Journal of Human Security | 2014 | Volume 10 | Issue 1 | Pages 32–45
DOI: 10.12924/johs2014.10010032
ISSN: 1835-3800
Research Article
A Case for Cohabitative Security: The Philippine and
Malaysian Experience
Michael I. Magcamit
College of Arts, Political Science, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch, New Zealand;
E-Mail: [email protected]; Tel.: +64 3642987 ext. 6053
Submitted: 13 February 2014 | In revised form: 14 June 2014 | Accepted: 22 June 2014 |
Published: 5 September 2014
Abstract: This article attempts to explore and analyse the evidence for cohabiting the human
security concept into the national security frameworks of ASEAN countries. Using the Philippines
and Malaysia as case studies, the article determines the extent to which public officials and
policymakers have redefined and reenvisioned national security by incorporating non-traditional,
people-centered elements of human security. The word 'cohabitation' refers to national govern-
ments' efforts to amalgamate statist and humanist dimensions of security when articulating and
implementing their national security rhetoric and agenda. It argues that human security
naturally complements state security, and vice versa. As such, human security and state security
co-exist in a constructive manner that enhances the overall level of national security. In other
words, they are mutually constitutive rather than mutually corrosive. Both cases underscore a
two-pronged assumption. First, the meaning and provision of national security can neither be
eloquently articulated nor completely substantiated without considerations for 'below the state'
actors and issues. And second, the eminent status vis-à-vis power of the state in providing
national security can neither be trivialized nor undermined.
Keywords: Cohabitative Security; Human Security; Malaysia; National Security; Philippines
1. Introduction
Twenty years after the official debut of human
security in academic and policymaking circles in 1994,
the concept continues to be a source of important
debates directed at the progressive re-imagination of
national security. In Southeast Asia, however, the
concept has had very limited influence in the govern-
ments' formulation and implementation of their
respective national security rhetoric and agenda [13].
This is largely due to the conflicting views on what
should be considered as a threat between the state
and various non-state actors within these societies. At
the heart of this conflict between statist and humanist
advocates of national security is the shared belief
among Southeast Asian leaders in the ASEAN Way [1–3].
© 2014 by the authors; licensee Librello, Switzerland. This open access article was published
under a Creative Commons Attribution License (
For the region's top officials, the ASEAN Way is deemed
the most appropriate style of diplomacy as it underlines
the value of traditional notions of sovereignty and non-
interference in conducting interstate relations [4].
While the Western method of diplomacy is driven by
binding agreements through the adoption of legalistic
procedures and formalistic solutions, the ASEAN
approach operates through non-binding, invisible
ground rules of informality, inclusivity and consensus
[4]. Different labels have been used by various
observers to describe the ASEAN Way such as
'organizational minimalism', 'soft regionalism', 'soft
dialogue', and 'thin institutionalism' ([4] pp. 14–27).
Such a preference for 'sports shirt diplomacy' over
'business shirt diplomacy' has naturally limited the
practical application of human security in rethinking
national security in the Southeast Asia ([4] pp. 14–27).
Against this backdrop, this article attempts to
explore the evidence for the 'cohabitation' of human
security concept within the national security frame-
work of ASEAN countries in the twenty-first century. It
specifically examines the Philippines and Malaysia's
experiences with cohabiting state-centric and people-
centered dimensions of national security. The word
cohabitation in this context refers to the national
government's attempt at amalgamating statist and
humanist elements of security when articulating and
executing its national security policies. The goal is to
determine the extent to which policymakers have
defined national security based on the cohabitation
between state-centric and people-centered dimen-
sions of national security. Cohabitative security, there-
fore, refers to the approach being employed by the
Philippine and Malaysian governments in cohabiting
human security into their national security frame-
The article argues that human security naturally
complements state security, and vice versa. As such,
human security and state security co-exist in a
constructive manner that enhances the overall level of
national security. On the one hand, state security does
not automatically negate human security nor compete
with individuals and communities; on the other, human
security does not necessarily threaten state security nor
compete against state actors and agencies. The reason
for this is that human security and state security are
mutually constitutive rather than mutually corrosive.
This is particularly relevant in the context of the
increasing, albeit gradual, recognition among ASEAN
governments that human security is an essential di-
mension and necessary precondition for national
stability and security. Such a scenario implies that the
divisive dichotomy between these two security dimen-
sions is hardly insurmountable. Ironically, it is the
insecurity felt by individuals and states, rather than
security that is transforming ASEAN's traditional
normative terrain into a region cognisant of the value
of cohabiting humanist and statist components of
national security.
Moreover, by examining governments' efforts
toward cohabitative security, the article argues that
the inherent bias against states can be mitigated,
enabling mutual trust to develop between the arti-
ficially divided state and non-state agents of national
security. It highlights the areas where states, even if
only to some extent, have practically contributed to
the advancement of the human security agenda. This
is not to defend or legitimize the shortcomings of
states with respect to human security, but rather, to
reopen the channel through which productive dia-
logues between governments and citizens can take
place. The notion of cohabitative security does not
provide a panacea to long-standing conceptual prob-
lems of national security. Nevertheless, it offers an
alternative tool for reassessing governments' successes
and failures in terms of incorporating individuals and
societies in their respective national security discourses.
In advancing these arguments, the article examines
the Philippines and Malaysia's experiences with
cohabitative security and attempts to answer the
following questions. First, who or what is the primary
referent object in the Philippines and Malaysia's
twenty-first century national rhetoric and agenda?
Second, what are the main issues that threaten these
primary security referent objects? And third, how do
the Philippine and Malaysian governments, both past
and present, address these threats? Have they been
successful? Why or why not?
The article is divided into four sections. Section two
examines the current composition of the Philippines'
national security framework by identifying its main
components and analyzing the most critical issues
that threaten its primary security referent object
development space. It argues that against the
backdrop of structural poverty and institutionalized
inequality generated by a deeply-entrenched oligarchic
system, the main referent object of Philippine national
security is its diminishing development space.
Development space refers specifically to the capacity of
the Philippine government to independently and
effectively pursue its economic development goals and
objectives against these constraints. It analyses the
limits to the Philippines' development-based national
security framework, which in turn, undermine the
effectiveness of the country's cohabitative national
security, namely: (i) limits to democratization; and (ii)
limits to Human Security Act (HSA).
