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bureaucrat capitalism

Portrait of a bureaucrat capitalist: Duterte

in Countercurrent

As president, Rodrigo R. Duterte is the current chief of bureaucrat capitalists in the Philippines.

The award for being the chief is immense. More than having the biggest pork of all, he commands all the state armed forces and the direction of patronage politics. He has first dibs on every bone thrown him by his imperialist masters. Early into his presidency, Duterte’s own SALN (statement of assets, liabilities and net worth) revealed his wealth had grown far beyond his income as city mayor before he became president. Despite his continued posturing against corruption, he would not tolerate any probe into his bank accounts and his SALN.

Yet, Filipinos were not born yesterday. Duterte may be crude and vulgar and a mere mayor for three decades before suddenly ascending to the presidency, but he is cut from the same mold of government leaders who use their positions to amass wealth and power. He idolizes and vows to emulate the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who was notoriously known for plunder, puppetry, cronyism, and tyranny.

One of Duterte’s earlier “achievements” during his term was helping former chiefs of bureaucrat capitalists such as Ferdinand Marcos and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to evade punishments for corruption and war crimes. The Marcoses made leaps in rehabilitating themselves during his presidency when Duterte allowed the burial of the remains of the late dictator at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. Decades-long graft and corruption charges filed against the Marcos heirs and beneficiaries were dismissed. Also, Macapagal-Arroyo was swiftly freed from jail and plunder charges even before Duterte warmed his seat as president.

Under Duterte, the Philippines dropped in worldwide ranking on transparency and fighting corruption. Surveys unearthed complaints that bribery to facilitate government transactions and contracts remain standard operating procedure. He coddled and recycled his appointees when they were caught in scandals.

To this day, there is no closure yet to revelations of mafia-like corruption in Philhealth, Department of Public Works and Highways, Bureau of Correction, Bureau of Customs, Department of Transportation, Department of Information and Communication, to name a few. Worse, these and other departments continue to get larger and juicier pork-laden budget. Every budget season, the Filipino people witnessed spectacles in Congress as Duterte mediated between allies in their competition on who gets how much and how soon in pork barrel insertions.

While bullying certain oligarchs, Duterte favored his cronies through behest loans and investments and getting preferential treatment for their contracts and businesses. One of the conspicuous examples is the case of Dennis Uy, a rumored bagman/dummy of Duterte.

Going by the standard modus operandi of bureaucrat capitalists, namely grabbing “SOP,” “tongpats,” and commissions in contracts and purchases, Duterte and his cohorts have had ample chances to line their pockets. He has a massive infrastructure project called “Build Build Build” or BBB worth trillions of pesos. The few things that limit their greed here are (1) public protests by the affected communities, and (2) his own cohort’s poor planning and execution that led to shelving and revising items in his list of projects.

Aside from BBB, his war-and-profit rule with military generals ramped up the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Modernization Program. This involves barely audited intelligence and confidential funds; and billions of pesos worth of procurement of warships, warplanes and helicopters, drones, missiles, guns, and other war materiel.

Even the natural and man-made disasters have proved to be opportunities for corruption and power expansion for the bureaucrat capitalists such as the disposition of donation, calamity funds, and stimulus funds. In the case of current coronavirus pandemic, there are the questionable purchases of medical supplies, vaccines, the sudden explosion in foreign loans ostensibly for fighting the Covid- 19 pandemic. [Read: Duterte piling up more ways to score (and hide) more loot]

Last but not the least as source of wealth goes: Duterte’s encouragement/protection of gambling (as evidenced by the deluge of Chinese-operated POGOs or the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators), and his supposed war on drugs that is widely believed as a way to consolidate his drug overlord status in cahoots with the Chinese triad.

Being the topmost government official has proved highly profitable to Duterte and his clique. Using government power, he and his family, his cronies and his druglordship, have expanded in power and wealth.

And so, like the presidents before him, he has been trying hard to cling to his post. There is the term extension through charter change being railroaded in Congress. There is the push intermittently aired by a puny number of “mass supporters” for a “revolutionary government” with Duterte as the head. There is Duterte’s stab at growing his political dynasty, with his adult children led by current Davao City mayor Sara Duterte being urged to run in the 2022 presidential elections. Worst of all, there is his intensifying tyranny as his government tries to implement Martial Law nationwide under various guises.

