Archive for January, 2018

The Philippines has never stood on its own feet

Philip II's Law on the PrincipaliaA Bavarian once told me. Was he right? China claims sovereignty over Panatag (link). Duterte seems to trust China (link) just like Aguinaldo trusted the USA in 1898 (link), proclaiming independence “under the protection of our Powerful and Humanitarian Nation, The United States of America”. One wonders how the datus behaved who were made into principalia by decree of King Philipp II (picture). Did they behave like today’s Congress supermajority? There was a sizable group that resisted in 1574 in Manila (link): “all punished with some put to death and others exiled”.

Remontados and Rebels

There were rebels like Bohol’s Francisco Dagohoy (link) – a cabeza de barangay (basically a chieftain coopted into the Spanish system) who initiated an 85-year revolt from 1744 to 1828, with the mountains as protection. Heading for the hills was probably a common way of avoiding the colonial state,  with the topography of the country as an ally (link), one probable example being the Cimarrones of Bikol who: “inhabited the slopes of Mount Isarog and forested hills of Siruma and Camaroan. These groups were cultivators and hunters but were most renowned for the raids they conducted on those in the lowlands. As their names suggests, they were probably fugitives from Spanish control, and as such emerged as a distinct group only in colonial times.” Cimarron means wild cattle in Spanish and was also used for escaped black slaves in the Caribbean, called Maroons (link) in English.

The 19th century brought ideas of nationalism into the Philippines, groups like Filipino priests and Filipino intellectuals (link) brought about the First and Second Propaganda movements. The short-lived Liga Filipina may have been the spark that started the Katipunan, which combined ideas of Rizal which were European in origin with native ideas, including cultic amulets or anting-anting. Revolutionary brotherhood inspired by Western examples plus the kind of brotherhood one sees during the Black Nazarene was the fuel of the 1896 revolution, even if it started only in 8 provinces, only one of which (Pampanga) was not Tagalog-speaking. Aguinaldo, a former cabeza de barangay, quickly made the revolution his own, had Bonifacio killed, and pacted with the Spanish in 1897. The Biak-na-Bato pact even included payments to him in exchange for his voluntary exile in Hong Kong. Aguinaldo came back on an American vessel, later fought with the Americans, probably had his best general killed (link) before finally being captured. The Philippine Republic was completed later on under American tutelage (link) – but that was not its major flaw. Blaming others is easy.

Cuba vs. Collaboration

It was, I believe, the Filipinos themselves. After all, Cuba had its own Republic from 1902 (link) even if was occupied for three years before that and again from 1906-1908. And it aside from its own war of independence from 1895-1898 (link), it fought from 1868-1878 and 1879-1880. Same colonial powers before and after 1898. And possibly the Philippine revolution was also simply a bit opportunistic as Spain was already weakened – and the Spanish-American war made that worse. Manolo Quezon’s “Malakas at Mahina” (link) shows how Filipino politics plays out based on who is “strong” or “weak”. Going back to the beginnings of Spanish rule, it helps to remember that Manila was allied to Brunei, even through family ties. Was the Castilian war of 1578 (link) wherein Spain defeated Brunei decisively the more motivating factor for Filipino datus to fall in line. Malakas!

Or how quickly the Filipino ruling class, with notable exceptions, fell in line to collaborate with Japan when they occupied the Philippines. And then fell back in line before McArthur in 1945. Even Diego Silang (link) – whose wife Gabriela is better known for taking over when he got killed – was allied with the British in his quest for Ilocano independence in the 1760s. There is a Filipino saying about the bird on the back of the carabao – are most Filipinos just that after all? The few dramatic outbursts of nationalism just that – drama – and often just bullying easy targets (link) like Robin Padilla with the Korean recently. Would Padilla dare say that to a  Chinese ambassador? The Filipino UN delegates who once annoyed a Soviet into taking out his shoes probably felt strong as UN founding members and close allies of the USA. Just like I personally experienced how Filipino diplomats acted rude to Germans – when Germany was still divided and they hobnobbed with American diplomats, for example at the US Embassy club in Bonn. Birds on a really big carabao. Not much difference to Duterte being rude to the EU (seen as mahina, documented comments by Andanar on Brexit show that attitude) but subservient to both Xi Jinping and Donald Trump.