Section three examines the present condition of
Malaysia's national security framework by identifying
its main components and analyzing the most critical
issues that threaten its primary security referent
object—diversity space. It argues that against the
backdrop of a Bumiputra-centric political economy,
developed and controlled by the UMNO-driven Barisan
Nasional, the main referent object of Malaysian na-
tional security is its shrinking diversity space. Diversity
space specifically refers to the capacity of all ethnic
groups in Malaysia to participate freely in the country's
political and economic affairs against these constraints.
It analyses the limits to Malaysia's diversity-based
national security framework, which in turn, undermine
the effectiveness of the country's cohabitative national
security, namely: (i) limits to ideational security
apparatuses; and (ii) limits to material security
apparatuses. The Philippines and Malaysia's primary
security referent objects—development space and
diversity space—represent the non-traditional, people-
centred dimension of security as opposed to its
traditional, state-centric dimension.
Finally, section four summarizes the main argu-
ments presented based on the analysis of two
empirical case studies. It concludes that despite the
limitations of the Philippine and Malaysian govern-
ments in fully cohabiting the concept of human se-
curity into their respective national security frame-
works, nonetheless, both countries have illustrated a
concrete way of giving entitlement to non-traditional,
people-centered elements of security as legitimate
referent objects of national security. Both cases
underscore a two-pronged hypothesis: (i) that the
meaning and provision of national security can neither
be eloquently articulated nor completely substantiated
without considerations for 'below the state' actors and
issues; and (ii)that the eminent status of the state in
terms of power in providing national security can
neither be trivialized nor undermined. Therefore,
rather than downplaying a state-centric concept while
highlighting a people-centred model, cohabitative se-
curity amalgamates statist and humanist views of
national security. This is one way of resolving the
'entitled state/untitled human' dilemma in which the
state is typically depicted as an antagonistic force
impeding the pursuit of human security.
2. Cohabiting Human Security into the
Philippine's National Security Framework
2.1. The Philippines' 'Cohabitative' National Security
The Philippines' 20112016 National Security Policy
(hereafter, NSP) is a statement of principles designed
for the strategic pursuit of the country's national in-
terest defined in terms sovereignty and territorial integ-
rity on the one hand, and people's well-being and insti-
tutions on the other [5]. Its primary objectives focus on
balancing between 'guns and butter, ' through more
efficient allocation of the country's limited resources
and effective prioritization of internal and external
defense. It lays down a fairly comprehensive agenda
which incorporates nonmilitary issues and threats
encroaching upon the boundaries of the state. In the
words of President Benigno Aquino III: 'our quest must
not only focus on ensuring the stability of the State and
the security of our nation...our ultimate goal must be
the safety and well-being of our people' ([5] p. 1).
This holistic approach to national security under-
scores the need to rethink traditional security which
made paramount the military protection of the state
from external threats while disregarding issues
generating human insecurities. It is part and parcel of
the larger security sector transformation (SST) which
represents a paradigm shift in security governance by
acknowledging the blurring between internal and
external threats [6]. The main thrust of the NSP is
anchored in Aquino III's 'social contract' with the
Filipinos, emphasizing commitments to transfor-
mational leadership through empowerment of the
people and opportunities to enable the people to
escape from the shackles of poverty ([5] p. 6). Aside
from its customary role in fortifying the country's
juridical borders, the NSP also aims to cultivate an
environment conducive to human development, that
is, a development-based NSP agenda. Thus, it brings
together under one cohesive policy agenda a wide
range of security issues, and balances these with its
national peace and development perspectives.
The country's desire to serving as a committed and
trustworthy member of the international community is,
to a large extent, driven by the emergence of non-
traditional security threats transcending national
borders such as organized transnational crimes, ter-
rorism and weapons of mass destruction, pandemics
and infectious diseases, environmental degradation,
and climate change to name a few [5]. In relation to
this, the country also acknowledges the significant
impact of globalization on its internal affairs. The NSP
document, therefore, promotes the objective of forging
strong political alliances with developed countries to
further solidify its political presence in the international
arena, and secure its economic and defense require-
ments [5]. The government believes that through
diplomatic engagements, nations will cooperate rather
than compete with each other [5].
In response to this changing security environment,
the government has developed a national security
model comprised of seven core elements that amplify
national interests, including: socio-political stability,
territorial integrity, economic solidarity, ecological
balance, cultural cohesiveness, moral-spiritual con-
sensus, and peace and harmony ([5] p. 3). These
elements also take into consideration certain psycho-
social aspects of national security including the people's
customs and beliefs, as well as social characters and
norms influencing perception of government-initiated
policies and programmes ([5] p. 3). Hence, the
government is very optimistic about the potential of
its twenty-first century NSP agenda for achieving not
only national peace and security, but, more impor-
tantly, development and prosperity. Working under a
widely popular campaign slogan of Daang Matuwid
(the high road), Aquino III's NSP strongly emphasizes
the country's diminishing development space, artic-
ulating the issue as a national security threat that
must be effectively secured ([5] p. 31):
"If the government is able to make good on the
promise of taking the high road, the 'Ang Daang
Matuwid', then it must be sure that the people
are afforded every opportunity to pursue their
individual dreams of a better quality of lifeall
under the consideration of national security
where the welfare and well-being of the people
are of primordial consideration."
From the government's perspective, addressing the
country's long-standing problems of exacerbated
poverty, widening inequality, and other socio-political
maladies engendered by limited development space
demands complementary policies such as robust
public-private partnerships (PPP) on the one hand,
and breaking patronage politics influencing decision
making in government's programs and projects on the
other [5].
Despite its development-based NSP agenda, the
government still recognizes the importance of main-
taining a credible external defense posture since
globalization has not led to complete obsolescence of
war as an alternative tool for settling disputes when
diplomacy fails. Impaired by its present economic
status, however, the country is struggling to assert
and defend its position in international society. The
government usually finds itself on the losing end
when settling disputes with advanced countries, given
its small player status in the global arena, both
politically and economically. The debate between
'guns and butter' has to be settled in favour of 'butter'
given the country's scarce resources. After all, as
Aquino III has neatly put it, 'For Filipinos to feel this
renewed sense of transformational leadership, they
must also see and feel that the Government is for
them, with them and serving them' ([5] p. 31).