For all these, what have the people got in the bargain?

In deeper poverty and crisis

Toward the people, Duterte can only renege on his campaign promises and do the opposite of his pretend commitments. It is not in the nature of bureaucrat capitalists to desist from enriching themselves and propping up the semifeudal and semicolonial system. But it is in their nature to lie and justify it in the name of mythical peace and order and economic development. Historically, chief bureaucrat capitalists such as Duterte are only forced to “moderate their greed” in the face of heightened public disgust and ouster calls, or when their term ends despite their efforts to extend it. Due to the ensuing crisis generated by their rule, the people are simply forced to fight back.

Duterte’s rule has worsened the chronic crisis in Philippine society because he did not introduce changes but merely continued the policies that have brought the economy and the people in protracted underdevelopment.

Duterte unilaterally laid waste previous painstaking efforts in peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines to craft agreements on social and economic reforms, which include doable free land distribution, agrarian reform, developing the countryside, and paving the way to national industrialization. The Duterte regime’s abandonment of peace negotiations in 2017 — when the parties were about to sign an agreement on land reform and rural development and on national industrialization and economic development – starkly showed they were not really serious about these reforms.

Instead, Duterte shamelessly bragged about selling even the ancestral domains of the indigenous peoples (IP) to foreign investors. He retained the bogus Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) and helped big landlords and local and foreign capitalists expand their land monopoly control.

Thus, haciendas, vast private landholdings, plantations, mining areas have continued and even expanded during his term. Peasants and IPs have been deemed as “enemies of the state” because they rightfully defend their rights over the lands they’ve tilled and forests they’ve guarded as ancestral domain for generations.

As Duterte collaborates with local compradors and landlords—tying down the country to businesses and geopolitics of imperialists—the Philippines remains backward and pre-industrial. Duterte’s neoliberal economic policies prioritize extractive industries such as mining and logging, agri-plantations for cheap raw materials and labor-intensive and graft-laden “Build, Build, Build” projects.

Duterte has deepened the country’s import-dependence. His regime liberalized the entry even of the Filipinos’ staples such as rice and fish products. After the enactment of a Rice Liberalization Law, imported rice flooded the market and sped up the bankruptcy of around three million long-neglected rice producers. Under Duterte, agriculture has recorded no growth since 2018. It went negative in 2020, worsened by his epic failure of coronavirus pandemic response. Pork and chicken production also went down, as did fish production and catch.

Given that majority of the population remain as poor peasants and oddjobbers, they can barely get by, let alone have savings. In sourcing investments, puppet presidents such as Duterte extol foreign direct investments (FDI) at the expense of local workers, the environment and the development of the country’s own industries. As of this writing, Duterte’s minions in Congress are trying again to railroad the passage of charter change. They harp on “developing the economy” by further opening it up to foreign investments. But, their claims have repeatedly been proven wrong.

Non-government research group IBON said key Philippine sectors have actually been shrinking in relative terms as FDIs into the country increased. Despite the tripling in foreign direct investments from 2000-2004 annual average of US$286 million to US4728 million in 2015-2019, manufacturing’s share in gross domestic product has fallen, as do the sector’s share in employment.

Toward the final months of Duterte’s term, the number of employed Filipinos is even less than when he started as president in 2016.

For the worst economic collapse in history in 2020, Duterte can’t even cite the pandemic as an excuse; (ridiculously, his spokesperson even bragged that his administration has handled the pandemic “excellently”). Jobs generation and whatever growth rate recorded were already decreasing yearly before the pandemic. The worse it gets with the heightened implementation of neoliberal policies, which also shrink protection and government spending on people, the uglier the economy gets and the more people are driven to protest.

This persistent underdevelopment traces its roots to the semifeudal ruling system of oppression and exploitation, perpetuated by the imperialists and their domestic collaborators. This system has generates both armed and unarmed resistance.

US-#Duterterrorism in a dirty war against the people

Of all post-Edsa regimes, Duterte is the most brazen at breaking the taboo on reimposing Martial Law and praising Marcos despite the latter’s brutal dictatorship and kleptocracy.

