In the July 19, 2012 World Failed State Index that was released by Foreign Policy, the good news is that the Philippines is far from becoming a failed state. The bad news is that our country continues to be listed as a potential failed state, albeit one of the least likely.
The top 5 countries that are considered as failed states or are very likely to become failed states were Somalia with 114.9 index points, Congo (D. R.) with 111.2 index points, Sudan with 109.4 index points, Chad with 107.6 index points, and Zimbabwe with 106.3 index points.
Of the 59 countries that were listed as potential failed states, the Philippines was ranked as number 56 with 83.2 index points. The 5 most telling indicators that placed the Philippines as a potential failed state were as follows:
1. Security Apparatus – 8.4 index points
2. Factionalized Elites – 8.0 index points
3. De-legitimization of the State – 7.9 index points
4. Group Grievance – 7.6 index points, and
5. Demographic Pressure – 7.3 index points
The security apparatus indicator refers to a state’s capability to repel external and internal threats as well as enforce the law. De-legitimization of the state is characterized by “Massive and endemic corruption or profiteering by ruling elite” or “Resistance of ruling elites to transparency, accountability and political representation” or “Widespread loss of popular confidence in state institutions and processes, e.g., widely boycotted or contested elections, mass public demonstrations, sustained civil disobedience, inability of the state to collect taxes, resistance to military conscription, rise of armed insurgencies.”
According to former United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, Boutrous Boutrous Ghali, a failed state is characterized by the “... collapse of state institutions, especially the police and judiciary, with resulting paralysis of governance, a breakdown of law and order, and general banditry and chaos. Not only are the functions of government suspended, but also its assets are destroyed or looted and experienced officials are killed or flee the country.”
After security apparatus, which thanks to China is now being upgraded, the next source of perceived instability is factionalized elites. The two factors would likely ride in tandem. A country plagued by factionalized elites would tend to have a weak security apparatus. In the Philippine setting, the Ampatuans of Maguindanao, the Singsons of Ilocos Sur, Marcoses of Ilocos Norte, Osmenas and Garcias of Cebu would constitute our factionalized elites. The Ampatuans and Singsons are known to possess private armies.
It’s not surprising that China chose the Philippines to be the demonstration model for its new muscle flexing policy. Compared to China’s other rival claimants in the Spratly Islands, among them Taiwan, Vietnam and Malaysia, we’re the only country that’s listed as a potential failed state. Few Filipinos realized that if the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) regime continued through an anointed successor – we would have likely deteriorated to a failed state status. No matter how good and sincere a GMA successor would have been, the cynicism and distrust would not be overcome and will likely lead to a worsening public order situation.
GMA was the nucleus that propagated the ingredients of a perfect storm. More people going hungry, prices escalating sans any control, worsening peace and order, investors as well as capital on a continuous flight out of the country, wide scale public distrust of the institutions – all these could have easily welded together and found expression during the reign of GMA. Many autocrats met violent ends because of their nation’s collective outrage that combined to make the perfect political storm.
President Noynoy Aquino (P-Noy) brought us farther away from the precipice where GMA had pushed us. He restored people’s faith in their government and democratic processes. He has immediately attended to the poverty problem by launching the CCT (Conditional Cash Transfers) and K to 12 (Expanded Basic Education to 12 years) programs. However, P-Noy has not yet won a total victory because many of the group grievances as well as other pressures continue to rebound and threaten to bring us into the vortex of the dreaded perfect storm.
If we chart the sad plight of our people, we will note how we shift from severe problems to slight relief, depending if we have a good or bad president. The Cory Aquino and Fidel Ramos eras from 1986 to 1998 ushered hope and improved economic performance. This was subsequently derailed by the eras of the Joseph “Erap” Estrada and GMA regimes from 1998 to 2010. This is the reason why P-Noy is focused on institutionalizing system reform. He aspires to effect meaningful and irreversible reforms that even a bad successor cannot undo.
Our being in the failed state syndrome makes it easier for a country like China to grab any part of our territory. China could easily inject provocateurs to set one Philippine faction to attack the other rival faction. They could promote the rise of their own elite just like what the US did.
Note how China respects Vietnam, a country that gave them a shameful drubbing over three decades ago. In February 1979, China invaded the northern provinces of Vietnam and more than 30,000 Chinese and Vietnamese perished in that war. The Chinese retreated back to their national boundary and licked their wounds. It wasn’t so much the military hardware that made the difference – but Vietnamese patriotism and valor.
If we didn’t form a vital cog in the perpetration of the American empire, we wouldn’t even have US support in our conflict with China. If ever the US will come to our defense, it will be to promote its national interest and not because they love us like their brown brothers. Without operating sites in the Philippines, the US will lose their offensive capability against China and will have to resort to a defensive posture – unthinkable for a superpower like the US.
Our mutual defense treaty is cited as the US entry point in the looming conflict with China. It’s only the official excuse but the real reason why the US is very much involved in our row with China is because they cannot protect their empire in the Pacific if they’re not operating from strategic Philippine sites. The gives an added incentive to China to bear down hard on us in the hope that they might get to neutralize a vital US offensive capability.
Shakespeare: “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”