2.2. Limits to the Philippines' Development-based
National Security
Clearly, the Philippine government recognizes economic
underdevelopment as a critical threat to national
security. The important question that needs to be
examined, however, is whether it is genuinely con-
cerned about addressing the country's economic plight
or is only paying lip service to the electorally-popular
idea of people-centered national security. Despite the
government's grand pronouncements about pursing
equitable economic development to enhance national
security, however, its security blueprint faces two
limitations that put enormous challenge to such
intention: (i) limits to democratization; and (ii) limits to
human security act. The following subsections discuss
these limits, which help explain the country's con-
tinuously shrinking diversity space, and subsequent
failure to fully embed the notion of human security
(defined in terms of economic security) into its national
security framework.
2.2.1. Limits to Democratization
Based on historical analysis of politico-economic
developments in the Philippines, the decision of the
American colonial regime to transplant its own brand
of representative democracy over an economic ar-
rangement ruled by landed oligarchs enabled the
latter to seize authoritative control over what should
have been 'democratic' policymaking procedures and
institutions [7]. Oligarchs in this context are 'actors
who command and control massive concentrations of
material resources that can be deployed to defend or
enhance their personal wealth and exclusive social
position' ([8] p. 6). Accordingly, an oligarch's ultimate
goal 'is to secure, maintain, and retain his or her
position of extreme wealth and power against all
manner of threats' ([8] p. 6). In Aristotle's formu-
lation, democracy is defined as the rule by the poor
majority, whereas oligarchy is the rule of the wealthy
few [8]. However, democracy and oligarchy 'can
coexist indefinitely as long as the unpropertied lower
classes do not use their expanded political partic-
ipation to encroach upon the material power and
prerogatives of the wealthiest' ([8] p. 11). In other
words, the two systems are compatible for as long as
the two realms of power do not clash. So while
oligarchy 'rests on the concentration of material
power', democracy 'rests on the dispersion of non-
material power' ([8] p. 11).
In the case of the Philippines, US officials left aside
policies that could have transformed its political
system into a more level playing field. The country's
domestic political space was insulated from revisionist
agendas espoused by various social factions springing
from a broad base of political capital [7]. In stark
contrast to the Philippine experience, the Japanese
consciously shut down the elite's access to political
power when they took over Korea, creating a very
different political climate for the latter state [9]. The
Philippines' government's capacity for independent
action, therefore, is effectively curtailed by oligarchic
groups attempting to amass public power to preserve
vested interests [1012]. Further, the 'redemoc-
ratization' process that took place immediately after
the collapse of Ferdinand Marcos' dictatorship only
resulted in the reinstallation of the pre-Marcos political
order. This led to the re-emergence of elite ascen-
dancy over domestic economy—the sine qua non for
Philippine economic underdevelopment ([7] p. 49).
Despite the introduction of various democratic insti-
tutional reforms, oligarchic forces are still able to
manipulate and saturate the bureaucracy, impairing
Philippine polity.
The question therefore is, why and how does
oligarchic power overcome state power? Throughout
Philippine history, several influential families owning
huge corporations and vast lands have ruled over the
bureaucracy, exploiting the country's public goods and
resources that continue to fuel institutionalized cor-
ruption. Several infamous terms such as 'anarchy of
families', 'booty capitalism', and 'cacique democracy'
([7] p. 50) have been used to describe the country's
pitiful politico-economic construct. The conspicuous
incapacity of the government to 'immunize' itself from
oligarch manipulation has been at the crux of
economic underdevelopment [1315]. This unique
political climate enables the 'top 5.5 % landowning
clans to own 44% of arable land and as few as 100
families control all electoral positions on a national
level' ([16] p. 13). It is a side-effect of the strategy
employed by the US regime to consolidate power
throughout the archipelago that the landed elite were
allowed to further expand their economic power by
means political appointments [7].
When put together, Filipinos' distinctive concepts of
family and land give rise to the so-called 'patron-client
relationships' which can be used to explain Philippine
political economy [1718]. The patronage system
which emphasizes the Filipino culture of 'giving for
gratitude' and 'labour for loyalty' explains the existence
of an omnipotent elite dominating the country's econ-
omy cum politics [19]. In this scenario, both the
peasants' and the labourers' interests feed into the
landlords' preferences through material and/or personal
transactions via colloquial networks [20].
Hence, when the US colonial regime decided to
establish political offices for electoral contest, the elite
clans consolidated their power in order to give birth to
national oligarchy instead of a national government
(Anderson 1998). With this newfound power, the
ruling elite are now in the position to thwart policies
that favour both enemies and competitors. This
system of politicking gave rise to what the Filipinos
call, trapos or 'dirty' traditional politicians [2123].
These trapos are responsible for the presence of
'reverse accountability' in Philippine politics by holding
individual voters accountable for electing their re-
spective patrons to power in exchange for favours
provided in the past or those promised once said
politician elected ([7] p. 55). The provision of favours,
however, does not always translate to actual votes. In
such cases, intimidation and aggression are often
employed by political players owning private armies to
ensure the delivery of paid votes [24]. The alternate
use of benefits and violence for preserving political
power and control essentially transforms traditional
political aristocracy into some type of warlords [25].
In can be inferred, therefore, that the voters' support
for their patrons is largely a function of the latter's
'own interests, rewards for loyalty, and the fear of
vengeance' ([26] p. 260).
The nature of Philippine political-economy is referred
to as a neo-patrimonial system [10]. A patrimonial
state that allows oligarch relations and interests to
dominate bureaucratic systems creates a hunting
ground for the unrestricted accumulation of personal
wealth [27]. Since the rent-seekers emerging from
this bureaucratic capitalist system are able to control
formal state structures from the outside, the term
becomes 'neo-patrimonial' or 'booty capitalism' ([10]
pp. 1821).
The overwhelming oligarchic influence has signif-
icantly contributed to the deterioration of economic
development in the Philippines since gaining inde-
pendence from the United States in 1946 [28]. Even
the implementations of disastrous economic policies
advanced by top government officials were eventually
manipulated to protect the interests of Filipino
oligarchs. Philippine underdevelopment, therefore, is
not just a matter of constantly choosing the wrong
policies, but rather the result of conscious efforts by
rent-seekers to maintain them for the continuous
exploitation of state mechanisms and resources.