Duterte had been obviously itching to declare Martial Law nationwide and he was crude enough to try. But the struggle and consciousness of the Filipino people is already at a state that despite his bloodthirstiness, Duterte can formally impose Martial Law only in a limited way.
After devastating Marawi, the Duterte regime sowed terror on Mindanao by imposing martial law allegedly to “suppress terrorism.”

“On the pretext of a ‘rebellion’, the Duterte regime staged a brutal 147-day siege of Marawi City in a US-directed war that displaced and wreaked havoc on at least 500,000 of its civilian residents and nearby towns,” said Ka Oris, spokesperson of New People’s Army-National Operation Command.

Then it came up with Memo 32 also to sow terror in Negros, Eastern Visayas, and Bicol. Then it issued Executive Order No. 70 to nationalize a scheme to impose a military junta. The NPA’s Ka Oris said EO 70 places the entire government machinery with its resources “at the behest of Duterte and his military gang junta for their whole-of-nation terrorism.”

EO 70 created the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

“EO 70 is an integral part of the military Operational Plan (Oplan) Kapanatagan that has been terrorizing and wreaking havoc on communities through sustained military occupation and operations; indiscriminate aerial and artillery bombardment of villages, assassinations of civilians (lumad leaders, peasant activists, trade unionists, professionals such as lawyers, doctors, teachers, even local government officials); illegal arrest, detention and torture of suspected supporters/sympathizers off the New People’s Army; witch-hunting or red-tagging of churches, organizations and mass leaders, and other forms of human rights violations,” said Fidel V. Agcaoili, the late NDFP peace panel chairperson, in a statement released February 5 last year.

Having focused the AFP operations against the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army, Duterte promised to “annihilate” and “render irrelevant” the revolutionary movement by the end of 2018—a promise made by all his predecessors through all their respective ‘counterinsurgency’ Oplans but failed. Duterte has already failed to meet his self-imposed deadline and extended the target deadline to mid-2019, then the end of 2019, to the end of 2020, and, recently, until the end of his term on 2022.

In pursuing all these martial law-type operations, Duterte and his military generals have relied on the US-supported fascist machinery — the AFP and the PNP—that had been built up, strengthened, and politicized under the Marcos dictatorship.

“Not only were the state armed forces and police not reformed, their brutal and repressive orientation was further heightened, especially with US indoctrination, training and support. Fascist crimes and rights abuses remain unabated,” as the CPP said in a statement marking the 35th year of Edsa uprising this year.

With Duterte’s EO 70, the AFP generals and police commanders have grown even more addicted to war-and-profit. It is now no longer just pabaon (send off) system or the PAMANA (Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan) program as milking cows under previous presidents. Nowadays they have their own pork barrel (starting from the P19-billion budget of the NTF-ELCAC), of which P16-billions is supposedly for so-called Barangay Development Programs.

Under the rubric of “localized peace engagements” and the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP), the NTF-ELCAC “has been devising all sorts of money-making schemes to line the pockets of military and police commanders and local bureaucrats,” said a statement from the NDFP negotiating panel.

Among others, the NDFP said, the following are some of NTF-ELCAC’s money-making schemes:

  • buying off (with kickbacks) city and municipal councils into declaring the NPA “persona-non-grata” in their areas;
  • manufacturing fake surrenderers and alleged surrenderers of Alde Salusad, a military agent who killed anti-mining activist Datu Jimmy Liguyon;
  • appointing paramilitary groups such as the Alamara and “New Indigenous People’s Army (NIPAR)” to local councils that extend permit fees to mining and logging companies as well as multinational agribusiness
  • renegotiating a bigger amount of “settlement” with the previously surrendered and paid Rebolusyonaryong Partidong Manggagawa ng Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade–Tabara Paduano Group in a new agreement called Clarificatory Implementing Document.

“The war-and-profit-addicted generals of the AFP are the biggest stumbling blocks to peace and national unity,” said Marco L. Valbuena, Information Officer of the CPP, in a statement on December 8 last year.

Even after the Covid-19 pandemic hit the Philippines in early 2020, the AFP launched a nationwide offensive against the people and NPA. Duterte and his generals ordered their troops to intensify armed operations and bombings even in areas devastated by calamities and government neglect, as well as to the continuing restrictions and clampdown imposed on the pretext of pandemic response. The offensives were carried out at a time when a ceasefire was in place, through the regime’s unilateral declaration and the CPP-NPA’s own declaration in response to the call of the United Nations for global cessation of hostilities.