Bietnamese bersus Balimbings

Contrast that to Vietnam, which fought the French, then the United States, then the Chinese. Inspite of enormous sacrifices they never gave up. Pretty rude people, not friendly Filipinos. Somehow though I would trust the word of a Vietnamese more, I am very sorry to say by now. Filipinos often are subservient when they think they can get an advantage or think they are weak (mahina) then turn around to be rude, act as if you exploited them when they think they are strong (malakas) – probably with a new ally or backer or someone they have ingratiated themselves with.

Gago, anong year iyan (Asshole, what year was that?) was Senator Gatchalian’s answer to netizens who criticized him for being highly critical of former President Aquino now and praising him to high heavens in 2012 (link). Balimbing, the fruit that easily changes sides, was one analogy used. My first memory of hearing balimbing was in 1986. Well, yes, I guess it is gago to assume that a typical Filipino politician will NOT praise the one who is malakas at a given time. Fool me twice. Even among Filipinos overseas I have seen the kapit mentality of hanging on to people for favors – and dropping them like hot potatoes once these people lost access to resources they could dispense. Possibly I am too Germanic by now, preferring people who deal straight, not caring about favors. Not lick the boots of the current patron and bark at its enemies – or all who are not that powerful.

Aso o Astig

To be a really tough guy, stop being a lapdog. Stand on your own two feet like a human being. Indonesian death penalty is not something I like – but it has due process and therefore much more character than secretly killing people via most probably staged “nanlaban” (fighting back at police) or masked vigilante groups which are most probably off-duty cops (link). Shouting down a lady reporter (link) like Pia Ranada Robles is seen as macho by some (or many?) Duterte supporters.

That is about as macho as the slum bullies who go home to beat up their wives and rape their stepdaughters in Filipino classic movies like Insiang (link) – one good and observant movie. People who laugh at necrophiliac rape jokes like the famous one Duterte made are clearly dysfunctional. Only few admire those who stand up to power like Trillanes. Would Filipinos cheer Tell or Gessler? Yes, Landvogt (bailiff) Gessler as opposed to heroic Wilhelm Tell of Swiss revolutionary legend. Sure, Filipinos have their heroes and are proud of them. But how much solidarity do their heroes get while alive? My impression, more and more, is that Filipinos prefer their heroes DEAD.

Pride Chicken is not Preedom

Because living heroes remind them of their mostly deficient characters? Put heroes in cement and put them in Rizal Park instead of sinking them in Manila Bay, but still letting the next scoundrels rule the country as always, while the majority, as Rizal already noted in the Fili “feel privately ashamed, hearing the growl of their rebelling and protesting conscience, while in public they keep silent and even join the oppressor in mocking the oppressed.. wrapping themselves up in their selfishness and praising with forced smiles the most despicable acts, begging with their eyes for a share of the booty”. Collaboration with a new empire in 1571. Revolution against a fading empire in 1896, as one of the LAST remaining colonies. Quick collaboration with the USA, then Japan, then USA again. What Filipino pride? Pride chicken. Fuck the EU, Mr. Duterte? Bend over for China.

Patriotically deny the French access to research in Benham Rise (link) while letting China (link)? Rizal also said in the Fili: “we must win our freedom by deserving it, by improving the mind and enhancing the dignity of the individual”. But, oh well, he was a Westernized elitist. Not counted. But then again, both fraternities and state often seem to breed subservience, not character (link). The powerful have all the rights (link) and are usually spoiled because they are rarely challenged. True, the frontier elites of Mindanao have faced more challenges  which made it easy for them, in my opinion, to take over Manila (link). But what would Duterte have become without his goons? Datus of old had to prove their mettle in the old warrior tradition, last manifested in Northern Luzon mountain tribe headhunting. Centuries of comfort and hereditary rank, first established in Spanish times and indirectly continued by political dynasties of later on, weakened their class.

