Do you remember?

UP Activists during Martial Lawthe 21st night of September? The Earth, Wind and Fire Song that starts with these lyrics came out during the Martial Law period, in 1978. I was 13. The official declaration of Martial Law was not on Sept. 21 though, but on Sept. 23, 1972 if one is to look at Manolo Quezon’s account of what happened (link):

Newspapers, magazines, radio and TV stations, PLDT, the airport, were shut down in the early hours of September 23. Media, political, and other personalities and activists were rounded up also in the early morning hours.

This is why martial law was announced with silence: people woke up to discover that TV and radio stations were off the air. Later in the day, some stations started playing easy listening music and some stations aired cartoons. But Marcos’ speechwriters were slow, then the teleprompter broke down, and the speech had to be hand-written on kartolina. So it wasn’t until dinnertime that Marcos finally appeared on TV and the country found out martial law was in place.

I do remember – vaguely – cartoons the entire day on TV. At seven years, one starts remembering. Our old black and white TV in a wooden casing. The Bagong Lipunan song on TV accompanying torch marches. Placard for a referendum saying “YES na YES”. Was it the ratification of the 1973 Constitution or was it the 1975 referendum giving Marcos more powers (link)? I don’t remember. In fact even as a child I did not feel like asking. In UP Campus, the sense of danger was present.  Much of what happened I found out only later, in “another life”, already in Europe far from that.

Simpler times?

Unlike in the Philippines today, there was hardly any news in Manila papers about “the provinces”. It was vaguely known that there was a conflict in Mindanao. Samar (link) was spoken of in hushes. Many people were jailed at the onset of Martial Law, and I think most were happy to be let out. Foreigners could be subjected to reprisals similar to those Sr. Patricia Fox is going through today. Though the thoroughly manipulative Marcos regime knew how to dose fear and reward very well. Marcos killed less people than have been killed in Duterte’s drug war, though more were tortured.

And many disappeared, or were subjected to different forms of harassment. And unlike today, there was hardly a way of making things known to a large crowd. No social media, not even Internet. Fax machines came in the 1980s. Try concealing a cassette recorder of those days to record threats. And there was a largely indifferent – by then – population. There had been a First Quarter Storm in the early 1970s, a Diliman Commune, strong opposition. And still, as Joel Pablo Salud writes (link):  Money was a means, not an end to most Filipinos. Martial Law changed that, as Salud writes:

Corruption, once a crime, had turned into practice. In so short a time, Marcos had transformed anti-materialism to a wholly materialistic mindset from top to bottom. Again, it was money for money’s sake. This bought the dictatorship more time..

..the general public had begun to heap scorn on most calls to dissent. Protest marches were marked as a menace to society. The words of the intellectuals, powerful though they may have been, fell on deaf ears.

It would be safe to assume that with the advent of Marcos’ New Society, which showcased, above all, his achievements in the area of infrastructure, economic development, and relationship with the superpowers—all paid for by the taxes of the people—the all-too-visual spectacle turned the public’s attention from any talk of reforms to such pageants as military parades, global events, virtually the sights and sounds and wonders created by this conjugal dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda.
The crass, even cold-blooded materialism of the Martial Law era is clear in my memory. The Filipino got his bread and his circuses. Miss Universe in 1973. The Thrilla in Manila: Ali vs. Frazier in 1975. UNCTAD V in 1979 (link) – which we smart ass kids connected with Voltes V (link):
Each day of the week, different robot shows were aired—“Mazinger Z,” “Daimos,” “Mekanda Robot,” “Grendizer” and “Dunguard Ace,” to name a few. They captured the imagination of a predigital generation..

..It was a wonderful time to be a kid then—until they were seized through a directive by the Marcos government. “Voltes V” and the other robot animes where banned from airing nationwide because of their alleged “excessive violence.”..

My [Toym Leon Imao’s] anger was trained on then President Ferdinand Marcos, who my young mind labeled as the Philippines version of the evil Boazanian Emperor.

Many from the generation that grew up during World War 2 and the Japanese occupation had another attitude to the Japanese warrior spirit shown in those anime. There were indeed protests from some parents and Marcos had responded to them. There was also a videogame ban (link).

Not all that glitters is gold

What I also know by now is that my mother joined the UP Cooperative in the early 1970s, when the first rice crisis hit the country, shortly before my brother was born. The UP Coop had NFA rice.  Good place to buy the basics. Only place with cash registers that also worked during brownouts.

Brownouts were frequent and so was lack of water. It is not as if frequent blackouts were something that started in the Cory years. Things were often experienced during Martial Law, hardly reported. The U.P. Fire Brigade went around distributing water to everyone one hot summer, 1975 or 1976.

When was it that the NAWASA in Balara, the ones in charge of water supply, got foreign money to improve water supply in Manila – but just built a fancy new headquarters on Katipunan? Hmm. Don’t remember the year but I know that it happened that way. Saw the fancy new building.

Just like I recall the often half-empty concert hall of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. And a story of how a foreign conductor stopped in the middle of a performance when Imelda’s people started filming him without a contract. The story I recall is that she herself came down with one.

So she didn’t dare treat him like the Beatles were treated in 1966 (link) after “snubbing” Imelda. Her showing off got a spooky note though when the Film Center accident happened in 1981 (link). Even if international friends of Imelda like George Hamilton were able to add to her glitter then.

It is only a paper moon

But then again, didn’t George Hamilton play in the vampire movie “Love at First Bite”? It is true that Filipinos until today are obsessed with appearing sophisticated and wordly. Even Napoles’ daughter buying her way into the Hollywood party circuit (link) in recent times reflects that. Colonialism I guess created an obsession with trying hard to be like those who came, conquered – and spread the word that their ways and looks were superior. Imelda Marcos’ shoes (link) are an example of the ostentatiousness of people who want to prove something at all costs, to the world.

Nowadays there exist members of the Filipino upper class who truly appreciate culture when they travel (link) – unlike some especially Marcos-era Filipinos who thought it was cool to sneer at, for example, how little Western Europeans spoke English. Or spoke it with an accent, how terrible! Quiet self-esteem looks different from grandiosity and constantly having to insult other people to prove one’s worth. What was also obvious during Marcos times was the huge difference between the too-perfect pictures of places and the real disorder and dirt around them. Only a paper moon.

Lost Golden Age?