A perfect illustration of a 'wrong' policy selection
was the espousal of import substitution indus-
trialization (ISI) as the country's primary trade
strategy after its official independence from the US
[2930]. In contrast to East Asian countries that
launched an export-oriented strategy leading to annual
per capita GDP growth of 6%, the Philippines chose to
implement ISI and became the worst performing
economy in the Eastern half [31]. While the promotion
of ISI may indeed have been an honest mistake on
the part of Filipino technocrats, the oligarchs' indif-
ference toward the correction of this mistake never-
theless underlined the unintended benefits it created
with respect to the their interests. Despite the
exacerbated balance of trade and payments problems
created by ISI, this policy was maintained not for its
effectiveness in resolving the crisis but for its role in
opening a wider space for 'oligarch predation' ([7] p.
57). This confounding relationship between local
oligarchs and the Philippine government is often re-
ferred to as 'rent capitalism' wherein rents are created
by the latter to provide the former with a synthetic
advantage by imposing restrictions on the free flow of
foreign goods and services into the market [32].
U.S. Governor-general William Howard Ta ft's 'policy
of attraction'—originally designed to entice the
landlord class into collaboration with the Americans
rather than pursuing revolutionary strugglestrans-
formed the economic elite of the Spanish-colonial era
into a political-economic elite that continues to dom-
inate domestic politics today ([33] p. 142). And since
representative institutions had already emerged prior
to the development of a strong republic, patronage-
infested political parties had single-handedly squashed
government reforms that threatened to curb their
power. In the Philippine context, political parties are
'convenient vehicles of patronage that can be set up,
merged with others, split, reconstituted, regurgitated,
resurrected, renamed, repackaged, recycled, refur-
bished, buffed up or flushed down the toilet anytime'
([34] pp. 45). This resulted to further marginalization
of the masses who were unable to challenge the
deeply-entrenched national oligarchy.
The palpable failure of American colonial regime to
renovate the foundations of domestic political power
vis-à-vis the imposition of its own brand of repre-
sentative democracy on top of an unjust economic
edifice, created an environment conducive to oligarch
predation by exploiting state institutions and manip-
ulating economic policy formulation [7]. The Philippine
government has continued to operate within this
context from one administration to another since the
country's formal independence. Therefore, implanting
a new constitutional framework that replicated a pre-
Martial Law system within a relatively unchanged
economic arrangement would be futile and counter-
intuitive to the prospect of change. In short, neither
regime change nor democratization helped in miti-
gating the oligarch's influence over state affairs,
particularly in decisions involving the national eco-
nomy. As a consequence, a strongly developed
Philippine republic is yet to emerge [7].
2.2.2. Limits to Human Security Act
The post-1986 People Power Revolution paved the
way for rethinking national security as the security of
the people. The perceived divide between people and
state is artificial as they both comprise the nation-
state [35]. Although the government is gradually
progressing toward the integration of human security
in its formulation of national security, the environment
within which such policy amendments are being
configured remains largely unstable and multifaceted.
Advancements made toward a humanist view of secu-
rity strategy are in danger of being undermined by
institutional mechanisms with inadequate capacity to
effectively combat contemporary security problems.
And while Filipino policymakers acknowledge the
severity of nontraditional threats trespassing on the
country's supposedly sovereign boundaries, the term
human security is still nowhere to be found in its
official NSP document. This implies that the normative
foundations of human security are not consistently
implanted when designing a definitive NSP agenda
despite references being made regarding the pro-
tection of grassroots civil societies [35].
A good example supporting this argument is the
passage of the Human Security Act of the Philippines
or the Republic Act No. 9372 in February 2007. This
Act defined human security as an 'act to secure the
state and our people from terrorism' defined as
'sowing and creating conditions of widespread and
extraordinary fear and panic among the populace, in
order to coerce the government to give in to an un-
lawful demand' [36]. In short, the country's HSA is
both too narrow and too broad at the same time. On
the one hand, it frames human security within the
narrow context of terrorism which contradicts the
government's holistic approach to national security, as
well as the UNDP's comprehensive interpretation of
human security [37]. On the other hand, it precludes
the fundamental aspects of a terrorist act in favour of
broad and vague expressions such as 'widespread and
extraordinary fear and panic among the populace' or
'unlawful demand' which also run in contrast to the
definition proposed by the UN High Level Panel on
Threats, Challenges and Change [38].
While the official discourse of HSA highlights its
importance for giving the government's all-out war
against terror legal teeth by complementing AFP's
strategic operations, however, law enforcement
agencies seem to be uncomfortable with its imple-
mentation [39]. Such contradiction underlies reser-
vations toward the Act, given its use of misleading
semantics. Moreover, human rights groups have
strongly opposed the legislation of the HSA arguing
that it constitutes the building blocks of martial law.
The rights that are at risk of being violated include
freedom of expression, association, speech, move-
ment, and due process, among others [40]. The ac-
countability of the Anti-Terrorism Council for human
rights violations while carrying out its mandate of
fighting against terrorism is not specifically addressed
in the said Act, blurring the line between Judiciary and
Executive roles [40].
Supporters of the anti-terrorism legislation, on the
other hand, point to Section 2 of the Act which
highlights the safeguard mechanisms for protecting
human rights by upholding basic rights and funda-
mental liberties as enshrined in the Constitution. They
argue that the HSA is crucial for strengthening the
country's democratic ideals since 'unlike the secrecy
surrounding the pre-HSA extrajudicial killings, the new
law makes the prosecution of terrorists a transparent
matter that proceeds under the supervision of the
Philippine judiciary' ([41] pp. 215216). Despite such
contextualization, the inefficiencies of the country's
criminal justice system have not been properly
addressed [42]. Understandably, several international
organizations, most notably the International Feder-
ation for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch, are
sceptical about the effectiveness of these safeguards,
given the government's bad record for policy imple-
mentation, and they argue that what the Philippines
really needs is not a new and dangerously broad
counterterrorism law, but better efforts to make its
current justice system work [43].