On top of all of these, the Duterte regime railroaded the passage of Anti-Terror Act in 2020 while the people were hard-pressed with the lockdowns imposed in response to the pandemic.

Ka Oris said that if #Duterterrorism’s twisted logic is to be applied, anyone who dares to air protest or grievance against the regime is automatically red-tagged as a “communist terrorist” or “supporter of communist terrorists,” such as in the cases of celebrities Liza Soberano, Angel Locsin, and Catriona Grey.

Little wonder then that the Anti-Terrorism Act has become the most questioned law before the Supreme Court, with 37 petitions filed calling for its nullification.

Even as Duterte intensified the conduct of dirty war on all fronts, misusing the people’s taxes, he has apparently only succeeded in rousing more people to defy and fight #Duterterrorism and wage armed and non-armed resistance. Instead of intimidating and scaring the people, the Anti-Terror Law has resulted in the growth in strength of a looming anti-Duterte broad united front.

Duterte’s worse puppetry to the US and China

Duterte had made much of his pretend “independent foreign policy” but in truth he is both puppet of the imperialists US and China.

China, to Duterte, sates his greed for money through his BBB centerpiece program, in which overpriced contracts and high interest loans are opportunities for kickbacks; and also for expanding drug trade and distribution with his partner, the Chinese triads.

Despite Duterte’s previous posturing that made it appear he’s critical of the US, the “special relationship” actually remains. He has surrounded himself with pro-US officials and generals used to favoring US policies, be it economic or military. Joint military exercises continue to be scheduled and held. Duterte is abiding by his commitment to the US.

Duterte has never questioned the unequal military agreements, the Military Assistance Agreement (MAA), the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) and Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). This February, Duterte finally put an end to his pretense of reviewing and putting an end to the VFA. He declared without an ounce of shame that the US is free to bring its military troops to the Philippines under the VFA, provided they pay with arms and war materiel.

All these bind the country’s foreign policy to that of the US, making it untrue to describe the Philippines as truly independent. The US remains dominant over the Philippine economy, politics, culture and security. Duterte has to assure the pro-US military and police officers whose loyalty he needed to keep himself in power.

“Duterte is treating the Philippine sovereignty like a commodity,” said the CPP in an editorial published in Ang Bayan on February 21.

The US military is already using again its former Subic Naval Base in Zambales and a new base in Palawan. During the Marawi siege the US reportedly had troops and facilities in Camp Ranao. It has an agreement with the AFP to use or co-locate its own facilities in other AFP military camps.

In 2017, Duterte promised then US President Trump he would terminate the peace negotiations with the NDFP, that he would crush the armed revolutionary movement and push charter change to allow foreign capitalists to fully own landholdings, businesses and other resources in the Philippines. Later that same year, the previous “war-on-terror” bilateral arrangement in Mindanao, led by the US that considered the country a second front of such war, established the “Operation Pacific Eagle–Philippines.”

Yearly, the Philippines has been the top recipient of US military aid in the Indo-Pacific. The government also receive some of the discarded but “refurbished” US war ships and planes, such as the Hamilton-class cutters soon to be downgraded by the Philippine Navy and some attack helicopters used in Afghanistan now with the Philippine Air Force. Exchange of information and training continue to be held to foster the interoperability of AFP and US troops.

Duterte’s smooching with China helped him score funding for his cronies’ BBB projects and loans and investments for his favored compradors. Ang Bayan noted that even as China’s committed loans have yet to reach Duterte, he has already looked the other way and did nothing to stop China’s construction of military facilities in seven artificial islands within the Philippines’ territorial waters.

The Philippines is now in a tighter squeeze between two geopolitical rival powers, no thanks to puppet Duterte.

Duterte knew of the rivalry between the imperialists US and China. When he asked for more guns and bombs from the US in exchange for allowing its military basing here, he justified it saying that anyway, a conflict between China and US will arise in South China Sea and the Philippines will be dragged in it.

Newly installed US President Joe Biden has agreed to sell the Philippines arms and war materiel, disregarding mounting calls both in the US and in the Philippines for the US to stop the aid to the tyrannical and human rights violator that is Duterte. The CPP said Biden seeks to bolster US control of the neocolonial Philippine state, in part, through the AFP. It is part of US plans to be more aggressive at defending its economic and geopolitical interests in the face of growing competition from China. As such, it is doing what it could to ensure the support and loyalty of its obeisant ally in the Philippines.

