handmaiden to the aristocracy; that is, reinforcing the concentration of wealth amongst the elite and blocking meaningful social change.

Entrenched bureaucratic class who operate government agencies at all administrative levels as wealth-generating vehicles for their own benefit through graft and corruption; thus crippling the ostensible functions of those agencies and helping to maintain the status quo.

Underfunded, mismanaged and incompetently staffed national education system produces high school graduates who are competent maids and fast food wokers, and college graduates who get hired as sales clerks.

The Catholic Church, the most powerful national non-governmental institution, has a vested interest in maintaining high population growth and static social relations.

Generalized passivity and fatalistic attitude amongst the lower classes; traits which tend to discourage hard work, ambition and belief in possibility of progressive social change.

Patriarchal family structure which focuses on authority and conformity. Incubation chamber for endemic behavior patterns of alcohol and drug addiction and spousal abuse.

Shrinking resource base and degenerating natural environment coupled with a rapidly growing population; jointly limit future economic development options.

Moribund / degenerating economy. Absence of economic opportunity for 90% of the population keeps them focused on putting food on the table, drinking and sending text messages; instead of organizing for social change.

External debt (currently estimated at $71.8 Billion U.S.) is among the highest in the world. Debt servicing (interest only) rose from 46 percent of the national government expenditure in 2002 to 81 percent in 2004 and is expected to hit 89 percent in 2005. These funds would otherwise be available for economic development.

Eight million OFWs (Overseas Foreign Workers), a relatively well-educated and motivated sector of the population, live abroad and are thus excluded from organizing at home to demand social reform. Their huge cash remittances to home also allow an otherwise failed economy to keep sputtering along.

External political pressure: primarily from the USA, to maintain the status quo. Philippines remains “a thoroughly neo-colonialized state. ”

Personal frame of reference: is always “me” and short-term, instead of “us” and long-term. Disastrous combination.