Duterte vs. “Political Maid Syndrome”

One of the sad outcomes derived from decades of economic mismanagement in The Philippines is the fact that many OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) are forced to take jobs as maids or other household servants in wealthier nations. Whilst change to the country’s anti-foreign direct investment (FDI) constitution would go a long way in respect of shifting this balance, the fact remains that many OFWs continue to seek employment as domestic workers. Ideally this will profoundly change if the constitutional reforms advocated by the CoRRECT Movement come to pass, but until then, one can at the very minimum, shift a mentality created by a mindset accustomed to servitude, to one that is ready to exert bold leadership.

President Rodrigo Duterte has been exemplary in leading the fight against the “political maid syndrome” that has long been a feature of Philippine politics. A maid or household servant is someone often treated in an expendable fashion by a master perceived to have higher social status. And yet paradoxically, it is the maid who is de-facto held to higher standards than the master. It is the maid who has to clean up the mess that the master created without a second thought. It is the master who can desecrate his own house but if the maid does not clean up every bit of filth, she will be excoriated whilst the master would never be in such a situation. It is the maid who is expected to show up everyday looking pristine, while the master can roll out of bed in a dishevelled state and remain in one for much of the day. It is the master who can heap scorn on those he perceives as his equals, but it is the maid who must never raise her voice, no matter how frustrated she might be.

This rather sad mentality has increasingly come to be reflected in the way that far too many in The Philippines frame their domestic political debates. The mind boggles when one thinks that a developing country ought to be held to higher standards than those of far more economically developed nations. But if anyone ever doubted that some in The Philippines seek to hold their country to artificially high standards vis-a-vis those of other nations with stronger economies, the current debates on lowering the age of criminal responsibility in The Philippines have well and truly shone a light on how “political maid syndrome” manifests itself.

The issue was raised when Philippine House Speaker and former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo backed a plan that would see the age of criminal responsibility lowered from the age of 15 to the age of 9. Later, President Duterte said that he would back a revised plan which would set the age of criminal responsibility in the country to the age of 12.

In spite of this compromise, some Filipinos have said that such a revision to the law is somehow barbaric and backward. Such people are probably unaware of the age of criminal responsibility in the following jurisdictions:





Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China=10



New Zealand=10

South Africa=10

United States(federal)=11




It is therefore nothing short of absurd that some in The Philippines think that there is anything strange or abnormal about lowering the age of criminal responsibility to that which is still higher than wealthy Singapore, Australia, Switzerland, New Zealand, the United States, Britain and Hong Kong. It is as though some in The Philippines seek to overcompensate for the decades of economic mismanagement by decrying amendments to the law which ironically draw The Philippines closer rather than further aware from the standards of many major first world economies. It’s as if to say that ‘because we are poorer than Singapore or the USA or Hong Kong, we need to enact laws which virtue signal some sort of perverse liberal interpretation of superiority because we can’t pull off the real deal (aka Singapore or Hong Kong style living standards).

This is why President Duterte’s period in office has been such an eye opener for so many. Whilst fiercely patriotic, Duterte realises that in developing nations, good political leadership does not need to re-invent the wheel or virtue signal to self-loathing liberals, but instead, such leadership should learn from the countries (particularly those in ASEAN and Asia moreover) that have traded and industrialised their way into prosperity, while tailoring such methods to Philippine cultural characteristics.

If anything, modern liberals who believe in the theory that rehabilitation of criminals is possible, should be applauding Duterte for agreeing that the age of criminal responsibility should be lowered to 12. This is due to the fact that if anything, it is easier to reshape the mind of an anti-social criminal child than it is to do so in respect of a hardened adult criminal whose evil ways are set in stone.

It is high time for The Philippines to cease with “political maid syndrome” and instead, realise that in order to become a master of one’s own destiny, one cannot hold one’s self to the ridiculously high standards of s servant in one’s own home.

There is nothing sacred about having a more complicated political system than Singapore, a less realistic balance between crime and punishment than Singapore and a media environment that allows for frivolity to dominate headline news in a country that does not have the luxury to squabble over nonsense at a time when serious constitutional and economic reforms must be addressed.

Rodrigo Duterte has proved that in terms of mentality, The Philippines can stand on its own two feet. Now it is time for admirers of Duterte to end “political maid syndrome” once and for all and become a master of a house modelled on the success of those in the same geographical neighbourhood.

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