Character and Charisma

Strangely, those who criticize the faults of former President Benigno Aquino – which do exist and are because of his growing up in that kind of elite – do not see the even worse spoiled brat faults of both Bongbong Marcos and President Duterte. In fact, Aquino has shown balls on occasion, like showing up at the Dengvaxia hearing – even if there were occasions like after Mamasapano where he did not. Yet many Filipinos take the barking of Bongbong and the bluster of Digong for bravery. Or the stupidity of Robin Padilla for patriotism. For sure, President Duterte has his charisma. It is the charisma of a trickster and a joker. The German word for that is Schlitzohr, a “sly fox” or a “shark” depending on the context. Many Filipinos still believe Duterte is a trickster with the best interests of his people in mind, just wait. Yet to me it seems character and perspective is missing. His “hidden qualities” seem more like wishful thinking of those who do not wish to see what might be the painful truth – that character is mostly missing in the Philippines for lack of being cultivated. Further self-delusion might lead the country to a point of no return. If it has not yet been reached.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 21 January 2018

 

 

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What real effect

Rappler Logowill #StandWithRappler and #BloggersForFreedom (link) have for the Philippines? We shall see. The Black Friday Protests today were well-attended by journalists, students and others (link) but will that even reach the general Filipino public? Will they care at all. Or will it be more like (link): Ayaw nilang makarinig ng ibang balita. Palakpak ang masarap sa tenga nila. Makuntento na sa mga balita sa patayan, naholdap, nagahasa, nasunugan at tingay ng baha, buhay ng artista at drama sa telenobela. Pagkatapos, makinig sa update nina Mocha, Andanar at Roque… This is about the so-called masa, the majority that Presidential Legal Counsel Panelo sees as “not educated” enough to vote on Charter Change (link) and who Speaker Alvarez claims to truly represent (link) – but who threatens provinces that do not cooperate with “no-funds” (link).

But even most of the “educated” Filipinos might care more about their material comfort and security than their freedom. In a country of rote learning, most lessons probably never were more than skin-deep – Christianity, rule of law, democracy. Maybe what stuck was more like this (link): “Many of the things you heard about Davao were about extrajudicial killings, but look at Davao. I invested a lot. Lives? Yes. You have to kill to make your city peaceful,” Duterte said. Rest in Peace. Recently, 2 hit men who killed 2 jail guards in Muntinlupa – turned out to be policemen (link).

Charter Change may be the point of no return for Philippine democracy, as local politicians may want to secure their rule by keeping populations misinformed and intimidated. This might after all be what Filipinos really want, who knows? A smiling population ruled by a dirtily smiling Alvarez.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 19 January 2018

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Madilim ang Paligid

Snowstorm in Tyrol - 02sa labas ng tren pauwi. May nakita akong mga lumilipad sa labas. Inisip ko: “sino ba kayo”? Sabi nila “kami ang mga magsasabi sa iyo kung ano ang mangyayari sa Pilipinas ngayon”. “Ano naman?” sagot ko sa kanila. “Babalik ang Pilipinas sa nararapat niyang anyo at sa tunay niyang kapalaran.” sabi nila. “eh mabuti naman siguro kung ganoon” sagot ko. “Hindi para sa mga katulad ninyo” sabi nila “pagka’t kayo ang sumira sa likas na anyo ng bansa”. Sabi ko naman “at sino naman kami, mga dilaw na naman? At ano kayo, mga DDS siguro. Ang papangit ninyo!”.

Biglang may malaking boses sa likod nila na nagsalita “babalik na ang Pilipinas sa pamumuno ng natural niyang naghaharing-uri. Wala nang pakialam ang mga sistema at pag-iisip na banyaga”.  Tumuloy ang boses “likas na lakas at galing ang ibinigay sa mga pinunong-bayan na katutubo noong araw, ngunit tinanggal ito ng pag-aaping banyaga, sa puwersa at sa pag-iisip, o kaya ibinakla ito ng moralidad ng demokrasya at ng simbahan.” Tumahimik ng sandali. Dinig ko ang malakas na hangin sa labas ng tren.

“Likas ang pakiramdam ng pinuno sa tama at mali, sa dapat patayin at buhayin, sa dapat bigyan ng posisyon at hindi”. Tuloy pa rin “kayong mga nag-aral ng mga kaartehan sa sistemang maka-kanluran, hindi ninyo alam ang likas na galing ng Pilipino na wala sa may degree na kung saan-saan. Sa isip ng isip, walang nangyayari. Gawa lang ang mahalaga.” Parang ang layo ng mga ilaw sa labas ng tren. “Kahit ano pang sabihin ng mga paimportanteng pilosopo, tama rin ang hatol ng mga pinuno ngayon sa kung sino ang itotokhang, kung sino ang ipapashut-up – dahil pampagulo lang”.