Duterte’s ending term

Months into the end of his term, Duterte appears almost like a resurrected Marcos, or may be worse. His ambition could be high but the span of his reach is limited by the severity of the crisis of the semicolonial-semifeudal system and the persistence of the people’s resistance to his increasingly fascist tyranny.

He is not any less and may even be worse of a butcher-in-chief than his idol Marcos. His rule at barely five years has already killed tens of thousands and jailed hundreds of political prisoners and “drug addicts” and now, “terrorists”. In so short a time he’s become notorious internationally for human rights violations and death squads; and of late, as one of the worse performing presidents in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Emulating Marcos, he has dared to formalize the imposition of martial law through various executive orders and new repressive laws. He is now approaching the end of his term fearing trials for war crimes and rights violations. At that time, like Marcos and Macapagal-Arroyo, he can only hope to be saved from jail time by his fellow former chiefs of bureaucrat capitalists or through succession of his trusted allies or family members.

He has launched with much fanfare a long list of grand BBB infrastructure projects. He has pretentiously laid claim to the recycled neoliberal policies in the semifeudal setting as “Dutertenomics.” But, he failed to even come up with pretend development showcase. All significant data reveal the people’s worsening poverty and underdevelopment. Marcos and even other post-Edsa US imperialist puppets at least had a few years of uptrending statistics.

Duterte had boastfully shopped for new or made-to-order warships, assault helicopters, warplanes, missiles. But what has he got to show for it? The AFP still doesn’t have a minimum credible defense posture to sail or fly in the contested South China Sea. His vaunted independent foreign policy was revealed as a mere ploy to try to secure more benefits. In the end, what he received were far, far short of what were promised him, whether from China or the US, even when he has practically sold off Philippine sovereignty to both imperialist powers.

What the AFP continues to gain is a seemingly upgraded ability to launch a costly, dirty focused counterinsurgency operations that have indiscriminately harmed the people. But this for him is self-defeating, said CPP Information Officer Marco Valbuena. For every bomb dropped and artillery shelled, he and the military stoked mass fury and caused more armed revolutionaries to arise.

As such, Duterte’s self-imposed deadline to crush the armed revolution has degenerated into a semestral, renewable fantasy. In this failure, he truly takes after his idol Marcos. ###

The Anti-Corruption Hypocrisy

in Editorial

Sometime in September, amid the coronavirus pandemic, a gargantuan corruption scandal of fund mismanagement and overpricing shook up the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation or PhilHealth, the agency tasked with helping finance Covid-19 testing and treatment in the country. Illegal or invalid fund releases were placed at P14.9 billion.

Looking back since 2003, however, fraudulent transactions have altogether cost PhilHealth P154 billion, putting it on the brink of financial collapse.

Too big was the scandal to gloss over that the Senate had to recommend the filing of corruption charges against the agency’s senior officials, including Health Secretary Francisco Duque III who sits as ex-officio chairperson of the PhilHealth Board.

Forced to respond to the scandal, President Rodrigo Duterte announced – as he was wont to – the forming of a multi-agency task force. Designating the Department of Justice Secretary as head, he ordered the task force to investigate not only corruption in PhilHealth but in the entire government, starting with the other corrupt-ridden Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

And for the nth time, Duterte vowed that he would focus on his anti-corruption drive in the last two years of his term expiring on June 30, 2022.

This empty boast came after Transparency International disclosed that the Philippines had fallen 18 rungs toward the bottom of the Corruption Index under Duterte’s watch, placing the country at 113 on par with Kazakhstan and Zambia.

But on the heels of his order to investigate, Duterte practically cleared Secretary Duque of any misconduct by publicly stating, “For the life of me I cannot really find a good reason to prosecute an innocent man.” He thus ignored the widely resonating call for Duque’s resignation as Health Secretary, even as there was evident conflict of interest on his part. That sparked outcries about tolerance of massive corruption emanating from the topmost seat of government.