Unfortunately the distorted picture of Martial Law seems to consist, among many, of the news that never reached Manila – meaning a seemingly less complex, chaotic world than today – and of the airbrushed pictures of the regime’s “accomplishments” which were mostly hollow – or not lasting. True, there were some good things, for example how Commissioner Mathay ran Metro Manila. Or the Metro Manila Transit Corporation – which unfortunately went bankrupt very quickly. But a regime that lasted 21 years should have done at least a few good things, it would be awful otherwise.

Could it be that the yearning back (among some) for a supposed Golden Age is that the travails of the past 32 years since 1986 have obscured how things really were during the Marcos era? One thing I see is that the Filipino middle class was much thinner back then. Sometimes I wonder if we are bad at counting our blessings, or curse even our blessings until curses come upon us. The 1960s were an economically expansive time, but somehow the dream of Martial Law seduced so many. Same with the Second Aquino Presidency (2010-2016) – it was laying the groundwork for more.

The moment you take your luck for granted, you might lose it – this is a life lesson many can learn. People can tend to forget the bad things about the past and forget how much better things are now. Probably with me, the reason why I don’t forget Martial Law – and I have left out very many things – is that I left in 1982. Maybe some things even got worse after 1986 – but I think because many things just went on due to inertia. Labor export since 1975 instead of industrial build-up. Brain drain since the 1960s. Reactive, not proactive politics. Worst: money as an end, not a means.

Symptoms and Causes

Policies that went at the symptoms and rarely at the root causes of anything. Latest example – EJK or tokhang as what many people thought would create peace and order. Just like Martial Law may have reduced street crime in the beginning (it came back later) but burglary increased, I do recall. But what to do with a people that love show over substance, like Marcos, for whom a “communiqué was the accomplishment itself, the implementation secondary”, as Lee Kuan Yew observed (link)? A people that often place their false pride first and refuse to accept criticism that could be helpful?

Well, I partly understand that sensitivity. Gossip and damaging criticism can damage you badly in a country where many people don’t form their own judgement about a person, but follow the crowd. Which is why trolls have played an important role in keeping President Duterte where he is now. What I myself admit that I was influenced by certain commonly held opinions also. Surprisingly until recently about Mar Roxas. His recent suggestions on rice policy show a man who analyzes very thoroughly (link) and with a realistic focus, not a bumbling theoretician with “analysis paralysis”.

What will happen?

Today is going to be a day of protests in the Philippines. I wonder how many people will come now. What Filipinos finally will decide. Because, as Joel Pablo Salud also wrote (link), the once proud Filipino was again reduced to the groveling, finicky and fearful crofter of Joaquin’s “The Heritage of Smallness” ..by Martial Law. And this after the 1960s.. had began shaping Philippine society into the vibrant, energetic.. constituency it was always meant to be. Or like contributor caliphman on Joe America’s blog more or less wrote, will they decide to stay carabaos? Or will they say no?

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 21 Sept. 2018

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Sipain ang COA

Imee Marcossabi ni Digong. Tama naman siya. Bastos talaga sila. Eh pati sa gastos nila Imee nakikialam. Puwede ba iyon? Mga Marcos ang may-ari ng Ilocos Norte. Katangahan na dilawan iyang audit. Palibhasa ayaw nila na nakawan sila, eh sila ang mang-aapi sa Pilipino mula noon pa, dapat lang. Ubusin ang buwis na binabayaran nila, hanggang sila naman ang maging mahihirap tulad natin. Tayo naman ang magiging mayaman, pahappy-happy. Sila ang magtatrabaho para sa ating lahat. Tulad ng mga mayayabang na doktor na nahuli ni Tulfo sa PGH. Sa bayan na ngayon magsisilbi.

Disentery at plastication

Hindi porke’t nakapag-aral ka puwede mo nang akalain na kung sino ka. Unang-una, mas mataas ang Presidente sa lahat ng may pinag-aralan kahit na halos bumagsak siya. Ibig sabihin nito, bobo ang mga eskwulahan at unibersidad. Tinuturo lang nila ang gumaya sa kaplastikan ng mga dating amo nating mga prayle at Kano, kumilos at magsalita ng disente at educated. Putang ina talaga! Tinuruan tayo maging mga peke. Tapos itinuro ang morals-morals. E kung kailangan talagang patayin ang adik, sagabal lang ang kunsensiya na iyan. Salitang galing Kastila, di sariling atin.

Tapos iyong diskarte na educated kuno? Para lang naman iyan doon sa pelikula ni Leonardo di Caprio, iyong Catch me if you Can. Nakita lang niya sa TV na ang mga doktor, mahilig sa salitang “I concur”. Ginaya niya, tapos lahat akala doktor siya. Mga peke sila sa diyan sa US, kita niyo? Bakit naman ngayon ang aarte pa ng mga eksperto kuno ng DOH, ayaw sumunod sa judgement ni Dra. Persida Acosta? President ang naglagay sa kanya sa puwesto. Sino ba SILA para kumontra? Tanging mga Kano ang nagpasok ng idea ng equality para guluhin tayo, para pasaway na ang lahat.

Sino ba kayo?

Karapat-dapat ba na may katulong na hindi sumusunod sa amo, anak na hindi sumusunod sa magulang, Pilipino na hindi sumusunod sa Presidente? Mga bastos ang mga Pilipino na ganyan, kunyari pa silang nagpupuna lang. Ano ba ang pagpuna kundi gusto mong gawing pasaway lahat? Kaya dapat lang makulong si Trillanes. Ano ba iyang mga batas-batas na laging sinasabi ng dilaw? Noong 1521, walang batas-batas, Konsti-konstitusyon, ang mga taongbayan kay Lapu-Lapu lahat. Ngayon walang laban ang Pilipino dahil ang dilawan, hawak ng foreign power na kalaban natin.

Alam ko iyon dahil sinabi sa amin ng isang foreign power na kaibig-ibigan natin, hawak isla natin. Pero tumahimik na kayo diyan. Hindi naman talaga puwede ang COA makialam kay Imee Marcos. Mataas na pamilya ang mga ito. Hindi tulad ng mga patapon na liberal na pinasok ng mga taga-US. Hindi maaring hindi makakain ng pinakbet ang mga Marcos, kaya pagbigyan na natin sila sa pera. Huwag tayong mainggit sa masuwerte. Mas masama iyong mga ambisyosong matatakaw sa pera na trabaho ng trabaho, gustong baguhin ang kanilang nakatakdang lugar sa lipunan. Mga pampagulo!

