We’re not advocating dictatorship.

I’d like to raise awareness, especially among Filipinos nowadays, both at home and abroad, in light of a seemingly budding dictator in their midst.

My aim is to make citizens of a potential dictator vigilant.

As Hillary Clinton urged graduates in her commencement speech last week at Wellesley College, her alma mater, “Speak up! Don’t sit in the sidelines.”

Mark van Vugt, a Ph.D. in psychology, together with science journalist Anjana Ahuja, wrote how a democratically elected leader elevates himself (do you know of any woman dictator yet...did you say at home? Lol.) into becoming a dictator.

They enumerated tips.

The authors cited Hitler, Mugabe, Putin and Erdogan, among others.

Of course, history tells us of other dictators like Stalin, Mao, Mussolini, Amin, Noriega and the native country’s Marcos.

Here are the steps and actions that aspiring dictators usually take for a prolonged iron rule:

1. Expand power base through nepotism and corruption.

(Sounds familiar. Surround the leader with loyalists who are ready to stand by him or even die for him. Control members of Congress by any means.)

2. Instigate a monopoly on the use of force to curb public protest.

(Examples are frequent visits of leader to army camps and appointments of retired military people in key government posts.)

3. Curry favor by providing public goods efficiently and generously.

(The authors cited the benevolent dictatorship of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew who turned Singapore into one of the world’s wealthiest countries [per capita]. Improving the local economy and starting big infrastructure projects that create lots of jobs. In real life experience, however, most dictatorships ended in disgrace and left their respective countries virtually bankrupt.)

4. Get rid of political enemies - The authors cited the following: “Zimbabwe’s Mobutu abandoned the unpopular practice of murdering political rivals and instead bribed them, with political office, for their support. Idi Amin, who came to power in Uganda after a military coup, stuck with the murderous route: During his eight years at the top, he is estimated to have killed between 80,000 and 300,000 people. His victims included cabinet ministers, judicial figures, bankers, intellectuals, journalists and a former prime minister. At the lower end of the scale, that’s a hit rate of 27 executions a day.”

(To add, file charges, authentic or made-up, with the goal of putting those political enemies and critics in jail.)

5. Create or defeat a common enemy.

Dictators feed on wars and other external threats because these justify their existence - swift military action requires a central command-and-control structure.

(Declaration of martial law is a common recourse.)

To attract support, the ruler must be perceived as a defender, not a warmonger.

This happened to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher after Argentina.

6. Accumulate power by manipulating the hearts and minds of citizens.

The authors wrote, “One of the first actions of any aspiring dictator should be to control the free flow of information, because it plugs a potential channel of criticism.

“Turn the media into a propaganda machine for your regime like Hitler did and Erdogan does now. Other leaders, such as Myanmar’s ruling junta, shut down media outlets completely. Democratically elected leaders are somewhat more restrained, but if they have enough powers they can rig an election or do away with meddlesome journalists (like Vladimir Putin’s Russia) or, if money is no object, build their own media empire. Control the media or, even better, own the media. It’s as simple as that.”

In Manila, the occasional portrayal of legitimate media as bad.

Also, the threat to ABS-CBN not to renew its franchise and to file charges against it are manifestations of a seeming dictatorial tendency.

7. Create an ideology to justify an exalted position.

Throughout history, leaders have used or, in some cases, invented an ideology to legitimize their power.

In the case of the Philippines today, if President Rodrigo Duterte is an aspiring dictator as observed by some, he might adopt Communist China’s ideology as he has manifested in his decisions and policy statements.


Perhaps, the following quotes are relevant these days, especially to Filipinos everywhere, who will observe on June 12, the Philippines’ 119th Independence Day.

Lord Acton: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Corruption by wielding power does not relate to monetary matters alone, but also to mental corruption.

When one says he owns Malacañang and jokes in taking responsibility for rape, and will not listen to the Supreme Court and Congress, those in our view, are examples of mental corruption due to power unfit for president of a nation.

George Lucas of "Star Wars": “Power corrupts, and when you’re in charge, you start doing things that you think are right, but they’re actually not.”

(And saying things out of the normal.)




Happy Birthday to the tita ng bayan...Tita Lumen Castaneda (pictured above) of Jersey City, N.J.

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