Similarly, while hitting at corruption in the DPWH, Duterte has been vocal about his trust and confidence in the agency’s head, Secretary Mark Villar. “Si Villar mayaman na ‘yan. si Sec Villar maraming pera hindi na kailangang mangurakot,” he said, heaping the blame for deep-seated corruption on officials below Villar. “Ang problema sa baba… mga projects sa baba ‘yun ang laro d’yan.”

The oversimplified logic won’t hold water. Greed has no limit. The rich, powerful local elites enter government for private gain. This is nothing new. The difference between then and now is that no president had been as brazen and arrogant as Duterte in defending and protecting his corrupt cabal.

CPP Founding Chairman Jose Maria Sison has observed: “The corruption of the Duterte ruling clique is as gargantuan as its use of state terrorism. It includes enormous amounts of overpricing the military and civil purchases by government agencies, intelligence and discretionary funds beyond COA auditing, cuts in all kinds of contracts between government and the private sector, grabbing enterprises from opponents, reclamation projects, drug smuggling and casino operations.”

A case in point is the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). Created in 2018, it had a budget of P1.7 billion in 2020, but this was raised to a huge P19.13 billion for 2021. Even as the regime has been bragging that the CPP-NPA-NDF is already a “spent force”, Duterte and his military clique have designated the revolutionary organization as a “terrorist” organization to justify a larger share of the national budget and to employ more draconian measures that curtail civil liberties and grossly violate human rights.

With the other massive resources at his command, Duterte and his clique have become more prone to indulge in corruption.

Just how much wealth Duterte has personally gained since he assumed office remains a secret. In fact, attempts by media groups, particularly the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), to look into Duterte’s 2018 and 2019 SALN (Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Networth) have proved to be futile: blocked by the Office of the President, and by the supposedly independent Office of the Ombudsman, under his appointee. Under previous adminstrations, in the past 30 years, the Ombudsman had made available the SALN of the president and other government officials.

PCIJ has noted that based on Duterte’s 2017 SALN, the last to have been made public, his wealth increased from just about P1 million in 1998 to nearly P29 million in 2017. “Big spikes” were also seen in the wealth of Duterte’s children, Sara and Paolo Duterte, based on their SALNs. Duterte’s retort: “What we earned outside is none of your business actually.”

So there! It would not be surprising if Duterte follows after Marcos, not just in the annals of dictatorship but also of kleptocracy. Duterte’s famous line in the beginning of his term – not even a “whiff of corruption” – is all hot air, hypocrisy. The betrayal of public trust, shamelessly flaunted under every administration, will continue for as long as power resides in the hands of the ruling elite.###

The scourge of bureaucrat capitalism

in Editorial

Through the years, the Filipino people complained of and protested against corruption in government. Every administration, without doubt and without exception, has been weighed down by corruption cases from the lowest to the highest level of public office. The only difference is in the amount of wealth and power amassed by those in position.

Corruption and bureaucrat capitalism is commonly understood as one, though the latter is more than that. Bureaucrat capitalism is the use of high public office to enrich oneself. In a way, it is a form of capitalism—with high public officials using their power and control of the government bureaucracy and enterprises, access to public funds, and the use of the country’s resources as capital.

The big compradors in public office—the highest and most powerful bureaucrat capitalists in Philippine society—include the president and some cabinet members. These high public officials collaborate with their cronies—family and friends—in the private sector or those called big compradors. They form or become part of the ruling clique, with the President emerging as the chief among all (see article Duterte: The worst ever).

In his lecture on the “Basic Problems of Filipino People” Prof. Jose Maria Sison explained, “They (families and cronies) personally benefit from the grant of concessions to exploiters of natural resources in the public domain, alienation of public land, franchises for the operation of public utilities, contracts in infrastructure building and related speculation in real estate, purchase contracts of the government, loans from state banks and insurance systems, endless perks and privileges through multiple positions and directorships in fund-rich government corporations.”

Prof. Jose Maria Sison corrected the notion that former dictator Ferdinand Marcos used his political power to industrialize the country. On the contrary, Prof. Sison explained, “all the enterprises that he (Marcos) and his cronies grabbed or built were big comprador enterprises dependent on imported equipment, construction materials, components and consumer manufactures as well as agricultural production and mining for export.”