Wala sa lugar

Pero halos hindi na nila magagawa iyon dahil wala na ang mga amo nilang Amerikano. Talunan. Kung akala ng mga Ingleserong abogado na may “equal protection clause” at hindi puwedeng si Trillanes lang ang kasuhan, kami naman ito ang sagot: mas naniniwala pa kami kay Santa Claus. Tandaan ninyo ito: babalik ang sambayanan sa kanyang tamang anyo. Bawat tao rito may lugar. Maliban sa mga ayaw tumanggap sa lugar na binigay sa kanila ng mga matataas. Wala talaga silang dapat sisihin dahil sila lang ang mga may ambisyon ni di karapat-dapat, para matahin ang bayan.

Buti pa si Manny Pacquiao, umasenso na walang pa-Harvard-Harvard tulad nitong anak ni Lugaw. Ang pag-asenso, suwerte. Hindi mapipilit iyon. Nakakabuwisit itong mga nagpapakabuting tao na akala mo santo, lalo na kung nakapag-aral at pafact-check-fact-check pa diyan, galing sa Rappler. Ayaw kasi maniwala sa husga ng mga tito at tita. Galing sa pakiramdam ito kaya likas na tama ito. Pautot lang ang mga dinadahi-dahilan pa. Tulad ng mga dahi-dahilan ni Panelo, palusot lang sila. Pero kailangan dahil sobra pang dami nitong mga dilawan: Westernized, moralized, Trillanized..


At kung ayaw ninyong maniwala sa mga tito at tita, maniwala kayo sa mga titi, sa panel discussion. Panel discussion dahil si Panelo ang nakipagdiscuss kay Digong. Kasama nila ang mga banga na puno daw ng asin at suka, para sa mga kakainin ni Digong kung gusto niya. Wala ring bigas doon? Wala po, sabi nila itinatago daw ng mga dilawan. Kinain lahat ni Franklin Drilon. Kawawa tayo! Pero tandaan ninyo, better eat bukbok than read a book. At ito pa: “Ignorance is Blessed”. Hindi uso noong 1521 ang nagmamarunong, kaya nanalo si Lapu-Lapu. Hindi si Trillanes, Magellan pala.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 17. Sept. 2018

 

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Quo warranto et ab initio in saeculo saeculorum

Wikipedia scale of justice3Social media is full of memes since the attempt to void the amnesty of Senator Trillanes.  Just like the lack of a birth certificate does not make a person unborn, a missing marriage certificate does not annul a marriage, and whether one has the death certificate of Rizal somewhere in a museum or not, Rizal (and Elvis) are dead. Will quo warranto and ab initio go the way of in saecula saeculorum (“now and forever” in Catholic liturgy – link) which became colorum (link) due to use by cult-like rebels?  Has Solicitor General Calida crossed the line, offended Filipinos?

Laws as commitments

His predecessor Florin Hilbay asked whether anyone sent to buy vinegar (Robin Padilla) can just arrest someone now. There are even memes that ask if a marriage is annulled if the marriage certificate is missing. One thing very sacred to Filipinos is marriage, not just a legal document like so much else but a sacred commitment made. Just like an amnesty is a commitment by a state to a person. Laws are also a form of commitment, like contracts between people are commitments. Morality is also a form of commitment to restrain one’s own baser instincts, and be nice to others.

The left is also defending Trillanes, not because they like him, but because the principle that an amnesty stays is essential to the safety of many former rebels among the left. Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo says that (link) “The State cannot be shackled by an act of clemency it has given to a political offender when the latter pursues subsequent acts inimical to its interest..” which betrays an idea of government “for the powerful, by the powerful for the powerful” not the people. Government should keep its commitments, not be captive to the whims of groups or factions.

Patronage and Impunity

Of course the old rules of malakas and mahina (link) or strong and weak worked out in Filipino politics for a long time, possibly even in pre-Hispanic barangays. The losers possibly even left on their own balanghai (link) to new settlements if the arrangement was too odious – there was space. Then it became convincing the powers that be that one is “right” – leading to phenomena like split-level Christianity (link) or trying to curry favor with the higher power of the time by pretending to adhere to whatever one thought would please them, even if it was only a simulation not reality.

Reagan’s Vice President Bush (senior) told Marcos (Sr.) in 1981 “We love your adherence to democratic principle and to the democratic processes” (link). Marcos must have been very pleased. The system of master pleases patron, even if only for show, to be allowed impunity downwards. Years later, Marcos was to be surprised that American society had eventually developed to also care whether human rights were adhered to abroad, away from the principle of “our SOB” (link). Thus he was “very, very disappointed” when Senator Laxalt told him to “cut, and cut cleanly” in 1986.

What does the Filipino want?

One could defend the old system as “Filipino culture”, but some recent memes show some beliefs might be changing: police ask for your driver’s license application instead of your driver’s license, or POEA wants your passport application instead of your passport.  Are they tired of impunity? There is a major principle that makes rule of law both real and yes, even pleasant for those with less power: legal certainty (link), defined as “a principle in national and international law which holds that the law must provide those subject to it with the ability to regulate their conduct.”

One could argue that the unwritten rules of Philippine society, basically the rules of patronage and impunity, are predictable to those who grow up in them. But is it a nice life having to always watch out who you might offend? Especially the Filipino entitled, who often are unpredictably grandiose? The President with his obvious narcissism is just an extreme manifestation. The others who shout “do you know who I am” to anyone they think is in their way or otherwise offended them are more. Might be that the Philippines is on the road to hell if those who dream of being like that are more.


Does the majority really think the Philippines is meant to be ruled by impunity, by face and power, and by rent-seekers forever? Quo warranto, or what gives the entitled to rule the country after all? Though some Marcos loyalists call the so-called yellows “pretenders” (link) which is a term used for fake royalty and some even say that Bongbong Marcos will soon “wear the crown” of Vice President. As if that dynasty ruled the country ab initio (from the beginning) and had the right to do so in saeculo saeculorum (for ever and ever). Mind your betters, or Magistrate Calida will punish you!

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 8 September 2018

 

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Soft and Forgiving?

Lee Kuan YewWhere is that Filipino attribute gone? Lee Kuan Yew said it in this context (link): It is a soft, forgiving culture. Only in the Philippines could a leader like Ferdinand Marcos, who pillaged his country for over 20 years, still be considered for a national burial. Insignificant amounts of the loot have been recovered, yet his wife and children were allowed to return and engage in politics. There is not much softness and forgiving attitude among those who are OK with poor people getting killed as drug suspects. There is downright malice towards the family and those associated with the political color that helped bring down Marcos, including recent unsubstantiated claims against the City of Naga (link) aimed at damaging Vice President Robredo. “Those who claim to be better should be measured by higher standards” a Duterte supporter once told me.

