Like the locals of Hong Kong, Singaporeans have a great deal of contempt for the Filipinos working in their territory. Their disdain for Filipinos is confirmed in the recent propaganda circulating in the so-called Lion City on how to maltreat Filipinos in everyday situations there. One advisory teaches that Singaporeans traveling on sidewalks should deliberately ram Filipino pedestrians and refrain from apologizing. Another advisory urges Singaporean restaurant owners not to serve Filipino customers, or to make them feel unwelcome.
That racist attitude triggered protests from Filipinos everywhere, and condemnation from other Asians working in Singapore.
Indeed, contemporary Singaporeans enjoy one of the highest standards of living in South East Asia. The Singapore dollar has a higher trading value than most other Asian currencies. Singapore also enjoys an international reputation as a tidy country.
One would think that the nationals of a country with all those blessings would behave like civilized persons. That is not the case with Singaporeans. It appears that their wealth and financial strength are the very reasons for their racist attitude.
If the Singaporeans were to review their nation’s history, they will realize that their racism and their haughty attitude towards Filipinos are uncalled for.
The Singapore success story began when it was a port colonized by the British government in the nineteenth century. Singapore is actually a small island at the south of the Malayan peninsula and is a little bigger than Vatican City in Rome. Malaya (present-day Malaysia) was another British colony.
Singapore’s strategic location in the trade routes between the Far East and India made it an important port for international vessels. Naturally, this attracted investments from British businessmen and, in time, Singapore became a profitable hub in South East Asia.
As in Hong Kong, the British colonizers treated their colonial wards in Singapore, who were mostly of Chinese descent, as second-class citizens. Locals were given menial jobs by their British taskmasters.
After World War II, the natives of Malaya began pressing for independence. The British relented, but Singapore was to remain a British colony. In response, independence advocates in Singapore held talks with both the British and the Malayan leadership. The British eventually agreed to grant independence to the two colonies as one nation called Malaysia, with the letters “S” and “I” therein corresponding to Singapore.
By the 1960s, frequent friction between the largely-Muslim population in the north and the mainly ethnic Chinese in the south led to economic woes. In the end, Singapore bolted from Malaysia and declared itself an independent country.
Singapore, however, faced serious problems. Poverty stalked its small population. There were not enough industries to support its needs. Land is limited, and the island has no natural resources. It did not even have a natural source of drinking water.
As a result, infrastructure had to go upwards – skyscrapers were built to make full use of the limited land area. Water was imported from neighboring Malaysia. To keep its population from exploring extreme options, an authoritarian government was installed. The death sentence and corporal punishment became accepted forms of punishment for crime.
After some sacrifice on the part of its people, Singapore survived and became a feasible country. It became a founding member of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). At that time, President Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines was the recognized leader of ASEAN.
Today, Singapore is still run under an authoritarian regime, and it still imports water. The death penalty and corporal punishment remain in force. Heavy fines are imposed on even the slightest violation of its repressive laws. Singapore media are subject to strict state censorship. They are not allowed to criticize government officials and policies, or to antagonize Malaysia (its source of water). Its armed forces are only for national defense; they are insufficient to help allied nations in a war.
Singapore laws are skewed against foreigners, especially nationals from countries which have no international political clout. The Contemplacion case attests to this.
Flor Contemplacion was a Filipino domestic helper working as a nanny in Singapore. In 1995, a Singaporean court convicted Contemplacion for allegedly killing Delia Maga, another Filipino nanny working there. Contemplacion was sentenced to death by hanging.
Then President Fidel Ramos personally asked the president of Singapore to commute the death sentence. His request was flatly denied and Contemplacion was hanged. Although prison authorities allowed the Contemplacion children to visit their mother a day before her execution, they were limited to seeing and talking to her through a window panel. The heartless and callous prison authorities did not even allow the children to embrace their condemned mother.
A visibly angry President Ramos created a panel headed by Emilio Gancayco, a retired Supreme Court Justice, to investigate the Contemplacion case. The Gancayco Commission, as the panel came to be called, was assisted by several lawyers and forensics experts from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). Commission findings revealed that the forensic evidence relied upon by the Singaporean courts was scientifically inconclusive. As expected, Singapore insisted otherwise.
Pressure from the international media eventually forced Singapore to send its forensic team to the Philippines to compare notes with their counterparts in the NBI. Sadly, the physician who spoke for the Philippines was not as elaborate as the speaker from the opposing camp. In the end, Singapore stayed put on its findings.
Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew once had the temerity to say that if Filipinos want to be wealthy, they must sacrifice their fundamental freedoms at the altar of economic development. He was obviously unaware that decades earlier, the great Filipino statesman Jose P. Laurel said that a true leader is one who does not make his people choose between bread and freedom. Laurel pointed out that the true leader gives his people both bread and freedom. The Lee speech only underscored that there is no freedom in Singapore.
As long as Singapore is wealthy and does not need anything from the Philippines, its nationals will always disdain Filipinos.