This age-old dichotomy between the ineffectiveness
of the law and the inefficiency of the system is
underlined in the report published by the National
Council of Churches in the Philippines, which asked,
'How can the State—which stands criticized for
tolerating, if not authorizing the gross and systematic
violations of human rightsguarantee that, in imple-
menting the HSA, the people's civil and political rights
are not trampled upon' ([40] pp. 168169)? As such,
various segments of civil society including the aca-
demia and NGOs share the view that RA9372 is in
violation of the Philippine Constitution by purporting
information designed to mislead the people [40].
Overall, these two limits have significantly under-
mined the Philippine government's efforts at
effectively cohabiting human security (defined in
terms of economic security) into its national security
framework. At the root of this insecurity is a deeply-
entrenched patronage system controlled by powerful
Filipino oligarchy. The pervasiveness of this politico-
economic arrangement has resulted to structural pov-
erty and institutionalized inequality that undermines the
Philippines' supposedly people-centred national security
model. Neoliberal economic policies intended to im-
prove development have been cunningly exploited by
oligarchic forces to their uncontested advantage. By
systematically obstructing social-equalizing measures
that curtail oligarchic wealth, 'national' prosperity is
permanently entrapped within the elite strata of the
society. The omnipresence of neo-patrimonial culture
in the Philippines reinforces a 'bipolar' society wherein
a few families enjoy the abundance of wealth at the
expense of the majority. Despite the Philippines' co-
habitative national security framework underlining
equitable and inclusive economic development, the
limits to democratization vis-à-vis its Human Security
Act, have significantly undermined this end goal.
3. Cohabiting Human Security into Malaysia's
National Security Framework
3.1. Malaysia's 'Cohabitave' National Security
Malaysia's national security rhetoric and agenda are a
reflection of the government's struggle to transform a
former British colonial territory into one cohesive and
united nation. Accordingly, Malaysia adopts a fairly
comprehensive approach in defining national security
by weaving together its military, political, economic,
social, cultural, and psychological components [44].
Several material and ideational factors influence
Malaysia's conception of national security, including:
geography and history; multi-ethnic identity and
religious plurality; an aspiration for national unity and
integration; and a dream of becoming a developed
country and a model Islamic nation [4546].
As such, Malaysia's national security encompasses
both internal and external dimensions. On the one
hand, the domestic security being derived from internal
peace, law, and order is crucial to the fulfilment of
basic needs and demands of its pluralistic society [45
46]. The presence of internal stability and harmony
underpin Malaysia's pursuit of national development
and progress. Hence, the passage and enactment of
legislation considered draconian in some liberal dem-
ocratic states is deemed necessary by the Malaysian
government in order to control its ethnically-diverse
population [4648]. On the other hand, external
security focuses on wide-ranging transnational threats
engendered by regional and global events including
terrorism, maritime piracy, drug cartels, illegal migrant
workers, and human trafficking, to name a few [49
51]. Malaysia's pursuit of national security, therefore,
implies the notion of strategic survival, both inside
and outside its sovereign boundaries.
The conception of Malaysian national security has
been largely inspired by the Emergency period
between the years 1948 and 1960 [45,5255]. This
period saw the Malayan forces, backed by their British
colonizers, fight against the Malayan National Lib-
eration Army (MNLA), a group of Communist insur-
gents who claimed to be promoting a new democratic
socialist Malaya [45,46,52]. In response, the coalition
launched its 'hearts and minds' campaign to weaken
the social appeal of Communist propaganda and earn
the loyalty of those sympathetic to them [45,48,
52,5657]. This proved to be an effective component
of the coalition's anti-Communist strategy as it led to
the establishment of a new constitution singed be-
tween the United Malays National Organization
(UMNO) and the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA)
in 1957 [4546]. It is worth noting that both signa-
tories are member parties of the ruling BN coalition.
The new constitution recognizes the legality of
special preferences and privileged positions being
provided to the Malays [45,48,5258]. Islam has been
formally elected as the state religion, while Malay was
made as the country's official language. Moreover, the
new constitution has granted a fixed quota of posts in
the civil service to Malays in addition to their guar-
anteed traditional land rights. In exchange for
accepting these terms under the Constitution, the
Chinese have been offered extended rights of
citizenship [4546,59]. As stated in Article 153 of the
Malaysian Constitution:
It shall be the responsibility of the Yang di-
Pertuan Agong (King of Malaysia) to safeguard
the special position of the Malays and natives of
any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak and the
legitimate interests of other communities in
accordance with the provisions of this Article [60].
Thus, the Constitution provides strong legal basis for
the provision of exclusive rights and privileges to
Malays, locally known as the Bumiputras (literally, sons
of the soil) which are not extended to other ethnicities
thriving in Malaysia, particularly the Chinese and
Indian-Malaysians. Notwithstanding Malays' continued
political supremacy and a considerably enhanced eco-
nomic status, Article 153 remains entrenched in the
Constitution. The application of the Malaysian Consti-
tution legitimizes Malay interests even at the expense
of all other Malaysian ethnic groups.
The Emergency period served as a sine qua non for
legitimizing a national security framework that is both
operationally despotic and ideologically centered on
addressing the root causes of threats. Malaysia's
national security is essentially based on material and
ideational constructs designed to secure its ruling
dynastic coalition—the Barisan Nasional (BN)—rather
than the diversity space necessary for accommodating
the political and economic needs of its multiethnic
population. In fact, the BN defines itself as a con-
federation of political parties that subscribe to the
objectives of the coalition, as opposed to the objec-
tives of Malaysia's national interest [61].
Combining ideological constructs with a coercive
apparatus has been the traditional approach to
developing Malaysia's national security rhetoric and
agenda since the period of Emergency [46,52,5455,
62]. Such an approach is designed to secure the BN
by suppressing the growth of unorthodox ideas and
concepts, while justifying the supremacy of values
being cultivated by the ruling coalition. Together, coer-
cive and ideological instruments have played a crucial
role in Malaysia's national security, which made para-
mount the implicit protection of the Malay-dominated
coalition at the expense of its diversity space.
