The ascendancy to power of outliers is nothing new in the Philippines. It has occurred before, and it is happening once more not because of someone’s industriousness but by the use of sheer brute force based on an illusion of Power reposed by the Filipino People.
The traditional rich, the peninsulares and the insulares, the patented names who have occupied the highest economic rungs of this society, are now slowly exiting from public consciousness and they are giving way to the emergence of political brand names cum economic mavericks who were mostly, outliers. They are doing so not because they were defeated in their economic games, no. They are doing so out of fear from their lives now at the mercy of those who wield the barrel of a Gun.
And this is happening at an historical crossroad when our country is fast transforming into a serious performer in the economic sphere. New paradigms in the geopolitical sphere and opportunities created by new technologies are directly changing our very environment as the old ways of wealth generation are being replaced by new ones.
We are now living in a transition period where the old is being replaced by new ones. The question we often ask is this–is this for the greater good or for the greater evil? Are these newbies, previous outliers, the same as those of the old? Are there lessons to be gleaned from that Jewish and now Christian saying that the the same old tree bears the same fruits?
The dichotomy between the old and the new oligarchs–in politics and in business–is strangely too stark, which I will explain later. These oligarchs had, in one way or another, dabbled in both arenas as a strategy towards wealth generation.
The familiar old rich names such as the Aranetas, the Roxases, Ongpins, Osmenas, the Sorianos, the Cojuangcos, the Lunas, the Benitezes are sons and daughters of our previous colonial masters. Land is their main asset, and they rent-seek their way to cement the wealth they inherited by cornering government projects.
They were followed by Chinese migrants like the Gokongweis, Tans, Sys and Tys whose industriousness, sharp business acumen and politically accommodating ways endeared them with the traditional rich families, earning them tickets of acceptance in the stomping grounds of the rich and famous.
In those times, opportunities abounded as the country was still grappling from the ravages of a global war which saw millions dead and millions of others injured. Recovery was big money and the big monies went to those who saw opportunities from piles of rubble and the rotting corpses that lined the streets of a pillaged nation.
The men and women of that age saw those opportunities and through sheer hard work and sometimes, craftiness, managed to exact the fruits of their labors. There were rules back then, and men and women were still concerned with their reputations and how these rise and fall depending on one’s acts towards another.
As this nation recovered, and millions once more regained their respective social statuses, the ones who got the economy off its feet became extremely ambitious. With a growing economy came growing exceptional appetites for more. Hence, the tilt that characterized the ones who had with the ones who don’t sparked an entire age of philosophical speculations which eventually pave way towards the rise of a people’s movement willing and armed to re-write Philippine history.
The threat posed by this movement against the interests of the old oligarchs gave rise to a man whose words championed the cause of democracy as interpreted by these elites and willing and able to assume the helm of an elite-led state against the possible rise of a people’s collective. Unknown to the old oligarchs, this man never saw them as strong political supporters but rather of rivals and even depicted them as snoots. He was the first outlier and from him came the others not via industry but by sheer use of politics as the weapon for ascending the social ladder.
During the darkest age of our history, it was in those times when by force of circumstances, these oligarchs were made to prop up some men of unworthy reputations yet of strong political powers, while those who don’t saw their futures down the drain. Those who compromised, and willingly served the Mammon in those times reaped the greatest benefit. Most who stood by, played fiddle, swallowed their prides and accepted these outliers from the North led by the beauty pageant contestant from the Visayas, as part of their own.
After that 1986 phenomenon, those who served fled, bringing with them tons load of precious Philippine currencies and wealth yet the remaining ones changed shirts and paid their dues to the New Powers. The new powers were absolutely not entirely “new” but survivors of the dark ages, whose previous sins of omissions justified the arrival of the Pretender.
For four decades, the oligarchs of the pre-Martial era regained their reputations and wealth by exploiting the previous weakened status of this country. With a country left to die by its former dictator and his coterie of outliers and pretenders, the only solution which the successor administration saw was privatization. These thieves left the government treasury almost bone dry. The government back then had no choice but to involve the oligarchs in the hopes of reviving the economy and re-institute the very same system which, unfortunately, justified the rise of the dark Lord.
And now this. The vanguards of that Revolution in 1986 became institutionalized and worked as proxies of the old oligarchical families who opposed the Dark Lord. As veritable proxies, they gave ear to these oligarchs and created laws that allowed wealth re-generation to those who already had and managed the appetites of those who want to ascend the social ladder as “entrepreneurs.”
However, poor students these political proxies were that they failed to see the lessons of History– that the very system which they re-created out of the mold of the pre-Martial law past was exactly the main contributory factor which led to the previous dark era. By re-creating the very same conditions which spurred wealth to those who already had without curing the imbalance it causes to society, the possibility of another Dark Lord arising from the chaos looms.
True enough–another Dark Lord emerged, a poor copy of the First, yet, an outlier nonetheless. The difference between the first Dark Lord and this one is that this outlier is more crass in approach, a more effective pretender, a pseudo-intellectual who claims to have a brilliant legal yet oftentimes, criminal mind.
While the first Dark Lord was indeed a strongman, having experienced combat, this one pretends to be a strongman, yet, by either sheer stupidity or sheer bravado, the shirt of this one often exposes itself.
The Dark One we face right now is not as powerful as the first, as this one is a typical thug who pretends that he is strong and is ready to use his powers “for the greater good” while salivating for the wealth of others thru the use of political power. This Dark One is a typical street-level thug being supported by brilliant minds in business and politics who are motivated by their self-interests in cornering huge contracts in government at the very expense of a suffering public.
Strangely, the weakness of this Dark One is also his strength. His wish-washy style of governance and pretensions are often seen as weakness by some, yet strength by others. You don’t need to be brilliant nowadays–you just need a nice long tongue that you’ll use to lick the Dark One’s ass, the asses of his daughter and two sons, aside from members of their extended families.
He tries to be “unreadable” and “unpredictable” and to his mind, he thinks he is. The only question that remains is this–is he larger than the very state he thinks he holds in its balls?
The very thing that the Big Boys of this bigoted land had avoided all these years is now looming large in the horizon. Uncertainties in the succession, the possibility of power loss, the uncertainties of how to extend the “happy days” and the possible political backlash to be shouldered by the Dark One, forces him and his cronies to do the unthinkable— re-create the conditions of those dark ages without formalizing them. They don’t need laws–they are using force in an uncivilized and unethical manner, what use are laws to them? As I wrote in a previous piece, the days of delicadeza are over, and the realists are becoming more brazen and more violent in their ways and manners. History has shown to the folly that incidents often follow natural laws–those who disturb the peace by using the populist card often get what they deserve in the end–death in the hands of the people.
The question that remains–are the Big Boys really and able to use their guns against a pseudo street thug? Your guess is as good as mine.