Changing the president and the people around him does not end corruption and bureaucrat capitalism. Bureaucrat capitalism persisted even after the 1986 people power uprising, nor will it end with Duterte. Bureaucrat capitalism is undoubtedly one of the three basic problems in Philippine society, explicitly tied to feudalism and imperialism. The reality is that bureaucrat capitalism is so ingrained in the rotten system of semicolonial and semifeudal Philippines that no less than a people’s revolution could bring it down and effect real change in society.

Historical roots

Historically and currently bureaucrat capitalism has become a scourge of the Filipino people.

When the Philippines was still a colony of the US it needed reliable allies to advance its interests in the country. So bureaucrat capitalism is practically a handiwork of imperialist US. It found them among the principalia (local elite) of the old Spanish rule. The US colonial government made them pensionados while being “trained on governance” to lead the neo-colonial State. The US was then preparing to grant bogus independence to the Philippines and needed loyal docile puppets of the US. In exchange, the US showered them with favours, such as loans to the reactionary government and investments. It also trained and enhanced the arms and equipment of the reactionary armed forces and assured the reigning regime of support for as long as it was not a liability to the US.

What arose was a bureaucracy represented by big bourgeois compradors and landlords. They managed to rise to power through bogus electoral exercises where money, goons, guns, and influence by the US were decisive.

Obviously, up until today the government is run like a personal business enterprise. They use the machinery and resources of government for their political aggrandizement and economic interests. They extend the benefit to their relatives and friends under their political patronage. All these are at the expense of the people, who dutifully pay their taxes and other exactions for licenses/permits, services, etc.

Corruption and plunder

Graft, corruption, and plunder are among the obvious features of bureaucrat capitalism, swallowing up the whole government bureaucracy. Bribery is a norm. For every law, executive order or decision, including those of the courts, big sums of money lead to the pockets of corrupt officials. Allotting a large percentage of funds for public works for corruption is considered SOP (standard operating procedure). Many of these SOP are established part of the bureaucracy and strengthened by law.

Political patronage is very much ingrained, especially in public works projects. Relatives and friends of government officials bag hefty projects for considerable profit. Corrupt bureaucrats enact laws and implement projects and programs for the benefit of their crony-bourgeois compradors/landlords. These include land reform laws and building of roads, seaports, airports, dams and bridges. These cronies enjoy and served as dummies of bureaucrats for mining concessions and business corporations. They also corner huge public lands that they turn into subdivisions, condominiums and malls.

Lawmakers appropriate for themselves huge amount of funds from the government budget, for example the Priority Development and Assistance Fund (PDAF), a discretionary fund no different from the old “pork barrel.” They just keep on changing its name to deodorize it and deceive the people. The revelation by a whistle blower of the Janet Lim Napoles’ ghost projects funded by the PDAF and the list of legislators who shared from the loot had opened a stinking “pandora’s box”. This disgraceful and contemptible plunder of billions of pesos of the people’s money had exposed Congress and outraged a nation. Yet, years after, the plunderers went “scot-free” and even ran for public office again.

Bureaucrat capitalists also gain from government debts, dollar allocation, price control, import-export control, illegal entries and naturalization of foreign nationals, concessions in mines, ranches, timberland, stock market manipulation, disaster relief and rehabilitation funds. They engage in money laundering and stash their loot in Swiss or other foreign banks.

These bureaucrats are leeches who suck out the lifeblood of even the poorest and marginalized sectors of society. They grab the land from settlers, as well as the ancestral domain of indigenous people, through manipulation of registry and titles.

Under the current system in the Philippines, graft and corruption will persist.

Prof. Sison elaborated, “(the) acts of graft and corruption involving the violation or circumvention of the law or even the legalization of what is illegal and immoral can be restrained to some extent and within a certain period by criticisms from the opposition party that has loyalty to the ruling system and expects to take its own turn at engaging in graft and corruption. But very often, the competing factions of government officials can compromise among themselves and take their shares of the bureaucratic loot at the expense of the people. Even the biggest plunderers already convicted and in prison know how to pay for their freedom and proceed to gain more power and wealth.”

Involvement in criminal activities

Still, with insatiable greed, bureaucrat capitalists engage in illegal and criminal activities such as smuggling, drug trade, gambling, kidnapping for ransom, bank robbery, prostitution, gun-for-hire, etc., in collusion with criminal syndicates, drug lords and gambling operators. They are either directly involved or served as protectors of these criminal activities, the proceeds from which, glut their coffers to the brim as these are one of the biggest sources of their income. In fact they are accountable for the proliferation of criminality and anti-social activities as well as the spread of immorality in the country.