“Malapit nang makamtan ng bayan ang pagkakaisang tunay, wala nang pipigil o rereklamo pa”. Sabi ng malalim na boses “babalik ang gintong panahon, at makakamtan ng lahat ng tunay na Pilipino ang kaginhawaan”. Inantok na ako. “Ano naman ang kinalaman ko diyan?”. Sagot ng malalim na boses: “kinakailangan lang ng isang isasakripisyo sa bulkang Mayon, para matanggal ang mga masamang impluwensiya ng limang dantaon”. Tumingin ako palabas “anong tingin ninyo sa akin, isang Magellan?” 

“Hindi, isang hilaw” sagot ng mararaming boses. “buwisit kang pakialamero!”. “Hindi niyo ba napapansin kung nasaan kayo?” sabi ko sa mga buwisit. “napakalamig dito. Iyang parang asukal sa wedding cake” sabi ko “niyebe iyan, o baka naman snow lang ang naiintindihan ninyo?” Biglang nangisay ang mga mukha sa bintana. Nagising ako sa malalim na boses ng konduktor na nagsasabi sa wikang Aleman na “huling stop na, Munich main station, bumaba po lahat”. Iyong maleta ko na parang may diperensiya kanina, OK na noong hinila ko. Bumaba na ako sa tren.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, ika-18 ng Enero, 2018

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Sandcastles in Boracay

Gdański Festiwal Rzeźby z Piasku 2009 mnisineed a permit which costs per day (link) – or else police kick them down. Amusing to read from the land of alleged over-regulation called Germany. I wonder if a municipal ordnance of that kind (link) would even be legal over here. The goal of preserving the “natural symmetry of the beach” would fall under Landschaftsschutz or landscape protection over here in Germany, but I doubt if any judge here would accept measures that temporarily change the appearance of a landscape as relevant. Somewhat like advertising on a car is legal here as long as it can be driven away anytime.

Keeping things orderly

Thus, Giesinger Bräu, one of the newcomers in the Munich brewery scene, often has a small car parked on a road leading from the Goetheplatz underground station to the Oktoberfest – during the time of the Oktoberfest were many people can see. I don’t think it is a coincidence, but as long as the car is not violating any parking rules, nobody can do anything. Now the problem of Boracay seems to be people asking for money to have pictures of those sandcastles taken. Well, that might be a matter for the Ordnungsamt over hereYes, Ordnung means order. The Office of Order.

Mark Twain wrote that long German words sounded like parades with marching music included. The tune played can be a fine. Even the places on the sidewalk where pubs and restaurants are allowed to put chairs are delineated by fine white dots. Place the chairs outside the dots, color outside the dots so to speak, and the Ordnungsamt passes by and sees it – fine. You pay a fine. Get caught doing any kind of business you have no city hall permit for, even just selling cans of Coke to people in the park – fine. Pay one. Put up a stand in a flea market – pay the fee, they will collect it.

Levels of jurisdiction

These are not cops, although they can be accompanied by cops or call them if they think necessary.  Just municipal employees. They also check for the enforcement of the smoking ban in Bavaria. Imposed by a referendum since 2010 (link). Every German state has a slightly different rule here. The Federal Constitutional Court (like the Supreme Court) decided that the implementation of EU rules to protect the health of non-smokers is Ländersache – a state matter. Just like shop closing laws since 2006. In Bavaria shops must close by 8 p.m., in Berlin there I think are no limits.

The old Federal law from the 1950s, once meant to protect retail employees, was loosened gradually over 30 years. Used to be shops closed at 6:30 p.m. every day and 2 p.m. on Saturdays. Only on Sundays and on public holidays, shops still must remain closed in all states – something which is harder to change as it is in the Federal Constitution, brought in by conservative Christians who did not want Sunday to be commercialized. Social Democrats did not say no to a day of rest either. Youth protection laws (age for buying drinks etc.) are Federal. Noise protection laws are state-level.