Brazenness is Strength

So much for soft and forgiving. Probably those who don’t “claim to be better” are given a free pass. Maybe those brazen like the Tulfos (link) with their 60 million are admired for their “strength”. What I do understand is that all places where there used to be oppression have some degree of admiration of sorts for bandits. Oppression made ordinary people take shortcuts, go against the law, and those who were especially bold at it had the people’s sympathy. But the Tulfos are NOT Robin Hoods. Especially this is NOT worthy of Robin Hood or Zorro and especially not my idol Batman (link): He relates how his driver bumped a little girl in Navotas and how they had taken her to the ER, only to be seen by a doctor who refused to give the girl first aid. Nothing in the video reflects this.. The video also shows Tulfo harassing the medical staff and saying “gago ka!” 

Unrepentantly, Imee Marcos has told Filipinos to move on (link) from the past. The New York Times article also says this: Thousands of people were killed and tortured during the Marcos era, and the Marcos family was accused of stealing roughly $10 billion in government treasure to enrich itself. There is a bit of a counter-reaction now, with reminders that Marcos debt will take until 2025 for the Philippines to pay. But I wonder how much that reaches most Filipinos. Money that belongs to the government I think is an abstraction to most Filipinos, and I concur (to borrow a term used by many emergency room doctors, in honor of those harrased by Mon Tulfo) with Edgar Lores in this (link): Filipino thinking is concrete thinking [not abstract thinking]. State money is to most just as endless as the money of relatives abroad, not my money, why bother?

Utang na loob

Those who have understood that it is the sum of the money paid as taxes are usually middle class. People who have worked hard for their money – and to the typical Filipino may appear as stingy or even worse, “ambitious”. The Filipino culture is one of sharing, but that sharing also has a bad side, meaning relatives and “friends” who borrow money or other stuff, never to give it back. Probably a holdover from the times were nobody had much and a lot of things were handled via an economy of favors and counter-favors, something still reflected in the idea of utang na loob. From overseas, the capitalist economy came and gave people with certain skills opportunities. Andres Bonifacio was warehouseman of Fressel & Co., a German company, many Katipuneros had similar jobs in Manila. The American period and afterwards brought more opportunities – outside of the old barangays.

Another aspect of utang na loob is indebtedness towards a patron. Probably a fair deal in the times of small settlements. A capable leader helped his supporters, who demonstrated loyalty in return and vice versa. It probably became a lopsided arrangement as the original chieftains became part of the colonial system as principalia with hereditary status, something they did not have before. Late 19th century agribusiness like sugar, tobacco and abaca made the local elites more powerful, together with the new mestizo elites. American-style democracy favored these elites even more. Finally, these elites controlled local governments and a national government to dispense favors in return for loyalty and vice versa. Commercial elites also had similar arrangements with underlings, except that a certain efficiency was also expected, at least compared to typical government service.

Ways to prosperity

Very typically, a UP graduate would tend to gravitate toward government while an Ateneo graduate would usually work in “Makati”, the private sector. The times where the difference was very pronounced is gone, when every public high school valedictorian and salutatorian automatically got a UP scholarship, just as the times are gone when UP was typically either leftist and/or nationalist and Ateneo was typically liberal and internationalist with its many rich mestizos. Marcos, Binay and Enrile all went to UP while Benigno Aquino Jr., Benigno Aquino III and Mar Roxas all went to Ateneo, but Leni Robredo and Florin Hilbay went to UP while Senator Gordon went to Ateneo. Probably BPO and other international firms coming to the Philippines also broke the unwritten rule of old that you had to usually be from Ateneo or La Salle to make a big career in the private sector.

Things went well for a while with Marcos’ system, even under Martial Law. The middle classes continued to prosper, the promise of order in the streets of burgeoning Metro Manila was kept at least on the surface, although the more covert forms of disorder like break-ins went up. The walls around houses that did not have walls before went up, and gated communities, originally a preserve of the rich, were built more and more for the middle class. Growth of slums will have accelerated then as well, as Manila did not give everybody the same access to its elusive dream. But in 1975, POEA was founded, and year by year more Filipinos were sent especially to the Middle East. Also, Export Processing Zones were created to attract foreign factories, for example Germany’s Triumph. Rice shortages or violence in the provinces hardly affected Manila, as little became known then.

Not only because the media barely reported, but also because Filipinos stay in their own circles. Also they tend to care little about circles outside their own, even if nowadays there seems to be a new crowd that has a more encompassing sense of right and wrong, outside of the usual “kami”. Kami being the “exclusive us” that means “us without you”, where you are the one being spoken to. Prof. Zialcita, a Filipino anthropologist, says that (link) in societies where the State and the City are absent, individuals live in organizations that are largely kin-based, leading to a sense that the primary moral obligation is only to the kin and not to a broader, abstract community. Corollary to that, the nonkin tend to be regarded as a potential enemy or a potential victim. So there was not much of a reckoning with Marcos in 1986. OFW export continued. So did migration to Manila.

Towards more Community

The origin of the Filipino is in barangays. There were the beginnings of cities like Manila and Cebu. And going back to the 19th century, the formation of national elites with money and education, which became the power elites of the American-era Philippines, and then those who studied to become government and private sector employees as well as military officers and intellectual elites. Those who left their own barangays last to join the teeming mass of what is now called Filipinos were the OFWs and also some BPO workers. Of course a lot of the teeming new middle class of the 1970s did not hear about the human rights victims of the Marcos dictatorship, who were often UP or Ateneo students, often left-leaning but not always. Yellow confetti falling into Makati streets fell for recently widowed Cory Aquino, not for most of those now named at Bantayog ng mga Bayani.

The new middle class of now cares as little about others as their newly arrived predecessors in the 1970s, who were usually OK with things as long as their prosperity went up. When that failed and Benigno Aquino’s murder shocked the country, a lot of those formerly indifferent became “yellow”. Not so strangely, liberals and leftists nowadays, and the graduates of the major universities as opposed to the diploma mills many OFWs come from, have a lot more common ground today. There is still some distrust, but within the different parts of the opposition the discourse is quite lively and interesting – usually taking place via social media. This is not surprising, as Edgar Lores already noted the Filipino mind is concrete, not abstract. And my corollary to that is  – it is visual. EDSA I was due to videotape, EDSA II due to text messages, recent upheavals due to social media.

