Passion of Christ-Bearing of the Crossis what Duterte calls the ICC preliminary investigation (link). Isn’t that a bit like a counterflowing driver in Manila who sees everybody driving the wrong way around? Funny though that in Manila, those who insist on their right of way against such jerks can be seen as obstructive. So it might well be that Duterte might get sympathy for effectively showing contempt of court, painting himself as a victim of oppressive foreign forces – even if he is seen as a coward by many already. That might just be my “yellow” (Westernized, educated) bubble though, just like those who sympathize with Chief Justice Sereno. Who knows what the typical man on the street or the OFW in Saudi Arabia thinks of CJ Sereno, does he see her as an arrogant bitch who refuses to leave even if “many people” (link) don’t like her as a boss anymore? Or didn’t people ask Maggie Dela Riva once “how it feels to be responsible for the death of four men”? (link) Her answer was: “I’m not responsible for the death of four men. They did it to themselves. They had the power of choice. They chose to be evil. They had to meet the consequences of their action.” They had raped her, a famous actress, back in 1967.

Facing the Consequences

Dela Riva’s idea of people having to face the consequences of their actions seems downright quaint if one looks at the sad state of the Philippines today. The President himself, quintessential Filipino everyman, shirks the consequences of his actions. Leaves the ICC, tries to impeach a Chief Justice who admonished him due to drug lists that included judges, puts a Senator who tried to investigate extrajudicial killings in jail based on testimonies of alleged drug lords who now have been released by his own Secretary of Justice, gives the mastermind of the pork barrel scheme Witness Protection and will most probably use her testimony against political rivals – while many of those originally accused are free. Or isn’t there a Vice-Presidential Candidate over 60 who still acts like a petulant, spoiled dictator’s teenage son who refuses to acknowledge obvious defeat in the last elections? He may well be still able to rig things, much like Admiral General Aladeen of Wadiya in “The Dictator” (link) who has servile minions rig a sprint for him while shooting down those who get too near. Counterflowing drivers, wang-wang politicians, children of dynastic politicians – similar attitudes.

Even in middle-class families it can be bad enough. One woman who dared take her philandering husband to court for bigamy in the late 1960s was vilified by her husband’s folks – he got pity. Spanish colonial accounts of Filipinos in court mentioned that each side tried to show up in as large as possible numbers to make it look as if their own side was right. For me, one of the biggest culture shocks when coming to Germany was reading that courts really give smaller sentences when a culprit shows a sense of regret. Filipino courts might see it as drama and give a greater sentence. Friends might tell the culprit what kind of fool are you to admit, stupid enough if you get caught! There is no true presumption of innocence in the culture. And indeed – corruption, extortion and dishonesty prevail. Mila Aguilar said in a Facebook post that the Juan Pusong (link) or trickster attitude is quite common among Filipinos and that Duterte is a prime example of that Visayan folk hero. And there is a certain disbelief among many that the Daang Matuwid government of former President Aquino could ever have been that honest. Some examples of possible bias are mentioned.

Them or Us

There are pressures to be biased. There was even once a Filipino overseas association where the clique of its President tried to pressure him to rig a raffle so they could win the main prize. There can be enormous petulance and even a sense of being treated unfairly if one is not favored. The massive incompetence of most Duterte appointees is an extreme manifestation of this attitude. At least most appointees of the previous President were competent, even if there always will be some favoritism in this world, even in the corporate world with its harsher, more competitive winds.

And though there may have been some rigging the game in the previous administration, the present administration is downright antisocial in its ways, just barely even minding the legality of matters. The pre-Marcos elites were monopolistic and exploitative for sure, but a certain sense of decency and at least keeping appearances kept things polite. Even the Marcos era tried to maintain a certain veneer of legality and propriety. Nowadays one has a sense of piranhas in the water, biting away. And a constituency that mostly does not seem to mind if poor people die – for their peace of mind.

Do Others Matter?

Possibly not much different from their President in showing (link“gross indifference, insensitivity and self-centeredness”. One only needs to look at the dirt in most Philippine urban waters – notable exceptions like Iloilo City prove the rule. Or also a “grandiose sense of self-entitlement” – or what do barangay councilors have who build their houses on allotted green spaces as I recently read? Or wang-wang convoys, or counterflowing drivers. My way or the highway. Sing My Way the wrong way and you might even get killed. When is the point reached where society barely exists and most people act in an antisocial way? Rule of law becomes a farce the moment everybody cheats, from top to bottom. Where the call for violent solutions is sheer desperation. That all did not happen overnight. A society where people become ruthless, ready to “violate the rights and feelings of others” (also in Duterte’s psychological report) may already have started to develop in times when people laughed at a child made to dance ridiculously at Wowowee. It may have been there when people took smiling pictures of themselves in front of the bus where Hongkong tourists were killed.

The roots of it may even go as far back to people reelecting known rapists like Mayor Sanchez and Governor Jalosjos. There is not necessarily ruthlessness there, but indifference that tolerates evil. Or that accepts evil as good if it is for one’s own convenience, like for example “clearing the streets”.

Such a system eats itself up at some point. Rules become merely tools for winning instead of being there to guide the fundamental consideration for others that should be at the heart of any society. Yes, others. Even those – whose heads one hunted before. Culture and civilization are about that.

Irineo B. R. Salazar
München, 17 March 2018