So what can cities still decide, except what part of the sidewalk may have chairs on it in summer? For one thing, they can decide which parts of the city are to be free of prostitution – legal over here. But in Munich, the Sperrbezirksverordnung defines a Sperrbezirk (restricted area) which is most of the city (Verordnung means ordnance) of Munich, save commercial areas where there are almost no residences, schools or similar. Berlin I think has no Sperrbezirk. In conservative Munich, families and kids are kept away from “the trade” – whose legality in Germany is very controversial.

Flow of money

But where do the different levels – municipal, state and federal – get their funds do to their jobs? Aside from taxing brothels of course, which would be paying Gewerbesteuer or trade tax just like any store, gasoline station or car repair shop. Gewerbesteuer is a fixed percentage of income tax or Einkommenssteuer times a Hebesatz or multiplier. Municipalities that want to attract business will have lower multipliers than those like Munich which have high multipliers. Municipalities even get to keep 15% of all income tax, 42.5% of which goes to federal and state levels respectively.

This is an incentive of course to try to attract not only strong businesses but also good earners. There are people in Munich who complain that “the Social Democrats like to attract low wage earners because those are their voters”, but the incentive to attract professionals is still higher than in the Philippines with its Lina Law for informal settlers and its population-based Internal Revenue Allotment for Local Government Units. Meanwhile here in Munich, there are more that now write that housing for working-class people is getting too expensive. Success has its problems as well.

How about stores with branches – the usual model nowadays as the old Mom-and-Pop stores (Tante Emma Laden in German) are becoming less and less? What I have understood is that the likes of SM in the Philippines pay their taxes only in the place where the headquarters is. Since there is nothing like the Gewerbesteuer over there, it probably does not matter. Here in Germany, chain stores with branches in many municipalities have to divide their income taxes to provide the basis for the business tax to be paid in each municipality. The law for that is a bit complex (link).


Delegation and Subsidiarity

Sand castle in Kaunas, Lithuania - panoramiois defined as dealing with matters at the closest level possible to the citizen. Thus, no German has to go the the Federal Foreign Ministry to get a passport, or the Federal Interior Ministry to get a national ID. Both are applied for at city hall, even if the actual printing of both in done in Berlin. Driver’s licenses and car plates are applied for at the Straßenverkehrsamt or “Street Traffic Office” which is also municipal level – not at any Federal or State Transport Ministry. The rules of course are usually made at Federal level. Most significant databases are managed federally or at EU level.

Of course municipalities take care of their own matters as well such as water, garbage and drainage – or kindergartens and cemeteries. This is aside from the tasks delegated to them by the federal level (Auftragsaufgaben is the composite word for that, Hi Mark Twain) . Schools are also partly a responsibility of municipalities, but also a state-level responsibility – yes education policies are coordinated federally but each state has its own policies, ensuring healthy competition. Health centers and hospitals are also a mandatory municipal function. But here the next level may help.

In Bavaria these are the government districts (Regierungsbezirke) which pool resources of the municipalities in them and also get help from the state level for specialized clinics such as drug rehabilitation and psychiatric treatment. Specialized schools and academies may also be put up by the districts. Subsidiarity can mean that certain other matters can be delegated to district level. The district of Upper Bavaria, for example, takes care of air traffic and mining in its geographical area. Further north, the Cologne district makes the speed limits for the Autobahns within its own area.

Top-down and Bottom-up

This is all reminiscent of a large corporation where you will have global policies that are uniform over all location, national policies that take local conditions (including legal requirements) into account, and a few local specialties which will not be many in a typically well-run multinational. Usually this works because people tend to adapt. And of course in a corporation people want to earn their money. In nations you need the buy-in of people more than in a corporation, because they can of course vote governments out of power, or resist governments they dislike in many ways.

Top-down measures are based on command and control while bottom-up relies on community. Bohmte, a small town in Lower Saxony state, has gotten rid of all traffic signs (link). Of course, the first rule of the German Straßenverkehrsordnung (traffic law) still applies which roughly says (link) that all have to pay attention and give consideration. Plus the basic right of way rules. I guess this works on a small scale. The human mind and heart did evolve in small Stone Age communities. It might not work in Lower Saxony’s state capital Hannover, much less in Munich or in large Berlin.