Owing the Community

Facebook memes that say “why not steal from Marcos loyalists and then ask them to move on” or “why not borrow money from them, not pay it back, then say move on” show abstraction though. Certain Filipinos now have a sense of something maybe even their parents may not yet have had: that the state and the nation are a common venture of all, not just some abstract entity, or a milking cow once owned by the colonial powers and assumed to be a piggy bank for whoever is in power. The new middle classes whose came up mostly due to OFW remittances  and whose roots according to Mila Aguilar are still in the peasantry (link) might have another view of things. They might even see the older middle classes and the graduates of better universities as strangers (possible enemies or victims?) and gravitate to the same kind of patronage politicians their parents knew. Let us see.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 25 August 2018

Resiliency and Readiness

Tropical cyclones 1945 2006 wikicolorseem like opposites but aren’t. There has been a vibrant discussion on social media since yesterday on resilience as a Filipino attribute. A 2013 article by Ninotchka Rosca (link) says:  “To say that Filipinos are resilient is an assurance for those who have imposed upon them – much and repeatedly. It is to say to themselves that we shake off tragedy much like ducks shaking off water.” Miyako Izabel twitters (link) “I’m sorry, there’s nothing wrong with Filipino resilience. Why are you attacking it? Filipino psychology is observable. You can see how Filipinos use tawa to conceal hiya and ngiti to hide takot. It’s our coping mechanism. We process hopelessness and helplessness differently”. Tawa or laughing to conceal shame, and smiling or ngiti to hide fear – I don’t think this is Filipino-specific. Many Asians conceal embarrassment with laughter. Smiling to hide FEAR sounds like a response towards those that one must not anger. In 2014, Shakira Sison wrote (link) that “The problem with our resilience is the speed by which we transform trauma into acceptance. Instead of solving problems, we simply cope or wait for the problem to pass.”

Anong magagawa natin?

Miyako Izabel does add this to the discussion later: The self-projected resilience of Filipinos is a coping mechanism embedded in their consciousness or psyche. The politicians’ dismissive nonchalance–“nevermind Filipinos; they’re resilient to hardship, hunger, poverty, persecutions, killings, calamities”–is an oppressive insult. Just like another netizen tweets (link): “We’re only resilient because we have no fucking choice.” or Inday Espina-Varona who tweets (link): “Walang masama sa resiliency. Helped us survive centuries of disasters (and colonisers and abusive leaders). The important point is, not to rely on it as solution to problems. Resilience is no substitute for accountability and reform.” Anong magagawa natin becomes may magagawa tayo. Indeed the improvisation by private parties and LGUs, as well as the higher degree of preparation by LGUs such as Marikina and Cainta, turned out to be a highlight of yesterday and today. Kudos. The Filipino is not as helpless and hopeless as it seems, after all. The President was hardly missed. Resiliency in the sense of excusing lack of preparation was not at all evident in those doing things.

The bayanihan spirit of spontaneous helping one another (Ateneo, CBCP and a number of other groups launched drives to collect relief goods) plus the contemporary spirit of for example having highly modern evacuation centers in Marikina (link) combined to deal with a perennial scourge. There were some of the netizens who did remember that overbuilding – even over canals and streams as well as natural flooding areas – and garbage clogging drains were part of the causes. Certainly there is more than can be done here, especially to avoid Manila Bay spitting back. Possibly the key is “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,  Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.”. Another of course is to start with what is necessary, then do what is possible – another basic principle in setting priorities. That easy?

Barangays and polders

Far-flung barangays, especially 500 years ago when the Philippines had only 600 thousand people, relied on their own resiliency to survive. Probably even 120 years ago, with not even 10 million Filipinos, it was similar. One still had to take a steamship to get to storm-ridden Bikol or Samar. The strength of storms hadn’t increased yet due to global warming though, and it could be that people still followed some old native wisdom not to build in certain places. Anywhere one goes in the world, the poorest parts of cities were usually those near the river – even Au in Munich, which in southern German means a low lying meadow near the river. Even scientifically minded people should not look down upon, or underestimate folk wisdom. Tribes on the Andamans and Nicobars survived the 2005 tsunami by moving to higher ground (link). There are stories of Bikol people having similar strategies with storms. For all we know, native healers noticed patterns in clouds and wind before storms came and were the ones who warned the chiefs to keep the village safe. Practical adaptations like houses on stilts were part of a culture which was both ready and resilient.

Need is the driver of invention. A Filipino visitor to Europe recently noted that many trash cans here have no lids and windows have no screens (link) – leading to a lot of flies in the recent heat wave over here. On the other hand, houses here have tilted roofs – to keep snow from piling up. Romans described what later became the Netherlands as a country that was neither land nor sea. Yet the Dutch made the most out of it. Waterschapen or water boards were among their first democratic institutions to take care of water in every respect (link): “Punishments meted out by water boards were fines for misdemeanors such as emptying waste in the nearest canal; however, according to various historical documents, the death penalty was used more than once for serious offenders who threatened dike safety or water quality.” The collective effort of making one’s own land – very literally – can be compared with what it took to build the Banaue rice terraces, or the Inca irrigation systems in the Andes. The Afsluitdijk (link) crowns centuries of work, and fulfills the motto of its chief engineer Cornelius Lely, that “a people that lives builds for its future”.

Up and Down the Country

American officials in the early 20th century described the Tagalogs as one people. There is some sense in that as they spoke the same language with several dialects (like the marked Batangas dialect) already then. Tondo as the settlement at the mouth of the Pasig river in the large natural harbor of Manila Bay existed for centuries, even before Malays established what became Maynila or later Intramuros. Certainly the economic links with the fish-rich Laguna de Bay already formed a country in the sense of people who constantly interact with one another. Probably Spanish times helped spread Tagalog upwards all the way to Nueva Ecija. Certainly if an archipelago is not yet fully united in an abstract sense, ecological and economic areas are practical ways of dealing with common interests and resources. The Pharaohs of Upper and Lower Egypt certainly had an important role in resolving how water was distributed between the fertile delta and the upriver communities. At the very least, leaders should try to work for the collective prosperity of a common area  – unity often arises out of that. For that, leaders need a sense of the whole and the future.

Going up and down the Isar river near Munich, one senses how an entire river was tamed for those who live along its banks. From the Sylvenstein reservoir upstream, whose water is sometimes let out preemptively before heavy rains – in order to be able to keep those from affecting Munich with its 1.4 million people. Canals along the Isar help regulate the river before, in and after Munich, but also have a history as passageways for timber chopped down in the mountains – an old industry. Likewise many small hydroelectric plants – still in use – interrupt these canals, including locks. Munich’s central heating plant takes up water from the river before the city, heats it up and puts int back into the canals after it has heated large parts of the town. The canals and creeks within Munich are laid dry in early spring, before the water in the mountains melts, to clean them. There is a large artificial lake north of Munich to help regulate water flow, additionally clean the water coming from the city – even if Munich has a huge sewage treatment plant which cleans the dirty water from the city before it goes into the river, in a process involving algae and bacteria.

