What Kind of Leadership Could Bring Social Justice to the Philippines?


We Filipinos face, at this juncture in our socio-political evolution as a people, some of the following nagging questions about justice.

  • What and where is justice if those who are supposed to uphold, administer and render justice where it is due have miserably bungled justice and made a mockery of it?
  • Who are the credible and respectable dispensers of justice, when the government’s stronghold of justice has collapsed and disintegrated into smithereens?
  • What if the “authorized” lawmakers and definers of justice have made the very concept—and hence the spirit—of justice equivocal?
  • What if the most genuine definition of justice is best understood in rational terms and held morally sacred by the people themselves?
  • Are we not confident that a nation’s people is more intelligent, rational, creative, moral and decisive than the so-called ¨legal luminaries¨ who have turned the trek towards justice into a Herculean struggle?
  • Do we underestimate those organic intellectuals (cf. Antonio Gramsci) among the people?
  • Do Filipinos lack the discipline to adhere to strong principles and the sense of justice to make these principles pragmatic in daily life?


To deal with matters as complicated as these requires a sober focus on the issue that does not center only on the Filipino per se. There are certain socio-political forces that operate along the way on the whole gamut of the Philippine condition, and these forces have been internalized in the Filipino cultural apparatus through time. Basic to all these is the long-running economic disempowerment to which the common Filipino has been subjected for generations. In this consideration, we should also look at how systemic violence has plagued the Filipino. If we don’t get into the nitty-gritty of this matter, there is a real possibility that any superficial look into the Philippine situation would lead us to inaccurate conclusions.

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It is more appropriate at this point to analyze and evaluate the Filipino attitude towards discipline and justice in light of a more general consideration of her/his personhood as well as her/his concrete socio-cultural location. This is the fair way to evaluate the Filipino’s human dignity. In simple terms, we say that we cannot reasonably deal with the matter by abstracting the person from the place. As a case in point: the Filipino who operates in a better socio-cultural milieu is responsible, disciplined and has a more defined sense of justice. This reality has been proven time and again when s/he finds employment or a place of residence in another society that is culturally more advanced in its social evolution.


Returning to our examination of the “evil” forces that have driven the Filipino to a life where discipline and justice are wanting and non-operational, we find along the way the real significance of accepting the fact that liberation is not only personal but systemic. Who will take the vanguard and lead the way to systemic liberation? This brings us to a discussion of the issue of leadership triggered by the question: can leadership come from the masses?


Leadership can emanate from the masses, and history proves this, even without going far from the Philippine situation. The inaugurator of the Philippine Revolution of 1896, the great Andres Bonifacio, was a leader who came from the people. Going a little farther, the masses also brought forth Mao Zedong of China and Ho Chi-Minh of Vietnam. These are paragons of responsible, disciplined and just leadership, devoid of the manipulative and exploitative streaks commonly found in dominating taskmasters who cannot identify themselves with the masses. They are shining examples of authentic pro-people leaders who are fellow bearers of the people’s interests and aspirations.


A glimmer of hope such as this on the horizon could, sooner or later, engender a new revolutionary spirit at the most propitious moment in our nation that has long been exploited, impoverished and weakened by powers inside and outside its geographical boundaries.


Editor’s Notes: All photographs by Daniel Go.


14 Responses to What Kind of Leadership Could Bring Social Justice to the Philippines?

  1. jp June 24, 2014 at 8:24 pm

    Nothing would work at this point. The truth is the Philippines is divided even in language, so this alone explains why there seems to be constant misunderstanding among its policy makers. There’s racism amongst its people in a lot of aspects. The only thing I can say is: yes, we are a hybrid race capable of anything if there is “unity” among the people. Any change in government won’t do much, it has been hypothesized. The results would be the same. The mentality of each citizen needs better programming. This can be accomplished in many fundamental ways. I wish I could elaborate, but this no longer concerns me, since there’s no “unity”.

  2. Michael Balzan June 25, 2014 at 1:05 am

    I have never been to the Phillipines, but I have lived with a Filipino for the past 20 months and have learned a lot from talking to her. What seems to be the biggest problem is the housing situation. These people work hard, for their families to survive, but they never get the chance to fulfill their main aim of having a solid house to protect them from all the terrible weather conditions they get every year. Just have a look what happened in the recent past when entire villages got wiped out, and thousands of people died. This I consider to be a huge lack of governance. Corruption seems to be at its peak, when what is needed really from whoever is governing is just a social housing policy and a solid weekly remuneration for all those who are suffering from hunger, which seems to be widespread in this fantastic land.

  3. Eunice Sugano June 25, 2014 at 7:14 am

    I’m glad that there are conscientious journalist who could voice out the yearnings of the masses. Filipino people have been hypnotized by the conglomerate (government) for so long. They need to be awakened.

  4. Alastair Salazar June 25, 2014 at 8:58 am

    1. The Philippines needs a maverick Leader, a doer not just a talker or an entertainer. As a nation we are influenced by various ideals. The Spanish, Chinese, Malays, Indonesians and Americans all have contributed to who we are and added this to our own uniqueness.

    2. We speak various languages and dialects. But we understand each other because of a common language Filipino, and English, Spanish or Mandarin.