3.2. Limits to Malaysia's Diversity-based National
In doing so, the UMNO-led BN coalition has vigilantly
upheld a paradoxical security framework propelled by
its 'hearts and minds' slogan exercised through
coercive and repressive legislation [48, 6263]. Such a
paradox presents two critical limits to Malaysia's
diversity space that is pivotal to the country's cohab-
itative national security, namely: (i) limits to ideo-
logical security apparatuses, and (ii) limits to material
security apparatus. The interplay between these
factors substantially undermines the country's capacity
for independently formulating and executing political
and economic policies vital to its national security. The
succeeding subsections discuss these limits which help
explain the country's continuously shrinking diversity
space, and therefore, its failure at fully embedding the
notion of human security (defined in terms of ethnic
security) within its national security framework.
3.2.1. Limits to the Ideological Security Apparatus
A central task of the BN's security ideology is the
regulation and control of alternative channels for
discussing nonconforming opinions [48,62]. A variety
of ideological constructs have been put in place to
legitimize the suppression of local political opponents
and critics, thereby protecting the prevailing Malay-
dominated status quo. As Downs ([64] p. 96) argues,
these nonmaterial forces represent 'a verbal image of
the good society and of the chief means of con-
structing such a society.' In other words, the govern-
ment systematically regulates the employment of
ideologies to promote and preserve the security of the
BN coalition, pursued under the pretext of safe-
guarding the constitutionality of specific Malay rights
and privileges that do not apply other ethnic groups.
The coalition's security ideologies serve a two-level
function: first, restricting the space available for
alternative ideas that question the BN; and second,
legitimizing the passage and enactment of coercive
instruments vis-à-vis the coalition that exercises them
[48,63]. In doing so, they help in securing the pre-
eminent status of the coalition against threats coming
from various oppositional groups. The fluidity of ideas,
however, implies that the coalition's security ideo-
logies are neither permanent nor fixed but are con-
tingent on specific political and social contexts of the
time (48, 62]. Hence, there is no overarching idea
that dominates Malaysia's security rhetoric. Never-
theless, there is an underlying goal that binds these
security ideologies together, that is, winning the
hearts and minds of societal actors that threaten
Malaysian national security defined in terms of BN
These coalition-enhancing ideational forces create a
'cloak for shabby motives and appearances' by
legitimizing and giving meaning to its conduct ([65] p.
314). They act as political tools for securing the
coalition's hegemony, rather than being mere reflec-
tions of the country's national aspirations. The
uncertainty and complexity of Malaysian politics in the
twenty-first century transforms these ideological
constructs into electoral 'chips' necessary for con-
tinued survival of the coalition [48,53,6263,6668].
Accordingly, the ideational components underpinning
Malaysia's national security framework are naturally
bent to quash counter-narratives, thereby further
shrinking the country's diversity space.
Islam plays a pivotal role in the hearts and minds
campaign of the coalition. As a Muslim-dominated
federal constitutional monarchy, Malaysia's national
security becomes a function of its state-configured
Islamic ideology [48,63,6971]. Its goal is to cement
the country's role as a worthy leader of the Muslim
world by projecting an image of moderation and
tolerance [48,6263]. Islam must be the people's way
of life and the coalition's brand of leadership. It is the
very 'visible hand' that runs and controls Malaysia's
internal and external affairs, and dictates what the
objectives of national security will be. Crafting the
country's national security rhetoric and agenda based
on the underlying goal of securing the coalition
becomes the paramount concern of the ruling BN
political elites, particularly for those comprising the
United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party
On the one hand, Mahathir's security ideology
represents a two-faced Malaysian national security
framework by endorsing a non-violent and non-forcible
Islamic rhetoric at the international scene, while
encouraging coercive and aggressive policies in imple-
menting these teachings at the domestic sphere on the
other [48,59,63]. Such an approach to national security
effectively aids in the legitimization of the coalition's
domestic security machinery which means the
perpetuation of the Malay-dominated BN coalition, and
therefore, the diminution of Malaysia's diversity space.
At the international level, the Mahathir regime has
portrayed Malaysia as the 'model Islamic state' of the
post-9/11 world [48,51,55,6263]. The former PM
argued that its government had been successful in
fighting terrorism domestically by adding ideological
'sweeteners' to its coercive policies [51,55,62]. Such a
claim is typically made in the context of the Emer-
gency, where the defeat of communism is largely
viewed as a result of its hearts and minds ideology,
emphasizing a moderate and tolerant Islam [45
At the domestic level, however, the opposite is
observed. Mahathir's state-sponsored Islam has been
propagated with the help of strong coercive
legislation, particularly the Internal Security Act (ISA)
of 1960 and its replacement, the Security Offences
Special Measures Act (SOSMA) of 2012 [48,54,56,
59,63,72]. This highlights underlying contradictions
within Mahathir's ideational panorama—conquering
the hearts and minds of a fearful population through
the forced imposition of a coalition-made Islam. The
implicit goal of eliminating counter-narratives to BN's
vision of Malaysian nation-building has been pursued
under the banner of counterterrorism (48, 63).
On the other hand, Badawi's security doctrine
which he called Islam Hadhari (Civilizational Islam)
still reflects Mahathir's aim at securing the coalition,
rather than the diversity of its multi-ethnic population
[48,63,7374]. Substance-wise, Islam Hadhari has no
significant difference from Mahathir's Asian values
[75]. In terms of form, however, Abdullah's ideology
takes Mahathir's notion of the 'model Islamic state' to
a higher level, by developing a comprehensive doc-
trine embracing Muslim and non-Muslim audiences
alike, both at home and abroad [48,63]. In other
words, Malaysia's signature Islam has been trans-
formed into an exportable commodity that reinforces
the legitimacy of the BN coalition beyond the
country's borders [48,73].
The terms that have been used to develop Islam
Hadhari were fairly 'universal', and as such can be
applied to different contexts. Badawi's ideology
represents a shift toward understanding the contem-
porary era within the purview of Islam [73]. It is the
form, rather than substance that made Islam Hadhari
an appealing ideological construct [48,63]. By utilizing
charismatic Islamic terminology, Badawi has suc-
ceeded in reigniting the coalition's unpopular security
ideology (Liow 2005). Badawi's main thrust is to
recalibrate Islam as a progressive religion that values
individual and communal development [76]. For
instance, the fourth, fifth, and sixth principles high-
light Islam Hadhari's economic undertones which
reflect Badawi's promotion of Islam as a religion for
development [48,51,63,57,7778]. By restoring the
sense of moderation toward the practice of Islam,
Badawi had hoped that non-Muslim Malaysians would
feel embraced by the regime [69].