The Babaylan of Christmas Present

Rizal in his novels describes the Pasig River and the Laguna Lake including Talim Island very well. One feels that he knew his terrain, his countryside. Do Filipinos still know their terrain that well? One cannot immediately get to the level of Munich, which is like cleaning a toilet with a toothbrush. But it isn’t impossible to clean up things. Iloilo managed to clean up its river. Could be, or course, that many inhabitants of Manila don’t truly see it as their home. Many people who just came there. Short-sighted, narrow self-interest and greed have not helped. Nor has petty politicking helped.  Previous admins always had their mistakes. But the population density – and the newfound affluence – of today makes strategies that worked for barangays even 120 years ago unrealistic. According to a Bloomberg news report (link), 54 thousand were now evacuated in Metro Manila.

Looking at the cars that landed in the Marikina river hurts. Owning more means more to protect. Filipinos who work in international firms will know the value of the time lost due to those floods. That is a far cry from the sense of time we had in the Philippines of the 1970s, when hours went by. Resilience is good. Readiness is better. Foresight is needed. System thinking. Who will be up to it? DOST Project NOAH, very useful in predicting flood levels, was defunded by the present admin (link) and had to retreat to being a mere UP research project, bereft of its national sensor network.

One may be tempted to dismiss the fake Manila Bay clean-up drive of Manila Mayor Erap Estrada as the foolishness of an old clown. But unfortunately it isn’t that simple. Mila Aguilar, who has experienced decades of Philippine history closely, describes the present situation like this (link):

..Failure to maintain that flood control system in the past two years has been the result of:

1. Focus on divisive politics instead of good government.

2. Extreme focus on a fake drug war that kills instead of rehabilitating the poor, whether they be real addicts or not.

3. Return of gross corruption and 60 percent commissions on road projects, resulting in sloppy work that fills up culverts instead of emptying or building them, and a flurry to start them even in the midst of the rainy season.

4. Utter failure of local governments to clean up culverts and creeks of garbage, the money probably not being there.

5. Widespread demoralization among the urban poor, who because they are the primary targets of killings, price increases and insults on their persons, will naturally not cooperate in cleaning up their surroundings.

The garbage that floats out of culverts and creeks all over the National Capital Region is but a symptom of the vomit that the nation feels in its gut over the present greed..

Babaylans of old may have felt disaster coming in the wind and clouds. Raja Duterte has no seers. Yet this is visible for all to see: a hanging bridge in Rizal demolished by a flashflood. Serious masses of water coming down the river. Anyone who knows rivers knows the sheer power water can have.

Flashflood destroyed the Hanging Bridge connecting Sitio Wawa and Sitio Sto. Nino. Large part of Sitio Wawa is inaccessible by vehicles and people need to find alternative routes by foot to reach their homes. The Barangay San Rafael staffs are already assisting and on the move to help those who are affected.These footages were captured to help the LGU assess the situation and see the extent of the damages caused by the flash flood.Stay safe everyone and lets pray for the rain to stop.

Gepostet von Edzon Sison am Samstag, 11. August 2018

The Babaylan of Christmas Future

Famous author Ninotchka Rosca would probably have been a babaylan in the old Philippines. Her common sense about both the past and the present give her a good sense of what might happen. She says this on Facebook, and it sounds almost like a scary vision of the future to come (link):

Shortly after super-typhoon Hai-yan (Yolanda) hit the Philippines, I wrote a piece for Yahoo on how the word “resilient” was actually an insult; that to apply it to what Filipinos were undergoing was to minimize the disaster which had claimed lives, wiped out towns, villages and at least one city, driving them to starvation and helplessness and the prostitution even of children… And dang, hundreds of Filipinos took umbrage. So dearies, because you are resilient, nobody’s fixing your canals, your waterways; nobody’s stopping construction and over-development; nobody’s fixing your garbage disposal system; and the mega shopping malls are building over what should’ve been rivers flowing to the sea, the mouth of the sea itself is being stoppered through land reclamation… Because being resilient means you can survive the worst and the worst will hence be your condition of existence. .

“Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said Scrooge. “But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me.” is Scrooge’s reaction to the future in “A Christmas Carol”. Would a Filipino just laugh?

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 12 August 2018

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Debasing the Filipino

Mocha Uson 2017is there anything else Mocha Uson’s recent Pepe Dede Ralism (link) show could have been about? Especially with the lewd dance number of the young man at the start? Granted that there has been a bit of a Kulturkampf (link) against the norms of the Catholic Church for a number of decades.

Granted that pre-Hispanic Filipino sexuality was by all accounts less repressed than after Spain, and that America may have brought some modern ideas but also is repressed about sex at times. Something like Nipplegate would not have been worth noticing in most parts of modern Europe.

Granted that it was hard to get the Reproductive Health Law through. And that a Senator Sotto was able to attack a former activist like Judy Taguiwalo for having children out of wedlock (link) when it was the Filipino left that was second to attack certain forms of hypocrisy. Rizal’s Noli was the first.


Even in outwardly more prim and proper days some decades ago, Filipino migrants already had comics with somewhat lewd jokes, including a fairy with spells like “Abra ka dabra, panty at bra!”. Probably Kris Aquino, at the latest, did away with the old prim and proper by rebelling against it.

By the time of Erap, everybody even the papers spoke about his No. 1, No.2, No. 3 etc. so that an alien from Centauri could write into his notebook that “the chiefs of these islands are polygamous, and it is accepted by the natives”. In addition “simple men often just leave their wives for younger”.

Priorities are so clearly wrong. A divorce law and clear rules that a man has to pay at least until his kids are 18 if he leaves his wife would be better than pretending monogamy always works in reality. Proper awareness would help more against teen pregnancies and HIV – that could be Mocha’s job.


But instead of raising awareness, Mocha fools the people. That isn’t new – debasing them I think is. Federalism is important, it ain’t about what pussies (pepe) and tits (dede) you have in each state. Talking to citizens about the big F as if it was not Federalism, but Fucking just talks down to them.