Berlin still has “only” 3 and half million people. Metro Manila officially has 13 million people. The only megacity worldwide which seems somewhat orderly is Tokyo. Japanese style order of course. And sense of community in a very closed society. Metro Manila has many different income levels even if all are Filipino. Filipino style order never really worked. I remember how people im Metro Manila always muddled through on unwritten rules and it somehow worked. At a density of people where Central Europeans would not budge or even stampede. But I guess it can wear people down.


Agglomeration and Distribution

Ultimate Sand CastleCertainly smaller cities can be more livable. But why does Munich, which had only 1.2 million people around 20 years ago and now has around 1.4 million, not try to prevent further growth? An article about the New York Subway provides a clue (link): Cities create density, and density creates growth. Economists call the phenomenon agglomeration. Not only does geographical proximity reduce costs, but it also facilitates the exchange of knowledge and spurs innovation. But neither did the USA or Germany just have one central place where everything happened, like in Manila.

Distributed growth is also important. In fact Germany has rules for how richer states should help poorer ones. Bavaria was a donor state for the first time in 1989 after being a recipient for long. Leaving behind major areas of any country, just like leaving behind major groups of people there, is always a recipe for disaster. And different agglomerations competing is healthy. Thus you have Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and Cologne as cities with a million people at least. Frankfurt might have a million population during the day when people come in to work, most of them via suburban train.

Finally you have the connections between major centers. Munich to Cologne, Munich to Berlin are just over four hours ride in a high-speed train nowadays. Net travel time just a bit higher than flying. Exchange of goods, ideas and people energizes all places. But this was built over centuries. Many German cities in the Middle Ages were free imperial cities (link) under the Emperor and not any local prince. Examples are Frankfurt and Hamburg. Others like Berlin, Munich, Hanover or Stuttgart were capitals of kingdoms. Others under major rulers like Cologne with its Archbishop.

Keeping energy flowing

Free imperial cities had more self-government and thus developed a more confident citizenry, used to earning their own money and managing their own affairs – Hamburg being a prime example. The port of course and centuries of trading with others honed a pragmatic form of cosmopolitanism. Others developed modern elites in the 19th century due to the ambitions of their ruling classes. Bavaria (link) and Prussia excelled in the war for talent during those days. Frankfurt and Cologne both benefited from their role in the middle of major trading routes and along major rivers.

Frankfurt’s momentum of course was helped along by its becoming the de facto hub of West Germany after the war. That and its being a major place for American military presence until the early 1990s made it attractive for international firms and made it more cosmopolitan than before. Cologne had the luck to be close to Bonn which was the provisional capital of West Germany – this included the airport the two cities share (link). Many factors made Munich move up after the war – my impression is that city and state worked together well, even under different political parties.

Getting priorities right

In fact it was the two major political parties that just brought out a plan for the future of Munich’s public transport system to connect underground and suburban lines better, connect growing areas and make capacity for the future. Making the pie bigger for everybody instead of quarreling over who gets a larger slice. This is what makes me more confident about here and less hopeful about the Philippines, where the pie was growing – but those who have the most were too “hungry” to wait. And now plan federal sand castles – without a true master plan, and without alternative solutions.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 13 January 2018

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Philippine History Part V – Ngayon. Duterte’s First Quarter

Duterte at the Torotot Festival 20151/4 of 6 years term, has now passed. Much has happened in many areas – for better or worse. Nothing has stayed the same in the Philippines, and I doubt it will go back to how it was before. Whether this is good, bad or just plain ugly will be something history will decide. Let us look.

People, Places and many questions.

Around a thousand people a month have died in the War on Drugs. How many are by police, how many by police acting as vigilantes, how many are gangs using the situation? Nobody really knows. One of the first things the President came out with was “drug lists” of doubtful origin, naming politicians, judges and others. The killings of suspected addicts and pushers soon came under investigation at the Senate in 2016 , with Senator Leila de Lima at first chairing the hearing and then removed and replaced by Senator Gordon. The hearing was then inconclusively stopped.

Marawi is a complete wreck including a major refugee situation. On May 23, 2017, a conflict broke out with the Maute group in Marawi – while practically all major decision-makers (and many unimportant hangers-on) of the Duterte administration were on a trip to Moscow.  The entire delegation flew back quickly to handle the situation. As the Marawi conflict continued, new Air Force planes the President had previously referred to as useless were used to bombard enemy positions. The hostilities ended in late October 2017. Martial law was declared in Mindanao until the year-end when hostilities in Marawi broke out, and was extended for a further year recently.

