Yes…and no.

The fact that you began in Tondo says a great deal. Very few Americans have even seen (much less lived) the kind of poverty found in Tondo. For those who read this, Google “Philippines Tondo Smoky Mountains” and you’ll see what I mean.

Very few Americans (yes, I’m white) have any clue as to what real poverty is. I’ve got a house (well, it’s in my wife’s name, but I still consider it mine) near the Sandiganbayan (the local version of the House of Representatives) in Quezon City, and when we’re there, we drive by it almost every day.

The point is, again, most Americans have no clue about *real* poverty.

But there’s another side to the coin. See in the article how many thousands have been killed in Duterte’s “war on drugs”? Yes, that’s tragic, just as tragic as what Lee Kwan Yew did in Singapore after they gained their independence from the U.K. Look at Singapore today — it’s the most modern city in the world.

What I’m getting to is this: our hearts rightfully break at the choices young mothers in Tondo must make, but by the same token, under Duterte the Philippines is in FAR better shape than it was before.

I know, I know, it’s fashionable to see Duterte as a tyrant, an uneducated lout. Many try to compare him with Trump, but Trump is a coward who doesn’t give a damn about anything but himself, whereas Duterte is NOT a coward, and does care deeply about his nation. Before Duterte took charge, the Pasig river that winds its way through Manila was full of trash (and the occasional body). I was just there earlier this year, and after crossing the Pasig several times, I saw not one piece of trash floating. This is something that was unthinkable before. Yes, one could give credit instead to Isko Moreno, the current mayor of Manila, but remember that there’s no way he could enforce his policies without support from Manacalang Palace.

My family there in Sampaloc — and yes, I consider them my family — speak wistfully of the days when Marcos was in charge, when it was safe for them to walk the streets at night. My daughter-in-law just said the same thing — she’s grateful for Duterte because now she can walk around in Manila and not worry so much about being mugged or raped.

The thing is this: which would you prefer? To live in a place where you are relatively free, but you always have to worry about walking the streets or even taking Jeepneys or tricycles in the daytime because you might be robbed or raped, or to live in a place where you know you’re safer, even though the government is too strong and does not always respect human rights?

Think about that if you’ve got a daughter there. Then the choice isn’t so easy.

Again, I look back to Lee Kwan Yew — he was a tyrant, but he was a benevolent tyrant. In Singapore in the 1970’s, Bugi Street was full of bars and prostitutes, the place to go for sailors on liberty (yes, I’m a retired sailor)…but now, Bugi Street has no streetwalkers but is chock-full of restaurants and souvenir stands and what have you. That’s what Duterte’s trying to do for the Philippines in general and Manila in particular. Yes, he’s being unfair and even tyrannical, but think back to how bad it got in the years after Marcos was deposed.

Don’t get me wrong — I despise tyranny (which is but one reason I despise Trump). But there really is such a thing as benevolent tyranny. You might think that’s a bad thing…unless you’ve got a daughter growing up in Manila.

P.S. I don’t have a daughter growing up in Manila, but I’ve got many nieces there.

Written by

Retired Navy. Inveterate contrarian. If I haven’t done it, I’ve usually done something close.

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