My fellow writers here in GRP have explained that someone iron-handed like Rody Duterte has become popular for the wrong reasons (or maybe the right reasons, but in the wrong way). Duterte is seen as a figure like Ferdinand Marcos, who is thought to have enforced order through harshness in Martial Law. There are people today who support this harshness, because they believe it is the solution to make OTHER Filipinos disciplined. Thus, they believe that through this external discipline, people will behave and corruption will be eliminated.
Martial Law was imposed in the past, but the “discipline” it supposedly instilled didn’t last long either. My conclusion: iron handed leadership doesn’t create lasting discipline, because it does not address the root cause of erring behavior. The desire for external discipline is based on the assumption that since Filipinos are “pasaway” (uncooperative/defiant), thus only harsh punishments can tame them. But as with any problem, going to the root or cause rather than treating just the symptoms tends to lead to a sounder solution. This cause can be traced to the mindset of the Filipinos themselves.
Filipinos do not seem to understand or accept that discipline should not just have an external source. Discipline should come from within. Successful and prosperous societies are peopled by those who do right on their own, not just because they are afraid of punishment; they embrace what is right and believe in it. They rid themselves of or minimize self-entitlement and decided that one should work for their keep. They never believed trying to be above others; they instead believed that they should contribute to the society around and keep respect for public space. What they manifest is self-discipline.
In a comment under an article that compared Singapore and the Philippines, I said this to demonstrate what I believe makes Singapore a relatively better place to live in than the Philippines:
When a Singaporean couple finds prices are rising, they don’t have children. When a Filipino couple finds prices are rising, they bear so many children, hoping at least one of them will be their ATM (automated teller machine, i.e. breadwinner) to cope with rising prices, without thinking that they have to feed and make these children grow first (provided they don’t die from the complications of poverty yet). Different ways of dealing with one reality, different results, and each reveals something about the culture of the country.
Yes there is another side to Singaporeans, with reports coming out of some of them physically abusing domestic helpers. Perhaps the reason is that this generation of Singaporeans have been spoiled, thanks to prosperity. They thus cannot accept that some things they want cannot always be followed. Thus, in a sense, they are undisciplined. Without the discipline that counteracts spoilage, people will thus develop sense of entitlement that makes them act nastily towards others.
Even if there are strict rules present, if people are disciplined by themselves, that makes things a lot easier. But in the Philippines, perhaps one reason why this isn’t happening is because Filipinos want to be nasty. They feel entitled to their “pasawayness.” They twist the Golden Rule: do it to others before they do it to you. But it would seem the one fearing being “done to” is actually the first one planning something nasty against others. Even if harsh punishments are used for an act, if the Filipino wants bad behavior, then they will fall back to their erring ways. Harsh rules and punishments can be challenged and overcome.
In my Christian church, one interesting discussion we’ve had is that of an alternate explanation for “fear of God” that may relate to this concept of discipline. The idea that a believer does good because they are afraid of punishment from God is not considered the real meaning. The real meaning is that when a person loves someone, they fear angering or displeasing the person out of love. Not because they are afraid of the wrath of the person; it is because they are afraid the strained or even broken relationship that results from an act that displeases or disturbs the other person. In other words, there is genuine respect and concern for others.
The person manifesting self-discipline seeks happiness and well-being not only for themselves, but for others. Hence the local saying, “everybody happy.” Compare to the Filipino Me-first mentality: “I only want to be happy, others can’t, everybody can’t be happy.” Filipinos are instead hung up about pride and narcissism, while trying to be happy. That of course does not succeed.
Consistent reward or punishment is still needed in an orderly society. But it alone does not guarantee proper behavior. The attitude of the person should have them believe in their good actions in order to continue doing them. Self-discipline and respect and concern for the public space should be in the culture. It’s unfortunate that many Filipinos still prefer the opposite: apathy. They ridicule the idea of Filipinos being self-disciplined. It’s as if they believe Filipinos have the right to be nasty, and may even imply that it’s “abnormal” to not be nasty and want order. They would rather have “authorities” apply external discipline. Thus, the “normal” pattern they see is; Filipinos are entitled to being nasty, while authorities should be harsh to control them. But this is contradictory, since two different sides are set up to conflict with no resolution. The whole situation is rigged to fail.
Some may raise that people seek rewards. They say, give me a motivation to be good, if not, I’ll be bad. But that’s a lame excuse. Here’s what an athlete says it.
This issue shows that the problem of the country is in the Filipinos themselves. They want discipline enforced against other Filipinos, but likely cry murder when discipline is being applied on them. Who knows: what if you were the one who displayed erring behavior that others emulated, but when you saw the ones emulating you, you chided them as the undisciplined ones, even when you were the one who started it? The infographic below about littering illustrates my point.
I keep hearing from others, “Rule of law? Ha ha! It’s a joke in this country,” or something like “rule of law is a quaint notion here anyway.” Wait a minute. Under that condescending tone, could there be an actual desire for rule of law to not work? Could it be, in fact, Filipinos really don’t want the rule of law and want only the rule of whims and reactions? And yet they are the ones with the pretentiousness to lament that there is no rule of law in the country? Then don’t wonder why the country is as it is.
Once Filipinos internalize discipline in their culture and agree on their own that they should stop being “pasaway,” we are likely to see the Philippines becoming a safer and more humane society in our lifetimes.