    3. Our reliance on our religious beliefs plays a major factor also. Instead of self reliance, we tend to leave it to the church upbringing for salvation. But don’t you worry, we are survivors, we are resilient. Communism is not an option.

    Ruel F. Pepa are you really a Filipino?

  5. Ramon Barrientos June 25, 2014 at 10:39 am

    What has crippled the Philippines’ economic well being is the control of our currency by the world bank, IMF, et al. We are not controlled by religion, not by arms, but by monetary impositions.

    For example, how can an American be paid $8.00 an hour for the same work output while a Filipino gets paid $3.00/day? There is absolutely no equity in compensation, and yet we pay the same price for gasoline and other basic commodities as the well-paid Americans do.

    Until such a time when we correct monetary policies, we shall always be subservient to the imperialistic designs of the G7 nations.

    We must dump our dependence on the US dollar as a reserve currency. Any mismanagement and greed in Washington and Wall Street impacts our very existence through no fault of our own. We have to send our sons and daughters to slave in other countries away from their loved ones to survive the poverty at home; however, the price we pay in social problems exceeds whatever we send home to help mitigate the impoverished conditions of our families. Teen-age pregnancy is hardly brought up in round table discussions, yet the implications have long-lasting damage to the fiber of family values and resulting problems too.

    Get out of the dollar control. The bright boys of the American educational institutions reflect on the condition of the USD as it deteriorates, and its purchasing power continues to decline.

    We have no obligation to suffer the consequences of the stupidities of the American politicians and the greed of Wall-Street manipulators. The purchasing power of the current USD is only 4 cents compared to the 1923 dollar when the Federal Reserve Bank, a Private Corporation, was born.

    Break away now from the decaying US dollar.

  6. Benedicto M. Tutay June 26, 2014 at 5:29 am

    The problem has always been the justice system, particularly the Rules of Court used in the judicial process. First, a ‘bail system’ is explored by scrupulous judges who endanger the public by allowing criminals back on the streets at the right price; secondly, ‘motions’ in all forms that delay or dismiss cases based on technicalities and therefore avoid conviction/penalty for criminals; and ‘pleas’ that cause similar effects and indefinitely delay a case. In this system, both the accused and the plaintive (and also the public indirectly) are victims who are forced to undergo an abnormal life pursuing the case while the lawyers, judges and prosecutors (including the media) feast on the social problems. Where no one gets convicted, nobody respects the law.

    Some religious institutions are also to blame for disseminating the doctrine that “Jesus died for their sins”. What then restrains a believer from criminal activities? We are the only “Xtian” nation in the Far East, and our nation has shown this to be very, very bad.

    In other words, the solution for social justice does not depend on anybody’s strategy of leadership.

  7. Ruel F. Pepa June 26, 2014 at 9:17 am

    On the issue of unity, I basically agree with you jp. Though I would not use the term “racism” as the major factor that divides the Filipinos. The differences are rather ethnic than racial. Filipinos belong to the same racial stock but are divided in various ethno-linguistic groups. Hence, the problem is more cultural than racial. Another related factor is of course geographical, the fact the Philippines is an archipelago.

    However, whatever these identified factors are, I am of the opinion that the emergence of a strong democratic leadership in the country is the most vital cutting edge to forge the much needed national unity.

  8. Ruel F. Pepa June 26, 2014 at 9:35 am

    Michael Balzan, thank you for your comment. Yes, massive graft and corruption in government have weakened the socioeconomic fiber of the Philippines. The hottest issue now on the political front involves leading personalities in the government’s legislative branch (the Philippine Senate and the House of Representatives) who are accused of pocketing hundreds of millions (even billions) of pesos in what is known as a “pork barrel scam”. In fact, two senators are now held in detention on the order of the Sandiganbayan because of cases of plunder filed by some people’s organizations against them. The million-dollar question though is: Would the cases against them flourish?

    The political maturity of the people is the main issue here. As long as the people remain immature in their choice of national leaders, the irresponsible candidates will surely get elected time and again to perpetuate the corruption that has long been plaguing the nation since time immemorial.

  9. Ruel F. Pepa June 26, 2014 at 9:38 am

    Many thanks, Eunice Sugano, for your appreciative comment.

  10. Ruel F. Pepa June 26, 2014 at 9:47 am

    Alastair Salazar, I appreciate your comment.

    Rest assured I am a Filipino and will always remain a Filipino. Born and raised in Kayquit, Indang, Cavite, Philippines.

    Suppose I return to you your question: Are you a Filipino that you have the guts to punctuate your comment with such a condescending question?

  11. Ruel F. Pepa June 26, 2014 at 9:50 am

    Ramon Barrientos, thank you very much for your insightful comment. Mabuhay ka!

  12. Ruel F. Pepa June 26, 2014 at 9:54 am

    Benedicto M. Tutay, your points which I generally share with you are very much appreciated. Thank you very much.

  13. Carlos Bueno July 11, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    “Social justice” is a slippery slope — especially when the ones applying it have vested interests or hidden agenda… which is why in the Philippine context, the concept of social justice is always contentious/controversial. And never ever really successfully carried out…

  14. Ruel F. Pepa July 16, 2014 at 11:17 am

    Thanks for the comment, Pareng Caloy Bueno. I definitely agree.

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