The MRT3 continues to fail (link). Project NOAH was defunded and then taken over by UP. Ignoring its information may have played a part in 200 deaths from typhoons in late 2017 (link). The value of the peso has gone down and the government has a high budget, although there are no new construction projects started yet, while PPP projects from Aquino’s time are being finished. Inspite of a looming possibility of the EU cutting GSP+ privileges in early 2018 and some refusal of aid from the EU and US due to human rights questions, the economy still seems to be quite robust.

In October 2016, Korean businessman Jee-Ick Joo (link) was kidnapped by police and killed by strangling in Camp Crame, then cremated and flushed down the toilet. On Nov. 5, 2016, Mayor Roland Espinosa (link) of Albuera, Leyte, was killed in jail under suspicious circumstances. On early Sunday, July 30, 2017, the Parojinog family of Ozamiz was killed in a controversial anti-drug raid (link) under Police Chief Inspector Jovie Espenido – who had also been in Albuera, Leyte before. In late August, Espenido was given the order of Lapu-Lapu by President Duterte (link).

On August 16, 2017, Kian delos Santos was shot (link) in a police operation partly caught on CCTV and by witnesses, belying claims of fighting back. Two similar incidents (link) took place soon after, with 19-year old Carl Arnaiz and 14-year-old Reynaldo “Kulot” De Guzman killed by police. Opposition politicians visited the wake of Kian. Late August Kian’s parents met President Duterte, even posing for the fist sign with him (link). For the second time after the Jee-Ick Joo case, the war on drugs was paused – and continued from Oct. 11 by the PDEA, with officially less casualties (link).

Allies, Rivals and everyone else!

Vice-President Robredo was offered a cabinet post as head of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council in early July 2016, just days after she and the President had separate inaugurations. On November 18, 2016, ex-dictator Ferdinand Marcos was buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in a surprise ceremony. Demonstrations ensued. On Dec. 4, 2016, Vice-President Robredo was told no longer to attend cabinet meetings and resigned her cabinet post the day after. During a trip to China, President Duterte had introduced Bongbong Marcos as the future VP.

Suspected drug lord Kerwin Espinosa, son of murdered Mayor Espinosa, was one of the criminals to testify against Senator Leila De Lima in a Congressional hearing in Nov. 2016, where she was accused of being involved in the drug trade taking place in Bilibid prison. Her former driver, who had had an affair with her, also testified. On February 24, Leila de Lima was arrested and brought to Camp Crame where she is until today. Long before that, ex-President Arroyo had been released from jail in July 2016 – and held many speeches during the ASEAN Summit in Nov. 2017.

Controversial social media supporters Mocha Uson and Lorraine Marie Badoy were appointed to MTCRB in January 2017 and as ASec to DSWD in February 2017 respectively. Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno was dismissed in April 2017 with insinuations of corruption. Both Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay and DENR Secretary Gina Lopez were not confirmed in May 2017. In that month, Mocha Uson became PCOO ASec while Alan Cayetano became Foreign Secretary.  On August 16, Judy Taguiwalo was not confirmed as Social Welfare Secretary – the last leftist in a major post.

COMELEC Chairman Andy Bautista was publicly attacked by his estranged wife in August (link), including allegations of corruption. While Bautista eventually resigned under threat of impeachment proceedings – most probably to save his family from private scandal, Chief Justice Sereno has been undergoing impeachment practically for the last quarter of 2017 under very dubious charges. A connection to the still continuing electoral protest by Bongbong Marcos is possible as COMELEC and Supreme Court constitute the Presidential Electoral Tribunal or PET.

In Sept. 2017, a Senate hearing on an intercepted 6.4 billion peso shabu shipment started (link). Senator Trillanes alleged a major role of Paolo Duterte and asked him to show a tattoo on his back, saying it could like him to Chinese triads (link). The investigation has left the Senate and slowed. Dengvaxia became an issue in Dec. 2017 (link), its previous history documented in this blog (link). Attempts to pin culpability on ex-President Aquino have failed so far (link) as the matter proceeds.