What was that about, making the Philippines Asia’s Red Light District, take your pick of pussy?  What do you want to buy, Marawi or Boracay? Normal or perverse? With or without tokhang porn? Putang Inang Bayan, for sale by Pimp Daddy Duts? Big D, is that what your front seat bitch means?

Duterte and Mocha have catered to a lot of Filipino inferiority complexes – and to crab mentality. What I wonder is if a rest of a sense of national dignity will be awakened by this line now crossed. Now if most Filipinos prefer that treatment, a point of no return may already have been reached.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 5 August 2018

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A lunar eclipse

Lunar eclipse blood moon July 2018was just visible in Munich – and earlier in the Philippines also. For more than an hour during which the moon was red due to refraction of sunlight by the Earth’s atmosphere – and the Earth itself blocking the really strong sunlight which is usually reflected from the moon’s surface to us.

Then slowly, a sliver of white light appeared and the time of totality was over. Still a fascinating thing to watch, even in a big city like Munich with it’s artificial light, and in today’s demystified world.

And then I went home, just being careful, lest the reappearing full moon turn me into a werewolf.


Now I ask, did Gloria Arroyo conduct her power grab a bit too early? Or was before today better? Depends on what superstition one believes in. Some say that the full moon in old Filipino culture favored the good and the new moon was the time the aswangs or vampires were out to feed.

Or how about the lunar eclipse story in Amaya, where the woman who is to slay the violent ruler Raja Mangubat is born during a lunar eclipse. Duterte might die before that woman is of age.

Amaya also calls upon the Bakunawa, the sea serpent responsible for lunar eclipses, to eat the malevolent Dian Lamitan, a scheming woman who fooled her father as well as Raja Mangubat. Nothing to do with Grace Poe. Besides, Dian Lamitan is more of a Sandra Cam type than a Gloria. Certainly more of a meal for the Bakunawa than someone the size of Arroyo, or thin as Grace Poe. But basically still like a peanut for us. Why bother? OK, Greek Gods also bother a lot with mortals.

Often, powerful men bring forth alpha females. The Athena principle. Athena was Zeus’ daughter, born out of a headache he had. Sara Duterte seems to be her father’s headache until this very day. But don’t tell me President Diosdado Macapagal was an alpha male. Yet indeed, there was Queen Elizabeth I, who outdid her father Henry VIII by far as a ruler. But Filipinos have no one like her. Probably she would have, had she been raised the Filipino way, sold islands to the Spanish crown. But then again, she was not half-Spanish and Catholic like her half-sister Mary. Quite contrary!

I did meet former Pampanga Vice-Governor Cielo Macapagal-Salgado personally, once in Germany. Seemed nice. But then again, there are so many sisters who differ in character. Think Gang Badoy and Quiche Lorraine. Not that any English king had connections to Alsace-Lorraine, or Strasbourg. Not much news about any UN, EU or others being sworn at. Duterte has not been seen for a while. Mesopotamian kings were hidden during lunar eclipses. Let us ask Mocha about the sacred rituals. Unless the President has already been ritually sacrificed at the Davao Crocodile Farm, no worries.


“’cause it’s only a paper moon, just as phony as it can be” sings Guy Smiley in the Muppet Show, before the paper moon behind the stage falls down, unceremoniously. Larry Roque continues by singing “but it wouldn’t be make believe, if you believed in me!”. Well, why should I? Am I loony?

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 28 July 2018

P.S. the full moon is back now. Time to howl.

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East and West

Old map timor by pigafettamet at the Raffles Hotel in the evening. It was mid-July and the rains had just stopped, leaving the air a bit steamy. The project team working to get a Vietnamese corporation’s new systems running was on its final days in the city. Two Pinoys, a Singaporean and an Australian were drinking to having done their jobs. Flights home in a few days. “Well, we managed very well everybody” said Jack, the Australian project manager, an old hand in the IT business. “Inspite of a number of difficult phases and glitches” added Wellington Ng, the solution designer from Singapore. Ryan Santos and Manny Alcatraz, the functional and technical consultant respectively, were still very quiet Filipinos.

As the night proceeded, Wellington became progressively more drunk and silent, Jack stayed the same and the two Filipinos became a lot more drunk and talkative. “Well then, I am going home to the West tomorrow”, Jack said. “What West?” asked Wellington, as if waking up. “Sydney is Southeast of Singapore”. “The cultural West” Jack said. “As if Singapore wasn’t progressive enough for you?” Wellington grumbled. “It is progressive, but it stays Eastern” Jack interjected. “Yes, the Philippines is more Western than Singapore” Ryan butted in. “No, that is stupid!” said Wellington. “Because you imitate American music and accents?”. “We are like Singapore now!” Manny said.

“I know you like your Duterte” said Wellington. “but Duterte is far from being anything like our Lee Kuan Yew!”. “Far more effective!” said Manny. “Yes, like your programs done quickly and without thinking which took us a while to debug and would have caused delay if you hadn’t done overtime” answered Wellington. “Not thinking at all first”. “No it isn’t that bad” said Ryan. “What, Duterte or Manny’s programming?” said Wellington. “Manny’s programming is outside the box and found creative solutions which your over-formalistic British approach never would have” said Ryan. “Filipino cowboys?” said Wellington with a smirk. “Yes, that is why we are more Western than you!” “Cheers!”.

“Good that the matter of our basketball teams brawling is now settled”, said Jack. “In most matters, just like the errors made and lessons learned during our project, what you do is take stock, pay the price if any and move on. And in Manny’s case, the price paid was overtime that he didn’t write down.” “Unlike Duterte, Manny killed nobody” said Ryan who was in a good mood. “Gago!” said Manny. “Just like Gilas did not injure anyone severely, even if the one Aussie player they ganged up on was a close call” said Jack. “But they insulted us Jack” said Manny. “No, not true” answered Jack. “and in all fights there is a limit to how far you go”. “Oh, that gentlemen stuff again” said Manny.

“Both East and West have concepts of gentlemen. In the East there is the Confucian gentleman” said Wellington. “Filipinos are Southern people” commented Manny. “No, we Aussies are the Southernmost people” Jack grinned. “You are Western you said” Manny reacted. “Northerners, Eastern or Western, rely on Command and Control” interrupted Ryan: “Southern peoples base everything on Community!”. “yes. you and your barangays, like our Malays here with their kampongs” said Wellington. “You guys are getting too deep into the philosophy now” said Jack. “Liked it more with us getting stuff done. See you tomorrow, let’s call it a day” with day sounding more like die.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 21 July 2018

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Idols, Villains and Martyrs – the Endless Philippine Cycle

MorionsRecently, Senator Trillanes was deprived of his PNP security detail, leading to speculations that Duterte might make a martyr that will finally mobilize the people. Edgar Lores has mentioned idolatry as a major Filipino weakness (link), but I think that he mainly tackles the aspect of living idols. Figures perceived as strong like Bonifacio, Quezon, Magsaysay, Marcos and Duterte – or figures perceived as compassionate like Tandang Sora (link) and Corazon Aquino. Martyrs that mobilized the people like Gomburza (link), Rizal and Ninoy Aquino are also an aspect of idolatry.