At the international level, Badawi attempted to
export Islam Hadhari to both Muslim and non-Muslim
countries. The idea is to cement Malaysia's role as a
model nation and leader of the Muslim world by
manufacturing it as a development model based on a
state-authorized version of Islam [48,63]. However, at
the domestic level, the operationalization of Badawi's
doctrines is questionable at best. It is not clear
whether Islam Hadhari represents genuine efforts
toward a progressive interpretation of Islamic
thinking, or merely a strategy for securing Malaysian
votes by not openly marginalizing its non-Malay and
non-Muslim population [69,76].
The coalition has utilized its ideological machinery
in justifying the coercive measures undertaken during
a series of crackdowns against 'deviant' sects such as
the Tarikat Samaniah Ibrahim Bonjol in 2004, and
Terengganu or Sky Kingdom in 2005 [7981]. In
2004, seventy members of the Muslim sect Tarikat
Samaniah Ibrahim Bonjol were arrested in Selangor
by Islamic religious authorities [7981]. The govern-
ment claimed that the sect treated the Qur'an as a
historical text, which resulted to its 'casual' attitude
toward prayer and marriage. In the aftermath of
these arrests, Malaysian chief executive, Khir Toyo
announced his plan to vanquish some sixty divergent
sects operating in Selangor [7981]. In 2005, another
religious sect in Terengganu known as Sky Kingdom
was also shut down by the Department of Islamic
Development [79]. The government claimed that the
movement was propagating documents that coun-
tered Islamic teachings. Its leader, Ayah Pin was
presented to the public as threat to national security
by espousing alternative views on religion and lifestyle
that differ from those provided by the government. In
doing so, Aya Pin was not only jeopardizing the
country's official religion but also destabilizing the
political status quo [80].
The government has portrayed these religious
entities as threats to Malaysia's national security by
espousing alternative views of Islam, and adopting a
lifestyle different from the ones endorsed by the BN
coalition. However, Sky Kingdom's 'threats' to national
security were ideational rather than material in
nature. These events offer a glimpse to the condition
of diversity space in Malaysia despite its multiethnic,
multireligious society. These events highlight Ma-
laysia's unsecured diversity space amid a multiethnic,
multireligious society, which in turn, undermines the
country's national security.
Islam Hadhari
has also provided the government an
effective ideological apparatus for stifling its political
rival, the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS). Badawi
has likened PAS' brand of Islam to a trap that must be
exposed to prevent Malay Muslims from being
ensnared [48,74]. Under
Islam Hadhari
, the PAS is
faced with a lose-lose situation: either to comply with
a BN-sponsored Islam and operate within this limited
context or reject this model and become an enemy of
the state [48,55,63,76]. Either way, the ideological
terrain within which PAS can manoeuvre is significantly
diminished. Needless to say, Islam Hadhari has further
enhanced the government's monopolistic control over
the organization and facilitation of Islam. Divergent
sects operating beyond the provisions and boundaries
set by the coalition are more easily detected and
trounced. Hence,
Islam Hadhari
becomes an extension
of the implicit campaign against the expansion of the
diversity space critical for Malaysia's pluralistic society.
3.2.2. Limits to the Material Security Apparatus
The government's ideational security constructs are
complemented by a material security apparatus. This
involves are coercive laws designed to secure the
status-quo by removing all material and/or ideational
challenges to its legitimacy [4546,48,5355,58
59,63,67,82]. A primary example is the recently re-
pealed Internal Security Act (ISA) passed by PM Abdul
Rahman in 1960 [83]. The ISA served as a preventive
detention law which enabled the arrests of individuals
without trial and criminal charges under limited,
legally defined circumstances for sixty days. Moreover,
the Act also allowed the extension of this detention
period for up to two years upon the discretion of the
Home Minister with minimal judicial review [83]. As
stated in Section 73 of the Act, 'any police officer may
arrest and detain without warrant any person who has
acted or is about to act or is likely to act in any
manner prejudicial to the security of Malaysia or any
part thereof' [83].
The ISA is further complemented by the Sedition
Act, revised in 1971 by Malaysia's second PM Tun
Abdul Razak which made any questioning of Malayan
paramountcy an act of treason. The Act prohibits
virtually all activities with 'seditious tendency', resulting
to disaffection and hostility toward the government or
communal ill will [84]. Despite initial controversies, the
coalition has skilfully justified the presence of ISA and
Sedition Act as necessary legislation for ensuring
Malaysia's national security [4546,52].Such laws are
deemed to be particularly relevant in the context of the
post-9/11 world order, where they serve as effective
counterterrorism measures akin to the Patriot Act of
the US, and the Anti-Terrorism Act of the UK.
In recent years, however, opposition to the ISA has
grown considerably. Critics have argued that the Act
was passed to stifle what should have been legitimate
political oppositions under a well-functioning dem-
ocratic society and as such had been compared to
internal pre-emptive strike, given its preventive nature
[5354]. For example, during the 1987 Operasi Lalang
(Weeding Operation), 106 people were arrested
without proper charges under the ISA. Most of the
detainees were members of the opposition party and
various social activist groups. The coalition issued a
White Paper explaining the arrests, stating that
various groups which had played up sensitive issues
and thus created racial tension in the country had
exploited the government's liberal and tolerant
attitude [5455,8586].
One of the most significant outcomes of this
struggle was the introduction of section 8B of the ISA
which blocked judicial review of ISA detentions
including those brought as habeas corpus petitions
[8788]. In 2001, this section of the ISA was used to
detain members of the People's Justice Party (PJP)
dubbed as the 'Reformasi or KeADILan 10' [8788].