The person behind the opposition Pinoy Ako Blog or PAB was revealed by pro-administration bloggers in October 2017. Jover Laurio (her real name) was interviewed by BBC soon after that. This led to an ugly scene between pro-administration blogger Sass Rogando Sasot (invited to the official dinner) and a BBC reporter during the ASEAN summit in Manila in November 2017. Many of the bloggers associated with Duterte have been seen in photos with the Marcoses very recently. My impression is that many people are now tired of the too aggressive pro-admin social media.

Nation, Institutions and what next?

A controversial tax reform called TRAIN has been passed which may indeed increase the disposable income for certain groups, but make things more expensive on the whole. An investigation on a 6.4 billion peso shabu shipment from China cast a shadow on Paolo Duterte. The Hague ruling on the West Philippine sea was ignored and China continued building there (link) while it is highly possible that the third telecom operator in the Philippines will be China Telecom. Rebuilding Marawi shall probably not be subject to bidding – the question of who will benefit looms large.

In March, Congressman Gary Alejano of Magdalo filed an impeachment complaint against President Duterte before the Congress (link). It was junked on May 15 for alleged lack of substance. Senator Trillanes and Congressman Alejano therefore filed a complaint before the International Criminal Court (link) against President Duterte and a number of others. International critics of human rights violations in the Philippines were often insulted by President Duterte and others. “Special mention” was given to the EU Parliament, Agnes Callamard of the UN, and Barack Obama.

Furthermore, there have been measures targeting certain businesses that seem close to blackmail. Philweb (link), Mighty Tobacco (link), Inquirer and Mile Long property (link) all come to mind. They are sold as measures against oligarchy while the President is close to other oligarchic groups. Talks with the Left have practically collapsed, while the tax measures of TRAIN seem anti-poor, just like the planned jeepney modernization. Uber was also subjected to pressure for a certain time. The peso has gone down against the dollar while economic indexes give very mixed signals as of now.

A supermajority supports Duterte in Congress. Congress threatened to shorten funding for the Commission on Human Rights, and really cut funds for opposition lawmakers (link) for 2018. While barangay elections have been constantly postponed, the postponement of 2019 mid-term elections and indefinite political terms now loom in connection with planned Charter Change for Federalism. There is a high probability that the Senate may impeach Chief Justice Sereno even if there is no reason to – because most Senators seem to be on the Duterte bandwagon at this point.

VP Leni Robredo has quietly worked on her privately sponsored Angat Buhay program to help the poor attain livelihoods. Independence Day on June 12, 2017 was handled by Vice President Robredo alone as President Duterte had “gone missing” and never explained where he went. The Marcos burial and the killing of Kian led to major demonstrations in Manila but also elsewhere. The left became more determined in its opposition to Duterte after Judy Taguiwalo was no longer part of the cabinet. Numerous persons and groups on social media now form a broad opposition.

International media have reported a lot about both the Marawi war and extrajudicial killings. Inspite of his pro-China and pro-Russia orientation, Duterte accepted that the military was helped by the USA and Australia in Marawi, especially when it came to reconaissance. During the ASEAN summit in Manila, Trump and Duterte seemed to get along well. The war of words begun between Duterte and Agnes Callamard of the UN was continued by Duterte’s new speaker Harry Roque.

The big picture

is a totally changed country. Much less democratic. Probably a lot more quarrelsome at all levels. Recent incidents (Mandaluyong van shooting, armed robberies) show a possible spiral of violence. Wang wang or privileged overtaking for politicians is back by all accounts. Many more funerals.

And either fear or callousness or indifference. MRT failures, typhoon deaths, refugees from Marawi apparently badly supplied with food, Lumads allegedly being kept from getting enough food, many dead in Marawi – where are those now who complained about MRT, Mamasapano and Yolanda?

Love it, change it or leave it

Recent Facebook postings indicate that passport renewal appointments are full nationwide for about 3 months in advance. Are many people trying to leave, is the government trying to create a bottleneck for that, or has DFA turned more inefficient recently? Who knows where the truth lies.

Will things eventually turn out right inspite of possible rises in consumer prices, falling peso, overspending by government, loans from China with high interest, even possible investor jitters?

Will people love the new order? Will they throw it up? Will many leave? Don’t know. Let us see.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 5 January 2018

 

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