The Decline of the PH Oligarchy and American Legion Post 510’s Congressional Medal Ceremony

Dutertards swept the midterms. In retrospect, we should have seen it coming. Not a single opposition candidate won. Mindanao, a place where past politicians had historically gone to buy votes, now has a vested interest in the national government–a President who is one of them. With a quarter of the country’s population, it is no surprise that this feels like a sleeping giant has awakened.


In a way, the rise of camp Dutertard is similar to Trump’s victory in 2016.  The rule of the educated elite was pushed out by the disenfranchised portion of the population. Here in the US, the disenfranchised are those who had lost jobs and opportunity to globalism and the increased dominance of the educated class (who sit on both sides of the aisle). In the Philippines, the elite that ruled for 30 years preceding Duterte are the same elite who ruled during the pre-Marcos times. These are the same people who populated the rising Filipino businesses during P-Noy’s time. In 2016 and, again, just this week, they were disenfranchised by the population who did not participate in the economic boom of the last decade.


As a single group, the old Philippine oligarchy controlled important resources from sugar farms to utility companies to media to shipping. The preservation of wealth has varied from family to family but, in aggregate, their wealth and control over the country’s economic resources has been whittled away by the ascent of the Chinese Filipinos. Nor is that phenomenon not unjustified. In an effort by this elite to keep control over their resources, they hire within their group, intermarry, and remain suspicious of outsiders. They have failed to innovate at a global pace. It is no wonder, with this group’s inherent penchant for self-protection and exclusion, that other factions of Philippine society gained wealth at a much faster pace. One of the remaining strongholds of this ruling elite was its possession of political power (which outmatched the Chinese Filipinos). It was only a matter of time that the Chinese economic powers in the Philippines chose to patronize someone else.


It was not obvious that this would be the case when Duterte won in 2016. Three years later, it is much more clear—the prior political elite has been marginalized. In a way, this is their comeuppance. They lacked forethought and ignored the risks percolating beneath the surface. In a bigger way, it is a sad event for many people reading this paper. A Western facing Philippines is a place we Western Filipinos could enjoy. It is impossible to tell if a crazy strongman will remain in power for just another 3 years or if he uses his position to fortify power indefinitely. Only people who respect democracy deserve democracy. The Dutertards don’t stand for democracy, nor do they stand for any lofty ideas, not even anti-drug movements. They exist to consolidate their own power in a contest among factions. They did just that this week.


On another, happier, note, on May 25, the American Legion Post 510 will be holding a Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony at the San Francisco War Memorial Building, 401 Van Ness, in room 210. MG Antonio Taguba will be presenting several medals. The American Legion Post 510 Magdalena Leones Chapter received its charter last year. It is named after a Filipina who served as a guerilla, nurse and spy during World War II. For her service, Magdalena Leones received the Silver Star medal. The Post advocates for Filipino and American veterans.