Lee Kuan Yew

Manila officials Blast Lee Sr for criticism of Filipino democracy

Last Updated on March 18, 2023

Top Philippine officials Feb 27 let rip at Singapore’s elder statesman Lee Kuan Yew over reported comments on the shortcomings of Philippine democracy, which some here interpreted as suggesting Filipinos are stupid.

“He is out of line comparing his country to the Philippines,” said Roilo Golez, the country’s national security adviser.

“Situations vary among countries of different sizes,” Golez said. “It is easier to foist a dictatorship on a small nation than a big one,” he added.

Local newspapers and radio stations on Feb 27 highlighted news reports in which former prime minister Lee supposedly suggested that the democratic process does not work in the Philippines because people are not educated.

Some Manila radio stations took it to mean that Lee was describing Filipinos as stupid. In its website, Singapore television station Channel News Asia quoted Lee as citing the example of the Phillipines, which has a constitutional process in place, but was unable to remove the President constitutionally although he was impeached.

Senate president Aquilino Pimentel also Blasted Lee for his comments, saying the economic success of Singapore a “tiny state” was not a license to bad mouth neighbors. “The success of that tiny state Singapore must have gotten into his head that he wants to pontificate the rest of the world (on) what is good in matters of governance and statescraft,” Pimentel told reporters.

Like Golez, Pimentel scoffed at Lee’s style of governance as only fit to “run a city.” “I doubt if he can run a nation as big as the Philippines.”

“Therefore he has no business telling us what we did is wrong according to his standards,” he added.

Lee had been among the few foreign statesmen who criticized the military-backed popular uprising which ousted the corruption-plagued regime of Arroyo’s predecessor Joseph Estrada last month. Prosecutors had earlier failed to win his conviction in a Senate trial.

“So it just doesn’t work … the checks and balances do not work out in the same Way and we have to live with reality,” Lee was quoted as saying in the website.

“And one of the reality is that this is an area where the population needs to have its level of education brought up, complete literacy, dissemination of information that makes it possible for informed judgements,” said Mr Lee.

Golez recounted how Lee supposedly got his comeuppance when he visited China and lectured the leaders of the Asian giant.

“When it was the president of China’s turn to speak he told him, ‘Mr. Lee Kuan Yew we will remember all your advice and if we ever need a mayor for Shanghai we will call you’,” Golez said.