Hoping for magicians

The father of one of my German university classmates said that Filipinos are “voodoo Catholics”. A bit true, especially if one looks at how Edgar Lores relates split-level Christianity and idolatry. Pro forma most Filipinos are Christian but in daily life it seems many forget the rules they learned. Same with democracy and rule of law – the entire system is gamed from top to bottom while lip service is rendered to its principles. The Preamble of the Philippine Constitution is the “clean kitchen” while the “dirty kitchen” is what one sees if one walks through Manila with open eyes.

From time to time, Filipinos want stern figures to force them to clean the dirty kitchen. Strongmen. They may be hated after a while, especially if they fail to really change things – or the economy fails. Martyrs are revered, but to some extent I think they, like Jesus, “wash away everybody else’s sins”. Large parts of the middle class that threw out Marcos were the same class that put him in power. Their materialism at the expense of society as a whole did not change after they ousted Marcos. Pointing at Marcos as a villain does not change the fact that they enabled him in his early years.

Same old song, once again

Kind and honest figures like Corazon Aquino and her son may rise to power after people are fed up with excessively ruthless and dishonest leaders like Marcos and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. But they become culprits much faster than the ruthless players, as there never are miracles in real life. The economic progress during the time of President Benigno Aquino III was respectable but not fast enough for many who said “they did not feel it”. The painstaking rebuilding of democracy in the time of Cory was considered a failure as well by many. Easy to blame idols of all sorts, I say.

  • Will a strongman make me stronger? Only if I learn self-discipline.
  • Will a good person make me better? Only if I learn to act better.
  • Will a martyr wash away my sins for good? Only if I forgive myself.

But changing oneself takes self-knowledge. Most Filipinos lack that, prefer pretense to reality. There is a story about how a lady guest professor from Russia got into trouble for saying most Filipino students cheat during exams. Just like many people got mad at recent tarps calling the Philippines a province of China (link) – more than at so many de facto violations of sovereignty. “Filipino pride” is often a stubborn kind of denial. Probably because of too many pontificating hypocrites in the country’s history. Sometimes, those who mean well also turn into naggers.

Be good – enough!

Expectations of perfection and saintliness make people cheat, because they can never be fulfilled. So many Filipinos admire dead heroes while living examples of virtue make them uncomfortable. The defense mechanism of many is call them “hypocrite”, to try to topple the idols of morality. While playing the split-level games most people play in a country where the system hardly works. And the system hardly works because people play games. Sometimes to avoid being blamed. Usually a culprit caught is blamed for the sins of the world, shamed for life, no holy martyrdom.

How about just being good enough for a start? Because in most modern countries, people are not heroes at all. They just do their job and follow the rules. And they mostly don’t game the system. Gaming the system is a clever workaround if you are under oppressive rulers who steal from you. The more people have been under unfair rulers, the more you will find game-playing, which is a spectrum with many shades of grey. People who have seen little fairness often don’t act that fair. Unfortunately, this is like the prisoner’s dilemma (link) – who is bold to take the leap of faith?

Possibly more would take the leap of faith if the priorities in Philippine society were the right ones. Concentrate on drug lords instead of drug users, for examples. Waive bank secrecy to investigate (not in general) instead of having that laborious and ultimately useless exercise called SALN filing. Otherwise, Passion Plays with idols, villains and martyrs will keep repeating themselves uselessly, with the same dysfunctional behavior on the ground and in the dirty kitchen of national reality. Society as a whole is required. Grown-ups who act, not children who wait for the magic of idols.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 14 July 2018

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As “National Parent”

President Rodrigo Duterte 080816Duterte says he can order rounding up “tambays” (link), citing the parens patriae doctrine (link) – the power of the state to “intervene against an abusive or negligent parent, legal guardian, or informal caretaker, and to act as the parent of any child or individual who is in need of protection.” Yet one wonders what kind of parent or guardian would put children in jails like those shown in a recent Al Jazeera report (link) which says that “Philippine law prohibits jailing minors but in the absence of separate detention facilities for them, they usually end up in the same jail cells..”.

The same government wants to administer mandatory drug tests to minors starting 10 years old – and not even the Church seems to oppose it (link). If that is parenthood, it not just conservative, it is reactionary. It makes every child a suspect, born with original sin but without any grace of God. One might be tempted to think that the government and church are back in the early 19th century, and that the Spanish in their palace are saying “nothing good will ever come of these Indios”- except that some supporters of Duterte proudly call him “Indio” (link) for his anti-Catholic rhetoric.

There are even ideas being floated that could scrap the 4Ps (link) which have proven effective in reducing poverty, giving poor children more of a chance to go to school. No child should ever be disadvantaged for the circumstances that made its parents poor – it is not the fault of the child. Unfortunately, the anti-tambay measures, the so-called drug war and more marginalize especially the poor Filipinos. There are those who say that as intelligence is mainly inherited, the poor will most likely be poor because of stupid genes – some are even those smart enough to know better.

Some people may be poor because of bad luck. A sickness they could not pay for, no large enough family, no OFWs or corrupt officials in it to help out with the costs – and savings can be depleted. PhilHealth coverage as it is today in the Philippines is new. Or weaknesses of personality that lead to gambling or drug addiction, dragging everybody down. The medieval mindset in the Philippines sees mental illness and drug addiction as stigmata. Add to that the Social Darwinism of the rich and the new middle classes. The old middle classes may just look away – or at most offer their prayers.

Lowering the age of criminal liability is dropped for now (link) but the mindset is still there. Native wisdom says the children have a mind of their own (may isip) at 7 years, which corresponds to what Jean Piaget (link) says. Almost all earliest memories we have start around that age. But is a child of 10 aware enough to know the full scope of all of its actions? Even teens can be a bit amoral at times. Guiding the young means teaching them to be part of society. Just punishing them teaches them:  “don’t get caught. If caught, don’t admit”. Are these the only “values” that “Punishers” really have?

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 30 June 2018

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