Puppetry and treachery

As puppets of the US, bureaucrat capitalists have served their masters well. Unequal and oppressive agreements and treaties, such as the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) were like prize trophies. These agreements give the imperialist US the right to continue its control and exploitation of the Filipino people.

In addition there are also grant of incentives and privileges, mining concessions, and land use for plantations. Economic zones for foreign business enterprises are allowed to take advantage of cheap Filipino labor. This is apart from existing oppressive labor laws—contractualization of labor and restrictions to union organizing and strike—as incentive to both foreign and big bourgeois compradors’ businesses. Adherence to the imperialist neoliberal policies of liberalization (retail, finance, etc.), privatization (strategic utilities such as water and power) and deregulation (especially of the oil industry) practically and permanently nailed the people on the cross. Prices of commodities and services skyrocketed and local investors lost their business or opportunities.

Apart from the US, another imperialist master is being served. National patrimony is also being surrendered to China. Government’s inaction is as clear as day on China’s encroachment in the West Philippine Sea (WPS). This despite the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in favour of the Philippines’s claim to WPS as a Philippine Economic Zone and that China has no historical rights to it.


“Bureaucrat capitalism is the basis of local fascism,” stated Prof. Sison.

“More than any other section of the capitalist class they (bureaucrat capitalists) are in the best position to take initiative in acquiring despotic powers in fascist dictatorship in order to protect the wealth that they have already accumulated and to increase it further through the exercise of said powers,” he expounded.

Employing the dual tactics of terror and deception is a means to hold on to power and reinforce their rule.

Bureaucrat capitalists make use of the fraud election process to show a semblance of democracy as well as to earn legitimacy for their rule.

Likewise, by controlling the education system and the dominant mass media, they spread erroneous ideas about freedom, human rights, development and good life. They advance the idea that change emanates from within, with the person’s discipline and lofty ambitions, such that self-love is foremost. They divorce the individual from society. Marcos the dictator, during his time, even popularized the call “revolution is in the heart.” Bureaucrat capitalists impress the ideas of subservience and veneration to the ruling class and its imperialist masters. On the other hand, they continue to disparage the revolutionary movement and keep the people away from the revolutionary path.

To conceal their dubious intent, bureaucrat capitalists deluge the people with reformist ideas such as profit sharing, federalism, charter change, human security. They would appropriate public service projects in their names, e.g. Malasakit Centers that are well-funded while public hospitals and health centers have inadequate medicines and facilities and far-flung barrios completely neglected of, even just, primary health care.

However, when challenged, bureaucract capitalists resort to fascism in all its brutal forms as the masses dissent, act and advance their own struggles. This is the ultimate defense to shield themselves and their imperialist benefactors, their power and wealth, from the people’s wrath. In so doing, they bolster the repressive instruments of the reactionary State (the military army, the police, courts, jails and laws) to wield them against their adversaries.

For its part, the US beefs up the capacity of the reactionary army and police through training, provision of arms and equipment, and use of drones for surveillance and attacks. Likewise, the Philippine military operational plans are patterned after the US Counter-Insurgency (COIN) Guide. It is not surprising how assiduously the police would protect the US Embassy, and how violent and vicious were the dispersal of peaceful demonstrations and rallies held there.

The reactionary government turns rabid when the dissent is growing and the people’s revolution is advancing. It unleashes its most violent and brutal attacks not only on the Red fighters but also on progressives, activists, as well as innocent civilians. It passes laws or uses and twists existing ones to carry out, with impunity, raids, arrests, harassments, intimidation and extrajudicial killings.

Fascism is not a sign of the reactionary government’s strength. It is a manifestation of its weakening power and waning hope. Fascism intensifies in a desperate bid to stem the masses’ unrest and the surge of the people’s democratic revolution.

The bureaucrat capitalists have never learned their lesson. The people united will never be defeated. Ultimately, bureaucrat capitalism shall be swept in the tide of the people’s revolutionary fervor as the reactionary state is overthrown and the people’s democratic government shall rise in its stead. ###

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