The detainees, led by Anwar Ibrahim's wife, Wan
Azizah Ismail pressed vocally for his release, Ibrahim
had been convicted of misuse of power and sodomy in
trials, which according to Human Rights Watch, were
marred by coerced confessions of key witnesses [87
88]. Prior to his imprisonment, Anwar was leading
rallies across Malaysia in support of his newly-
formed reformasi movement, preaching to vast crowds
in favour of far-reaching social, political, and economic
reforms [45,5455,86]. In response, Mahathir's side
claimed that the arrested activists were planning
violent protests to overthrow the government and were
attempting to procure dangerous weapons and
explosives [8788]. Yet despite the serious nature of
these charges, the government failed to produce any
credible evidence to support its claim.
These abuses drove oppositionist groups, human
rights activists, and other civil society advocates to
mobilize large-scale protests against the ISA, por-
trayed as unnecessary draconian law that does not
bode well for Malaysia's vision of progressing toward
'developed nation' status [8788]. The popularity of
these movements, along with the resurgence of a
stronger opposition after the 2008 General Election,
played a crucial role in PM Najib's decision to repeal
the Act. In 2012, the Security Offences (Special
Measures) Act or SOSMA has officially replaced the
ISA [89]. The new Act is envisioned 'to provide for
special measures relating to security offences for the
purpose of maintaining public order and security and
for connected matters.'
In contrast to ISA, the new law requires the filing
of charges based on credible evidence against
detainees after twenty-eight days [89]. Thus, the
burden to produce reliable proof within a specified
time frame is shifted to the government's law en-
forcement and intelligence agencies responsible for
combating terrorist activities. However, SOSMA is also
being criticized from both sides. On the one hand,
anti-terrorist groups argue that the requirement to
bring charges within twenty-eight days under SOSMA
weakens Malaysia's capacity to pre-emptively contain
terrorist threats [90]. On the other, human rights
groups criticise SOSMA for allowing police to authorise
communication intercepts and permitting prosecutors
to present evidence without disclosing sources.
Moreover, acquitted suspects in the midst of an appeal
may still be detained in prison or tethered to a
monitoring device until the appeal is formally settled
Overall, these two limits have significantly under-
mined the Malaysian government's efforts to effec-
tively cohabit human security (defined in terms of
ethnic security) into its national security framework.
The BN's ideational and material security apparatuses
ensure the preservation of a Malay-dominated status
quo. In the process, the BN has become synonymous
with the Malaysian nation-state. The noble objective
of protecting Malays' interests is equated to the venal
objective of preserving the BN's political supremacy,
pursued under the banner of securing Malaysia's
shrinking diversity space. In pursuing its Bumiputra-
oriented social vision, the government has utilized
trade liberalization, along with complementary neo-
liberal economic policies, but often at the expense
other Malaysian ethnic communities. In other words,
they have been fervently pursued to reinforce and
safeguard a Malay-imagined society. As long as the
constitutional frameworks that legitimize a Bumiputra-
centric Malaysian nation-state are sustained, de-
ethnicizing the country's politico-economic and socio-
cultural arrangements remains highly implausible.
Thus, Malaysia's national security is, for better or
worse, developed around Malay ethnic identity.
4. Conclusion
This article has critically examined the Philippines and
Malaysia's experiences with cohabiting the human
security concept into their respective national security
frameworks. It argued that while on the one hand, the
Philippines' primary security referent object is its
shrinking development space amid a deeply-entrenched
patronage system controlled by a powerful Filipino
oligarchy; on the other, Malaysia's main security
referent object is its contracting diversity space amid a
Bumiputra-centric political economy, developed and
controlled by the perpetually ruling BN coalition. Both
the Philippines and Malaysia's primary security referent
objects—development space and diversity space—
represent the non-traditional, people-centred dimension
of national security rather than its traditional, state-
centric dimension.
A variety of limits have severely undermined the
two countries' efforts at cohabiting human security
into their respective national security frameworks. In
the case of the Philippines, the limits of its democ-
ratization and its Human Security Acts have produced
an enormous challenge to securing its development
space, defined in terms of economic security. Whereas
in the case of Malaysia, the limits to ideological and
material security apparatus have presented significant
constraints in securing its diversity space, defined in
terms of ethnic security.
These limits have contributed to the country's
lacklustre experience with cohabitative security.
Nevertheless, both cases have illustrated a concrete
way of giving entitlement to non-traditional, people-
centered elements of security as legitimate referent
objects of a national security framework. The
Philippine and Malaysian experiences underscores a
two-pronged assumption: first, the meaning and
provision of national security can neither be eloquently
articulated nor completely substantiated without con-
sideration of 'below the state' actors and issues; and
second, the eminent status of the state vis-à-vis power
in providing national security can neither be trivialized
nor undermined.
Hence, instead of downplaying a state-centric
concept while highlighting a people-centred model,
cohabitative security amalgamates statist and hu-
manist views of national security. This is one approach
to resolving the 'entitled state versus untitled human'
dilemma in which the state is ordinarily depicted as an
antagonistic force obstructing the quest for human
This invisible yet concrete divide between states
and individuals vis-à-vis communities, creates a dist-
orted view that the state does not acknowledge the
multidimensionality of national security in the modern-
day era. Thus, despite claims being made by state
actors with regard to their revised national security
rhetoric and agenda, non-state actors continue to
view national security as a purely militaristic object
bereft of human sensibility. On the one hand, the
state claims to have created a novel national security
vision protecting human security. But on the other
hand, citizens and communities equate national
security to the anachronistic pursuit of sovereignty
and territorial boundaries.
The employment of cohabitative security means
that state security and human security become
mutually constitutive and reinforce dimensions of
national security. A shift in the government's per-
ception of state security can have a corresponding
impact on individuals and communities' collective
perception of human security, and vice versa. There-
fore, this allows the state to have a more positive and
nurturing image in the security narrative. It veers
away from the innate tendency to portray the state as
a completely distinct security domain that must be
temporarily de-emphasized and/or unaccounted for
when advancing human security objectives.
In doing so, it 'unvilifies' the role of the state in
pursuing a human security rhetoric and agenda.
Instead of being diametrically opposed, the cohab-
itative security approach shows that state security
complements human security, and vice versa. To some
extent, the invisible divide between the 'high politics'
of the states and the 'low politics' of the people and
communities is bridged, enabling state actors to
realize the multidimensionality of national security in
the twenty-first century. A more collective under-
standing of national security shared by governments
and citizens is therefore realized.
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